WILKES-BARRE — Three Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination in the 8th Congressional District, with the winner moving on to try to unseat Democrat incumbent Matt Cartwright, who is seeking his fourth term and is unopposed in the primary.
John Chrin, 54, of Palmer Township, Northampton County, Joe Peters of Scranton, and Robert Kuniegel of Spring Brook Township, Lackawanna County, are seeking the GOP nod Tuesday.
Cartwright’s victory in 2016 was closer than his two previous wins. Some attributed that to the overwhelming popularity of Donald Trump. Due to the recent redistricting, Cartwright could face a tougher challenge.
In 2016, Cartwright defeated Republican Matt Connolly, but by just 7.6 percentage points. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court set new congressional district boundaries that resulted in a more favorable alignment for Republicans.
• Economic development and jobs — Chrin said Northeast Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to harness its assets and capitalize on the businesses fleeing high costs of living. He said the region offers a dedicated and talented workforce.
“But we need a plan for success,” Chrin said. “The decline of manufacturing and industry jobs in our area makes it a necessity to provide re-training programs for individuals who need additional skills to succeed in the workforce.”
• Education — Chrin said public education is not living up to its potential throughout the country. He said he would reassess curriculum so that K-12 students have the technical, quantitative, writing, and speaking skills to succeed in the workforce.
”Pennsylvania currently has the highest average student loan debt per borrower of any state in the nation,” Chrin said. “We need a plan to reassess student loans to lower the burden of pursuing college or vocational school.”
• Immigration — Chrin said the country’s immigration system is broken.
“We need to secure our borders, not only as a critical matter of national security, but to also prevent illegal immigrants and contraband like drugs from flowing into our country,” he said. He also strongly opposes sanctuary cities.
• Infrastructure — Chrin favors investing in infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports, and high-speed internet access. He said it will create jobs and allow the efficient movement of people, goods, and ideas throughout Pennsylvania and our nation.
• Opioid crisis — Chrin said the opioid epidemic is devastating communities around Northeast Pennsylvania and he is committed to finding solutions that involve availability, prescription requirements, distribution, treatment and rehabilitation, and criminal enforcement.
Peters said the race boils down to voters choosing a “Main Street” candidate or a “Wall Street” candidate. Chrin is a former Wall Street banker.
“I am the hometown candidate who was born and raised here in NEPA,” Peters said. “I have served as a Scranton cop, police chief, federal Mafia prosecutor and a top official under two presidents in the White House Drug Czar’s Office. I know our area and I have the experience we need in our fight against the terrible heroin epidemic sweeping the country and our communities and in the ongoing battle against terrorism at home and abroad.”
Peters said he is pro-life and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
• Opioid crisis — Peters said he sees the top issues as the opioid/heroin epidemic, veterans, agriculture, immigration, and taxes and government regulation.
“The opioid-heroin epidemic is the issue I hear about most from parents and families in the 8th Congressional District,” Peters said. “The new face of the heroin addict comes from the over-prescription of opioids by physicians unintentionally. It comes from the overuse of those opioids.”
• Veterans — Peters said one of the silent killers in America is the loss of 22 veterans a day because of suicide.
“That’s unforgivable,” he said. “We need to deal with PTSD, not just after the soldier returns home, but while they’re in-country. It’s intolerable that our vets have to wait for health care for those on active duty if they apply for disability.”
• Agriculture — “We’re losing farm families every day in Pennsylvania,” Peters said. “But it’s still our number one industry and it needs help in the Congress.”
Peters said old problems are still there — taxes are too high and inheritance taxes can cause families to lose their farms.
“That’s a sad irony,” Peters said. “I will work to correct issues like pricing and over-regulation that are killing our dairy farms in Pennsylvania, once the strength of the agricultural industry.”
• Immigration — “We must end sanctuary cities,” Peters said, adding he supports President Trump’s efforts to control the border, whether that be a wall, fencing sensors, or assets in the sky.
Kuniegel said it is his conviction that what the working class is lacking in Congress is a true representative of their class.
“I also believe I have been in training for this job my entire life and did not realize it,” Kuniegel said. “My experiences make me the strongest candidate to defeat Matt Cart-Wrong in November.”
• Fiscal responsibility — Kuniegel said the only difference between poor individual finances and poor government finances is the time it takes for the adverse effects of poor management to hit home.
• Social Security — “The only way that we can possibly meet our obligations with the social programs is to have more public involvement with the solutions,” Kuniegel said. “Politicians love to confuse facts which enables them to gain or continue in office without dealing with the problem.”
• Tax reform — Kuniegel said the power to tax is the power to destroy.
“Yes, we need taxes to provide necessary government services,” he said. “We must eliminate waste and fraud. Less taxes mean more economic activity. So we must reduce taxes to the lowest possible amount. We must simplify taxes which would close loopholes and eliminate wasted time for tax preparation.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.