On September 22, at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library in Torrance, CA Republican candidate for the 43rd Congressional District John Wood Jr. hosted a town hall meeting in along with Republican Elan Carr, who is campaigning to replace retiring Congressman Henry Waxman in the 33rd Congressional District.
Originally, a report from the Los Angeles Register was going to moderate the event, but because of a last-minute engagement, according to one of Carr's campaign supporters, another moderator replaced him at the last minute: Evan Chase, President of the Beach Cities Republican Club.
Chase honored both candidates, reciting their resumes and records, professional and political. First her discussed Carr's work as an officer, and a prosecutor (both as a judge advocate general and a deputy district attorney), the he talked about Wood's resume as a musician and medical technician.
Following Chase's introductions, the two candidates warmly praised the BCR President's efforts with inner city communities, including small businesses. Then Carr gave his opening remarks, focusing on bipartisanship, getting things down, ending the gridlock in Washington. Throughout the town hall, the two candidates spent little time attacking President Obama or his policies.
Carr launched into his key theme, education which he also stressed during the debate hosted by the Young Turks. As a gang prosecutor, he put kids behind bars for years, sometimes longer than they had been alive, for the atrocious crimes they had committed. Those young lives could have amounted to more than a prison statistic, in his opinion, as he shared his sympathies with students versus the poor quality of public education, and the pathologies enabled by this failure.
About jobs, Carr pointed out that automotive, defense, and Hollywood employment was leaving the state. Franchise costs are ten times greater in California compared to other states.
After Carr spoke, John Wood elaborated on his career background, including his engagements with political fundraisers. About his reasons for running for Congress, Wood shared his desire to elevate the political discourse. Then he claimed: "This is what God called me to do."
Wood spent a great deal of his opening remarks detailing how his upbringing shaped him to see both sides of a conflict, and to embrace both sides of the political divide, like two squabbling parents.
After the introductions Chase asked the two candidates how they would appeal to Torrance voters, and why they should care about their Congressional representation. Wood argued that Torrance weathered the Great Recession better than other cities, and because of its constant success, cities like Torrance will have to bear the greater burden of California's tax bills. Wood further pointed out that the stagnation taking hold in many cities could hit Torrance next. Already, Toyota has announced its departure, ending in 2016, and taking in its departure 4, 200 jobs. This loss will impact the city of Torrance as well as the wealthier Westside regions of Los Angeles County.
The next question centered on the national economy: has it recovered?
Wood responded that the recession officially ended in 2009, but the current figures which suggest a declining unemployment rate mask the darker figure of underemployment, as well as those who have given up looking for work altogether (and/or have run out of unemployment benefits).
|Toyota Sales Headquarters (Torrance, CA)|
Carr responded that the country could be doing a lot better, and then hit the well-known talking points about taxes and regulations hurting the state of California. After their responses, I mentioned one influential reason for the stagnant recovery: Obamacare, an issue which the two candidates had not mentioned. Another member of the audience brought up the fact that the law was forcing workers into part-time work.
|Pacific Railroad Bridge (Torrance, CA)|
Wood treaded lightly on Obamacare, as well, not calling for an all-out repeal but working as best as one could with the opposition in Congress to fix the law.
The next questions touched on education. Carr spoke confidently on this topic, since he has campaigned on this issue from the beginning. He scored some points by tying education reform with public safety, since more kids who graduate and get a job are less likely to join gangs, commit crimes, and go to jail.
As far as federal reforms are concerned, Carr discussed improving the benchmarks for evaluating federal appropriations. Wood and Carr supported reforming the tenure system with merit pay, while Wood recognized the former positive contributions of the teachers unions who had enacted tenure.
One of the candidates stated that education could not be run from DC. One member of the audience, who had arrived later, asked about the candidates' proposals for assisting individuals who were already educated. Carr swiftly responded with a repeat of his plea for after-school and job-training programs along with improvements in k-12 public education.
The final question of the town hall meeting touched on the ongoing threat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Carr reminded the audience that President Bush had established strong coalitions with Sunnis in the region, who fought against Sunni terrorists. He then faulted the President for abandoning the region. Wood responded that he had first engaged in politics because of his opposition to the war in Iraq. While recognizing the severity of the current situation in the Middle East, the same question lingers for Wood, which centers on how far will the United States have to go to maintain any reasonable calm in the area?
Despite the low turnout for the Torrance Town Hall, the two candidates and individuals from the audience took the time to discuss key issues reflecting on the state of the country (as well as the state) and the necessary reforms that the two Republicans would support if elected to Congress this November.