By Mary O’KEEFE
After Monday night’s Congressional debate, any question that there was common ground between incumbent Congressman Adam Schiff (D) and challenger Phil Jennerjahn (R) was answered.
The debate was sponsored by the Glendale/Burbank League of Women Voters and held at Burbank City Hall. The questions were submitted by the audience and by those who submitted questions earlier on the league’s website. Members of the organization reviewed the questions and prepared them for the debate. Rita Zwern moderated.
“I am a conservative Republican,” said Jennerjahn in his opening statement. “One hundred years from now, nobody will care what type of car you drove or what size house you lived in, but 100 years from now it will be important who you voted for, who you chose as your leaders.”
In Schiff’s opening statement, he touched on some of the issues he felt were important to his constituents. On the local level, he spoke of working to remove Chromium 6 and other pollutants from drinking water, expanding open space preservation in the Verdugos and his work with local law enforcement to create the new DNA laboratory in Glendale.
He also spoke of the economy.
“If we want to maintain our position [with] economic strength and emerge from this lingering recession, we are going to have to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. which means ending incentives for off shore jobs and making America not only the place to invent the next iPad but the place to build the next iPad,” he said.
The two candidates were then given questions that covered a variety of topics from the economy to global warming to gay marriage. In each answer the two were on completely opposite sides, regardless of the subject.
On Social Security and Medicare and the question of how or if these two programs can survive the present economic times, both candidates approached the subject with different views.
“I know Social Security is a popular program,” Jennerjahn said. He described the program as a security blanket from the government and, despite the popularity of the program, he felt that the promises made to seniors and veterans that they would receive those benefits may be difficult to keep. Jennerjahn spoke of the possibility of cutting the level of payments that are made.
“We need to do our best to honor [the promises], but I don’t know if we absolutely will be able to,” he said.
In contrast, Schiff did not view the programs as a security blanket but as a program people paid into.
“To call Social Security and Medicare a security blanket, I think that dismisses the significance of programs which, for millions of Americans, has been the difference between living in poverty and maintaining a decent standard of living,” he said.
They sharply disagreed on campaign finance reform as well. Jennerjahn agreed with Citizen’s United and supported the right for anyone to donate any amount of money to a campaign anonymously.
“Donating to political candidates is a freedom of speech,” Jennerjahn said. “You should not have any limits whatsoever.”
He added he “hated” the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform bill that became law in 2002 – a bill Schiff supported.
“In fact, it was the first bill I co-sponsored when I [got to] Congress,” Schiff said.
Schiff said it was important to not only limit campaign contributions but there should be a clear path from donor to candidate.
“Voters ought to be informed so they can evaluate who is supporting the candidate,” he said, adding that the open policy should be applied to propositions on the ballot as well.
The candidates were on opposite sides of global warming. Schiff believes climate change is not a concept but a fact that is based on environmental data analyzed by scientists. He said the country needed to move swiftly and aggressively in the direction of renewable energy, not only to help slow global warming but it was also imperative for the economy and national security.
“If we can eliminate the amount of money we have to spend on foreign oil, we can do away with our entire trade deficit, and it is not going to be enough to simply drill our way out of the problem,” he said. “We couldn’t do that if we wanted to; we don’t have that much oil.”
He proposed continuing to support work on alternative energy like geothermal and solar.
“The revolution that [has begun] in energy will dwarf [the] revolution we have just been through in telecommunications,” he said. “The country that will be at the forefront of that revolution will reap enormous benefits.”
He added he wanted the United States to be that leading country.
Jennerjahn felt that global warming was a “scam” and that attention needed to be paid to the energy the country had now and was concerned about regulations that would be imposed in the name of climate change.
“I do not believe in global warming. The Earth is heated by the Sun; you can’t control the fluctuations that happen from that. This whole idea about carbon credits … this is a scam dreamed up by Al Gore and his buddies to help him get rich,” he said.
Jennerjahn continued his argument that the Earth had warmed in the past without help from humans.
“The idea that humans can control the weather … global warming – I don’t believe any of this,” Jennerjahn said.
As the debate continued, the chasm between the candidates widened. At one point a question was asked concerning a recent veterans’ job bill that failed to pass by two votes in the Senate.
Schiff said he felt the election year got in the way of this bill passing. Jennerjahn said he did not know much about the details of the bill, but as with many other bills, thought it might have hidden costs written in that had nothing to do with veterans.
“Judging on the answer, if Adam Schiff is for it, I would oppose it,” Jennerjahn said.
In the end, audience members had no doubt as to what these two men represented and how they would govern. And although the two did not agree on anything, the process was a respectful endeavor thanks to the the candidates, moderator and the organizers.
The next debate will be a candidate forum for the 43rd District at 8 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the city council chambers, Glendale City Hall. Anyone who would like to submit questions in advance can do so by emailing CandidateForum@lwvglendaleburbank.org or calling (818) 925-4298.
To find air times of the Schiff/Jennerjahn debate, visit http://www.burbankca.gov/index.aspx?page=89.