Candidates collide, supporters unite

Candidates+collide%2C+supporters+unite

Moriah Howell

A Pennsylvania 12th Congressional District debate was held Tuesday at Pitt Johnstown’s Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center between U.S Rep. Mark Critz D-Johnstown and Republican Keith Rothfus.

Andy Hsiao Chung and Trevor Monk, News Editor and Advertising Director

A Pennsylvania 12th Congressional District debate between U.S. Rep. Mark Critz D-Johnstown and Republican Keith Rothfus took place Tuesday at Pitt Johnstown’s Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center.

Supporters of each candidate chanted slogans outside of the building, and offered campaign stickers for their candidates to passers-by.

Inside the building, the candidates stood confident behind podiums bearing the Pitt-Johnstown seal, each nodded politely at the other and at three moderators.

The hourlong debate delved into Medicare, a $16.2 trillion federal deficit, and energy and economic policies. The Middle East and campaign finances were also debated.

Critz began the debate by mentioning the experience he gained after serving in Congress for two years. He said he was concerned about job-creation, social programs and protecting his constituents from “shenanigans”.

Rothfus said Obamacare is a problem and needs to be repealed.

“Which Governor Romney will do,” he said.

Critz said Americans need an affordable health care plan.

“This issue is not something that can be handled in a year. This is a long-term issue and we must work together to figure it out,” he said.

On the national deficit, Rothfus said economic growth numbers have been disappointing him.

“We should be seeing 5, 6, 7 percent growth, not 1.6 percent,” he said.

The candidates also quarreled over Israel and Iran. Critz said that if Israel goes to war with Iran, the US also would have to go to war.

Rothfus said that, if Iran acquires nuclear technology, other countries in the region would want it, too.

“It’s frustrating to me how, really, there has been very little progress made with Iran,” he said.

He blamed President Barack Obama for not pursuing American interests in the region when the U.S. had the chance during the political upheavals in Arab countries.

“The president was afraid to offend the mullahs in Iran,” Rothfus said.

The comment gave Critz a chance for a sharp retort.

“This isn’t Monday morning quarterbacking. These are big decisions,” said Critz. “Israel is our strongest ally in that region. We had a lot of things happen with Egypt, now with Syria, and with Libya.

“There are lots of things going on in the Middle East, not just Iran. We will be with Israel because they are our strongest allies (in the region). This is about the national security of this country, and I really take offense to that last comment.”

Both candidates were optimistic regarding the district’s future.

“…if you look at the Marcellus Shale fields, we are at the belt of the belt,” said Rothfus. “We can call ourselves the energy capital.

“It is a fantastic district.”