Candidates seeking the 8th District U.S. House seat in November sparred Thursday night at a forum in Thurmont.
Republican Dan Cox, Democrat Jamie Raskin, Green Party candidate Nancy Wallace and Libertarian Jasen Wunder fielded questions for about two hours at an event hosted by the Thurmont Lions Club.
Raskin touted his accomplishments as a state senator representing Montgomery County in Annapolis, while Cox characterized several pieces of Raskin’s legislation as government overreach that shouldn’t expand federally.
Wallace promoted energy independence through renewable resources, while Wunder advocated for fewer — or no — government regulations in several areas.
The general election is Nov. 8. Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $174,000 a year.
Cox said he lives on a small farm and would support legislative changes that would let farmers more freely produce and take their goods to market without oppressive regulation.
Wunder said he would help farmers by cutting taxation on things such as equipment and fuel.
Raskin said he would represent small farmers and not large corporate interests. He would also maintain his focus on the environment and issues such as managing stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.
Federal farm subsidies should extend beyond grain farmers to fruit and vegetable growers and government assistance should focus on small business and small farms, Wallace said. She also supports government leadership in shifting the country’s agriculture to organic farming.
The federal government should have no role in education, which belongs to the states and counties, Wunder said. If elected, he would get rid of the U.S. Department of Education.
Federal interventions in education policy have ensured that girls and boys have equal access to athletics, protected the rights of disabled students and allowed schoolchildren to exercise their free speech rights while learning, Raskin said.
Wallace said the government should be involved in those core areas as well, but added that high-stakes testing should be curtailed, particularly for the youngest students, who should be free to explore their curiosity.
Parents and teachers want relief from federal influence in education and the country needs to step back from the “Washington knows all” framework for education policy, Cox said.
He sparred with Raskin over prayer in school. Cox said he supports voluntary prayer in schools, while Raskin has accepted campaign funding from a group that sued to stop public prayer at Carroll County government meetings.
“Without God, we don’t have a moral compass for our kids,” Cox said.
Cox said the U.S. border is too porous and contributes to issues of drug addiction. He criticized a law from Takoma Park, where Raskin lives, that allows non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.
Wunder said he also wants to secure the border, but not by force. He would make immigration easier, with a one-page application and small fee for a quick background check.
Raskin said he supported reasonable immigration laws, noting that the United States couldn’t handle everyone fleeing from problems around the world. If elected, he said, he’d push for comprehensive immigration reform.
Wallace called immigration “wonderful” from a certain point of view, but not from the view of American Indians. She called the contested construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which she said amounted to “continued colonization of their sacred lands.”
She added that improving foreign policy could improve living situations abroad, alleviating the number of people seeking to enter the U.S. while also improving their conditions.
Wallace said she supports the right to bear arms because she believes that the accumulation of government power is a real threat. She would also support strict requirements for gun ownership, including licensing, limiting sales to gun stores, requiring child locks, and having regular inspections and audits.
Cox said the Second Amendment is not just about hunting; the right to “keep and bear arms” should mean gun owners are allowed to carry weapons with them.
Wunder said he thinks government regulation has already made it too difficult to purchase a handgun. Stopping the war on drugs by no longer imprisoning anyone for drug crimes would reduce gun violence, he said.
The Second Amendment has boundaries and doesn’t give anyone the right to own a machine gun or a neutron bomb, both of which could be considered “arms,” Raskin said. He said lawmakers must move forward on universal background checks.