Senate candidates discuss issues

Back to Article
Back to Article

Senate candidates discuss issues

John Fetterman speaks at the Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Forum at Carnegie Mellon University Sunday afternoon.  Will Miller | Staff Photographer

John Fetterman speaks at the Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Forum at Carnegie Mellon University Sunday afternoon. Will Miller | Staff Photographer

John Fetterman speaks at the Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Forum at Carnegie Mellon University Sunday afternoon. Will Miller | Staff Photographer

John Fetterman speaks at the Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Forum at Carnegie Mellon University Sunday afternoon. Will Miller | Staff Photographer

By Alexa Bakalarski / Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Five hundred students and community members got a closer look on three U.S. Senate candidates’ views Sunday at Carnegie Mellon University.

Instead of participating in a debate, Pennsylvania’s democratic candidates gathered for an annual forum 2 p.m. Sunday in the school’s Jared L. Cohon University Center. The annual Barbara Daly Danko Political Forum gave voters an opportunity to hear candidates John Fetterman, Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak speak on popular issues before the April 26 primaries.

Fetterman, currently the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania; McGinty, former chief of staff for Gov. Tom Wolf; and Sestak, formerly a member of the House of Representatives, provided their stances on gun violence, immigration, environmental issues and more at the forum, which was part of the annual 14th Ward Democratic Candidates Forums.

Running against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who did not attend the forum, Fetterman, McGinty and Sestak are competing for a U.S. Senate seat at the primary election on April 26. The general election is Nov. 8.

Moderators Paul Klein, an Allegheny County Council member for District 11, and Krysia Kubiak Vila-Roger, the director of state regulatory strategy and government affairs, questioned the candidates for around an hour, setting 30-second to two-minute time limits for each answer.

Candidates Support Pro-Immigration Policies

Klein and Vila-Roger repeatedly asked the candidates about immigration and directed them to counter Toomey’s stance on immigration.

In a November news release, Toomey said the risk of accepting Syrian refugees is too great.

Unlike Toomey, all the candidates stressed the importance of permitting Syrian refugees into the United States.

Fetterman, who gained national attention for his effort to revitalize the borough of Braddock since moving there in 2001 and becoming mayor in 2005, said he supports immigration to the United States, pointing out that the United States does not get to pick and choose the most educated or most talented immigrants.

When a moderator asked him how he would counter Toomey’s stance, Fetterman read an excerpt from a New York Times article about Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned, asking the audience why this boy’s life should matter less than his own son’s.

“We all came from a boat somewhere,” Fetterman said while discussing his favorite immigrant success story, his wife Gisele.

McGinty said the 18-to-24 month review process for immigrants to enter the nation should be enough time for authorities to decide who was running from terror and who might become a threat.

Sestak, a former three-star admiral for the U.S. Navy, said he supports religious freedom — he was one of the only House Representatives to support building a mosque near the site of 9/11.

Candidates Prioritize U.S. Racial Inequality

When moderators asked how the candidates would reform the justice system to reflect racial equality, McGinty and Fetterman both said they saw community policing as a highly effective approach to criminal justice reform.

“Black lives matter, period,” McGinty said, garnering applause from the audience. “I think we have to charge after this [issue of criminal justice system reform] hard.”

Sestak shared a story about seeing the N-word on one of his Navy ships and how he gathered the crew to tell them he would find out who did it.

Fetterman said he has supported the Black Lives Matter movement and its principles before the creation of the hashtag.

“[There is] not one area in this country that we can’t improve to honor Black Lives Matter,” Fetterman said.

Fetterman repeatedly spoke about the issue of inequality in America, and said someone’s hometown shouldn’t dictate their quality of life.

“We in this country have to address inequality in all its forms,” he said.

Candidates See the Need to Address Climate Change

The moderators pressed the candidates on their proposals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

McGinty spoke about the need to push for green buildings and more eco-friendly transportation.

Sestak cited environmental efforts he made while in the House of Representatives, and Fetterman spoke about bipartisanship in regards to environmental issues.

“It’s 63 degrees in January. Climate change is a serious issue,” Fetterman said.

Candidates discuss ISIS

The moderators questioned the candidates about the fight against ISIS, particularly under what circumstances they would send U.S. soldiers to fight on the ground in Syria.

Sestak, as well as McGinty, stressed the use of air power and economic offense by striking the oil profits of ISIS to defeat ISIS without needing to resort to using U.S. ground troops.

Sestak said Middle Eastern nations need to lead the ground effort.

“We need to stop this mentality that we have to go over and bomb the hell out of everybody,” Fetterman said.

Student Reactions

Juan Pablo Mendoza, a grad student at CMU, attended the forum out of curiosity about the candidates as a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

“They all seemed like reasonable people, but I wanted to see where their differences lie,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza said he wished the candidates spoke more about their differences, though he felt he got a better sense of each candidate.

“People don’t know often what their local options are,” said Mendoza. “[That’s] not the way we’re going to be able to achieve change.”

Matt Harrison, a Pitt sophomore and a staffer for Fetterman’s campaign, said he thought the forum went well overall.

“I wanted to hear more about civil liberties,” Harrison said, seeing it as an important current issue.

Leave a comment.