Bonamici, Cornilles debate ideas on job creation
November 27, 2011
PORTLAND, Ore. – In their first post-primary televised debate Sunday night in the race for the seat vacated by David Wu, Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles worked to win the political middle and sought to convince voters in the 1st Congressional District they are the candidate to improve the region’s economy.
The former state senator, Bonamici, and businessman, Cornilles, faced off during an hour-long debate on KATU Television on a wide range of issues but the economy was front and center.
The candidates fielded questions from a four-member panel that included representatives from three community newspapers and KATU reporter Patrick Preston. KATU anchor Steve Dunn moderated the debate and it was co-hosted by the Independent Party of Oregon.
Note by IPO: KATU used to have the debate video on its website, but now it is gone.
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The candidates offered different ways in which they would approach the task of getting Oregon’s economy moving again.
Bonamici touted her experience as a state legislator in Oregon and her ability to work with others to get good policy into law. Cornilles played up his experience as a businessman as proof he knows how to create jobs.
Both took shots at Congress for its lack of leadership and action to solve the country’s debt crisis and get the nation’s economy back on a healthy road to prosperity.
“We need to get Congress back on track,” Bonamici said. “They’re not doing the job that they were elected to do.”
She said she would mainly support policies that will help rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and get more capital into the hands of small businesses.
Cornilles pointed to how he believes the current tax law is a major hindrance to job creation.
“We need terrific tax simplification in this country,” he said. “There’s no reason why mega-corporations such as GE should make $14 billion in profits last year and have zero federal income tax obligations.”
He said the system is filled with loopholes and deductions that only benefit huge corporations and the wealthy.
Bonamici said it’s critical to bring jobs back to America and proposed ending tax breaks to companies who send them overseas.
“We need to use trade agreements to strengthen labor provisions, environmental provisions, and we need to have more of a communication between our businesses in our community and our education to make sure that the companies here have the workforce that they need,” she said.
Cornilles emphasized that the business community needs predictability and certainty in order to create a prosperous economy.
“As a small business owner, I know if I don’t know what the tax implication is, if I don’t know what the regulatory implication is – of starting a new business, of inventing a new product, of innovating – then I’m going to be sitting on my hands,” he said.
Education was also debated at length and both candidates tied a successful education system with a successful economy.
Both said the No Child Left Behind law has fallen short in its ability to really improve the education system in the country.
One downfall of the law, according to Bonamici, is “it has created an overemphasis on standardized testing, and it’s not the standardized testing that actually helps students.”
She said what is needed are assessments that help students improve and help teachers learn how students can do so. Additionally, she said she would work to change the law so that it no longer labels schools as failures.
Cornilles said No Child Left Behind was well intentioned but hasn’t achieved the needed results. He said he supports what’s being done by the Obama administration, specifically U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s efforts that are directed toward the classroom.
“We must put a trust in our teachers,” Cornilles said. “Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between the teacher effectiveness and performance of their kids. Teachers need greater evaluations; teachers need a compensation plan that motives them; teachers also need some career paths that they recognize that there is professional development in their profession.”
On the question on charter schools Cornilles said he supports alternative forms of education to fit the needs of the individual student.
“I believe that charter schools, virtual schools, home schooling – all of these are viable alternatives that we ought to encourage,” he said. “The bottom line is what’s best for the kid, not what’s best for the association or what’s best for the adult.”
Bonamici said she supports the charter schools in the state but has concerns about “equity and access issues. We need to have educational opportunities that are available for all students in this state. And not all students can stay home and learn in front of a computer – they don’t have a parent there with them.”
Cornilles took a couple of clear shots at his opponent during the debate. He implied the problem with Congress is that there are too many lawyers in the legislative body. Bonamici is an attorney.
“If the problem in Congress today was that we don’t have enough lawyers, then I would think that Sen. Bonamici would be a good choice. But the fact is I don’t think our problem today in Congress is that we don’t have enough attorneys, I think that it is because we don’t have enough job creators.”
He also fired off his oft-repeated charge that Bonamici votes with her party most of the time, implying she's not really interested in forming partnerships across the aisle in Congress. Bonamici, however, defended herself on the issue and said Cornilles misunderstands how the Oregon Legislature creates and passes legislation.
“When I have passed legislation, I brought groups together and found bipartisan support – most of what we do is bipartisan,” she said, citing Republican Sen. Ted Ferrioli’s record. She said he voted with her more than 70 percent of the time.
Bonamici went on the attack when she pointed out that Cornilles didn’t check on the Independent Party of Oregon’s questionnaire ways how he would reduce deficit spending.
“What I think people need to know is I have proposed solutions in the Independent Party questionnaire about what we can do – making sure we have targeted cuts, making sure we get rid of tax breaks on millionaires, and my opponent didn’t check any of those alternatives. People need to know where he stands.”
The candidates also tangled over immigration, Medicare, Social Security and liquefied natural gas.
In addition to courting voters for the Jan. 31, 2012 general election, Bonamici and Cornilles competed for the IPO’s nomination during the debate. Voting in its primary ends Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 5 p.m.
The winner of the IPO primary will be allowed to claim the Independent Party on the general election ballot in addition to his or her normal party affiliation.
Party members should have received their ballots online. Unlike the IPO’s 2010 primary election, which was conducted entirely over the Internet, this election will require members to print out their voted ballots and return them via the U.S. Postal Service, fax, email or by hand.
According to the party, voted ballots are being collected by a retired Oregon judge. Shortly after the election, they will be counted by hand during a public meeting.