Two political contenders are challenging Congressman Mike Turner in the Nov. 8 election to represent the 10th Congressional District.
Turner, R-Dayton, faces Democrat Robert Klepinger, D-Harrison Twp., and Huber Heights Mayor Thomas McMasters, an independent candidate in the district that spans all or parts of Montgomery, Greene and Fayette counties.
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Klepinger and McMasters have faced off against Turner for the congressional seat before.
Klepinger, 48, a high school science teacher, said he’s focused on domestic issues, including dealing with income inequality.
“I would like to see companies and corporations pay their fair share,” Klepinger said. ”I would like to stop (the wealthy) from hiding their wealth offshore.”
He advocated a national investment in wind and solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and create more jobs.
“When we have cheaper electricity that would encourage people to build factories,” he said. “If we have factories we could have more manufacturing jobs which I believe we desperately need.” The Democrat backs party nominee Hillary Clinton for president.
A self-described fiscal conservative, McMasters, 54, a retired Air Force captain, said he’s running to ensure taxpayers get the most value for tax dollars spent.
“I like to define the issues myself,” he said. “As an independent, you have the opportunity to pick the best of both parties or the best that you get from citizens.”
Turner, 56, was first elected to Congress in 2002. The former Dayton mayor is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, chairman of the subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, and a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Ensuring national security in a world “that is becoming less safe and our budgets are becoming tighter,” dealing with the economic threat of federal budget issues, and creating jobs are top priorities, he said.
Some Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, withdrew endorsements of GOP presidential contender Donald Trump after lewd remarks he made about women surfaced in a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video. Turner said he continues to support Republican nominee for president, and also said of Trump’s remarks in the video “it’s certainly abhorrent behavior.”
SEQUESTRATION AND BASE CLOSURES
Klepinger said he supports Wright-Patterson and abolishing sequestration, or automatic federal budget cuts. But he also advocated cutting the Defense Department budget and letting the Pentagon decide where reductions would fall.
“… I don’t think we can continue to be the world police, and it’s the reason we’re in debt up to our eyeballs,” he said. “The Republicans like to blame entitlement programs but they are such a small portion of our budget.”
McMasters, 54, said the sequester “makes no sense.”
“Congress needs to get down and do the hard work and decide what needs to be cut or not needs to be cut. It’s really just a lazy way to address the budget,” he said.
Turner said he voted against sequestration and has pushed to overturn it. Congress has appropriated additional money the past four years to lessen its impact, but could face a sequester in 2017, he said.
Both presidential candidates oppose sequestration, he said.
“We certainly hope on a bipartisan basis we can take action to repeal (the spending reductions),” he said. “They are detrimental to our military, both readiness and our ability to modernize.”
If Congress orders another round of base closures, Klepinger said he sees no danger to Wright-Patterson.“It’s not a small base that’s in any danger, in my opinion,” he said.
McMasters said good congressional representation to protect the base is key. Making sure Wright-Patterson organizations give taxpayers “good value for their money” would help ensure “it doesn’t make sense to move (organizations) to other parts of the country and that’s the part we can improve on,” he said.
Turner said the Dayton region is well positioned with the Dayton Development Coalition strategy to protect Wright-Patterson and grow jobs if the military closes bases.
“Since I’ve been in Congress, Wright-Patterson has grown by 10,000 jobs,” he said. “As we go into the next BRAC, my concern is that it’s going to be not just Air Force to Air Force, it’s going to be inter service (competition for missions) so we need to be forward looking to ways that we can collaborate and work more closely with the other service branches.”
Turner said he currently opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade treaty negotiated by the Obama administration. “I believe we’re giving away the store and we need to be more mindful of ways in which we protect our domestic jobs,” he said.
Klepinger also opposes TPP and added the North American Free Trade Agreement was “devastating” to the region’s auto plants.
“Why? Because after NAFTA, what happened to our area I don’t know how many GM plants, Delco plants, and the like, closed,” he said. “And I think what the good people at General Motors did was they never looked out into their parking lot and saw how many who worked for them supported their company.”
McMasters said he has not reviewed nor reached a conclusion on the TPP. However, he looks for two things in free trade agreements: Does it pay workers enough to buy American products and does it impose environmental controls to prevent exporting pollution to other countries.
McMasters said the federal government should do more to publicize treatments for heroin overdoses, such as the use of Narcan to revive overdose victims. He said the U.S. should investigate other treatment options, also.
Turner noted he has introduced two bills in the House, one of which would allow Medicaid or federal grants to reimburse agencies for substance abuse treatment of those incarcerated or in community-based programs, and the other provide costs to treat newborns exposed to opioids and other addictive substances in pregnant women.
Klepinger said he would “support what the president wanted to do on that. I would fall in line with my fellow Democrats.”
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Turner would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, saying it is “not sustainable.” He backed a Republican proposal he said would cover pre-existing conditions, allow parents to keep young adults on insurance plans “but at the same time give a market effect that would lower the overall cost.”
Klepinger supports the Affordable Care Act.
McMasters said the Affordable Care Act “depends too much on insurance. Insurance and attorneys drive up the cost of health care in this country. We need a system less dependent on insurance and less susceptible to the damage attorneys can do to the health care industry.”
He backed a single-payer system similar to the military’s health care program, or the alternative of a non-profit organization that’s well regulated.
DEALING WITH GUN VIOLENCE
Klepinger said people who are on a no-fly list should be banned from buying guns. “Machine guns, land mines, hand grenades and assault weapons were designed to kill people and I truly don’t think you have to have them for home defense,” he said. “I would be in favor of an assault weapon ban, but saying that I don’t want people to think that we want to come in and take the ones that they already have.”
McMasters said the federal government could do more to educate people about the dangers of guns in homes. He noted he has not endorsed a ban of semi-automatic weapons which he said can be as deadly as hunting rifles.
“It’s not productive to make those proposals if the objective is to make us more safe because there’s no stomach in this country for that kind of ban and it only drives people to buy more weapons,” he said.
Turner said he supports preventing weapons getting into the hands of terrorists and an improved background check that includes checking the mental health status of potential gun buyers.
“I certainly support ensuring that guns don’t get in the hands of terrorists and we need to look to both watch lists and no-fly lists and ways in which we can restrict access,” he said.
McMasters said federal and state should do more enforcement to ensure companies hire workers who can work legally in the United States and their employers pay and collect taxes. “The question is how do we make sure they’re paying taxes and not hurting our workforce and the way to make sure that happens is to make sure the companies are paying taxes (and) are hiring people legally,” he said.
“I don’t think we need to have squads of people hunting down migrants,” Klepinger said. “I think what they need to do is register these people so they can become productive citizens.”
Turner said the nation needs to close its border. “Until we can have control of our border, no immigration reform plans work. Unless we control who’s coming and going our laws remain meaningless.”
The congressman did not take a stand on the Republican presidential nominee’s call to build a wall on the United States’ southern border. “It would depend,” Turner said. “I think there’s certainly a number of ways we can control our border.”
Klepinger said he advocates a return to the tax rates under President Bill Clinton that created federal budget surpluses and closing loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes.
“I think in order to get a handle on our deficit we need to increase revenue and that could be done through income tax,” he said. “It comes down to taxing rich people more.”
McMasters has cited Federal Reserve interest rates as a key driver of higher payments on the national debt and lowering workers’ wages. He has cited managing changes in tax structure, that would spur companies to pay workers higher wages and allow entrepreneurs to better compete, as a way to get the deficit under control.
Turner said the entire budget must be reviewed for areas to reduce spending. “Right now, we’ve applied 50 percent of the cost savings (under sequestration) against defense spending which is only 18 percent of the budget. We need to be looking at the whole budget and we’re not doing that,” he said.