CHESTER - Congressman Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, running for re-election to a second term this year, laid out his biggest concerns for America's future--debt, unemployment and national security--before his constituents at a town hall meeting Thursday.
Among the thirty or so people attending, Democratic write-in candidate John LaFerla challenged Harris on the Bay cleanup and the incumbent's decision not to debate him.
Harris opened by calling the nation's debt "unsustainable," a serious roadblock to a healthy economy. Under U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's plan for the nation's budget, already passed by the House, Americans can hope to see that budget balanced in 20 years and paid off in 50, he said.
He continued saying that regardless of who took office in January, he hoped a budget would be passed quickly and put into action, adding that he personally felt it was time for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Harris challenged current unemployment statistics, saying the claim there are 870,000 more people working, with 600,000 of those jobs originating in the government sector, "could not possibly have happened."
He stated that "fewer Americans participate in the workforce now than participated in the past" and "this is not the way America should operate."
Of equal and pressing concern to Harris was the state of U.S. security after the attack on the American Embassy in Libya on Sept. 11 of this year. He emphasized repeatedly that "we have enemies in the world who really want to destroy our country and kill our people."
From Libya, Harris turned to Iran, which, he said, threatens the peace of the world and its economy with their development of nuclear weapons. Harris said he thought the upcoming elections would focus on foreign policy as much as they would the economy, and that Americans must "turn their attention to a foreign policy that avoids what really could be catastrophic."
An audience member then posed the first question to Harris: "Do you think we should attack Iran?"
Harris said the U.S. should draw a "red line," one which clearly communicates that if Iran "passes a certain level, they risk the U.S. using all of its assets to make sure that nuclear weapon is not built."
From there the discussion turned to renewable energy sources and gas prices. Harris explained that the U.S. should be looking to drive down the price of gas, and should do so by using natural gas in its place.
He challenged the Obama administration's wish to drive oil prices up, stating this put more money in the hands of countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela countries which do not have a high regard for the U.S. and would "use that money against us in an instant if they had the opportunity."
The discussion of natural resources edged the conversation into the more difficult sticking point between candidates with different perspectives. Someone brought up the Bay.
An audience member asked, "Some media groups want to criticize you for your positions on the environment. So as we get close to the elections, before it gets distorted, perhaps you want to speak about your work in Congress toward the Bay."
Harris reiterated the integral part the Bay plays in the area, saying that he "wants it to be the best it can be." But, he said, when considering the amount of money poured into the Bay, "the cost must be weighed against the outcome of the expenditures."
LaFerla called Harris "disingenuous," challenging him to "get real." LaFerla went further, asking Harris why he "refused to recognize him as his opponent" by allowing him the opportunity to debate with him.
Harris replied that according to the law, former Democratic candidate Wendy Rosen was still technically on the ballot and he was not obligated to debate with a "write-in candidate."