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Wilson College hosts debate

April 16, 2001

Wilson College hosts debate



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

DebatePhoto: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

With less than a month to go before the May 15 special election, the three candidates running for the vacant 9th District Congressional seat expressed their views Monday on issues ranging from national reform of the prescription drug program to local concerns, like the long-debated Interstate 81 Exit 7 proposal.

At a public forum at Wilson College, Republican Bill Shuster of Hollidaysburg, Pa., Democrat Scott Conklin of Philipsburg, Pa., and Green Party candidate Alanna Hartzok of Chambersburg, took turns answering about a dozen prepared questions before an audience of more than 50 people.

During brief opening comments, Shuster identified himself as a family man and supporter of Bush's tax cut proposal. "The plan will have a short-term boost for the economy and long-term effects," he said.

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Conklin talked about his views on public service. "When we do nothing, evil will prevail," he said.

Hartzok introduced herself, and the views of the fledgling Green Party, to the gathering.

"The Green Party stands for the triple bottom line," she said, saying what is good for society, the environment and the economy should all fall in line.

For the most part, the candidates echoed some of the themes they have pushed since they began campaigning this winter, following the retirement of Bud Shuster, who held the office for 28 years. Bill Shuster is his son.

"Agriculture is such an important economic base in the district, I support the switch to organic farming," said Hartzok, who said organic farming would be the way to ensure future economic vitality for farmers.

Shuster pushed for an improved economy by reducing the tax burden and reforming Social Security by investing some tax money for better returns.

"American citizens have been overtaxed and overcharged," he said.

Conklin continued his pitch for more jobs and benefits for veterans and seniors.

The candidates were asked about local issues, including their views on the controversial plan to add Exit 7 on I-81 in Greene Township.

Only Shuster openly favored building the exit that has been debated for more then a decade, saying it would be good for economic growth and would relieve congestion at Exits 6 and 8, in Chambersburg and Scotland.

Conklin said the decision should be in the hands of the citizens.

"You know what is best for your community," he said.

And Hartzok, who lives in Greene Township, said the battle should have ended years ago, given the strong public outcry against the proposal.

The issue of abortion stirred the most controversy at Monday afternoon's debate, when Conklin accused Shuster of trying to capitalize on a misquote in a college newspaper five years ago.

Conklin said he has always been opposed to abortion, contrary to a statement that appeared in an article.

"Will you quit attacking me," Conklin asked Shuster as he turned toward him on the stage.

Direct questions were not allowed during the forum, so Shuster had to wait until it was his turn to answer Conklin.

"The minute I see a retraction I will stop talking about it," said Shuster, who has pointed to that quote to support his claims that Conklin is trying to appear more conservative in the heavily Republican 11-county district.

Shuster is against abortion and said he supports a ban on partial-birth abortion.

Hartzok was the only candidate of the three who said she believes women have the right to choose.

"Because so many are against it, I do not believe the federal government should fund abortions. But they should not interfere with a decision best made between a woman and her doctor," she said.

While many of her opinions were new to the citizens of Chambersburg, including shifting taxes off people and onto assets, Hartzok made a strong push for choosing the third party.

"I do not see solutions coming from either Republicans or Democrats. How about a fresh new face - and a woman at that," she said.

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