Pocan, Theron square off for 2nd Congressional District seat

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Jake Magee
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Republican Peter Theron hopes to take over Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan’s 2nd Congressional District seat Tuesday as Pocan tries for a third term.

Pocan has held the seat since 2012.

Theron has run three unsuccessful campaigns for Congress. He ran in 2008 against Tammy Baldwin and lost the Republican primary to Chad Lee in 2010. In 2014, Theron ran against Pocan.

Q: What do you think of how Congress functions? How can operations be improved?

Pocan: Congress still follows the Hastert Rule, based on former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who was recently sentenced to prison.

Under the informal rule, the speaker will not schedule a vote on any bill that does not have majority support within his or her own party, even if the overall House of Representatives majority would vote to pass it. The rule keeps the minority party from passing bills with help from a minority of majority party members.

Under the rule, the tea party doesn’t allow the Republican Party, which the tea party is part of, to function. The rule should be abolished.

“None of the things are the way they’re supposed to function, and it’s all because of the tea party. I can’t wait for the day Democrats and Republicans can fix it up and get things done again.”

Theron: “One problem that I think that has happened over the past 100 years is Congress has relinquished the power that it was originally given.”

The rise of the administrative state means executives and the Supreme Court have taken over power that originally belonged to Congress. Government branches are equal, but Congress came first, and that should be recognized.

“Congress needs to reassert its supremacy.”

Q: What’s the most important domestic issue Congress is facing?

Pocan: Fundamental economics.

The economy has come back. Unemployment is down. Productivity is up, but wages are still flat. The nation needs a stronger middle class. Economic recovery is important for everyone, not just those at the top.

Theron: The national deficit.

In the past eight years, the country has taken on an additional $10 trillion in debt. The nation can’t keep spending more than it has because eventually it will “run out of road.” If people don’t recognize that early and take steps to switch tracks, the consequences will be drastic.

He believes budget deficits have declined with Republican Congresses because they don’t spend as much.

Q: What’s the most important foreign or international issue Congress is facing?

Pocan: ISIS and the Middle East in general.

The United States has entered the region several times with failed initiatives because we don’t understand the area well.

“We don’t have a great track record in Iraq or Iran.”

The nation needs to have a smarter approach, more backup support and let leaders take the lead.

Theron: The House of Representatives doesn’t typically deal with foreign issues besides treaties, but people must realize there’s an influx of refugees who aren’t being properly screened or vetted.

One thing people don’t think about is refugees can bring in diseases Americans don’t typically have to worry about, such as tuberculosis.

“That’s a major public health problem.”

Q: How are you different from your opponent?

Pocan: One nice thing about this race is both candidates focus on the issues and not on each other. Attacking political opponents isn’t productive, Pocan said.

“I’m frankly embarrassed by our presidential race right now.”

From health care to economics to international policy, the two candidates have different views. Pocan said he wants to fix the Affordable Care Act, but he said Theron wants to get rid of it without a solid idea for replacement.

Pocan said he wants to take a long-term approach to address climate change. He said he’s not sure his opponent is as concerned about that.

Theron: “I believe in a smaller federal government. I believe that the federal government has certain things that it should do because it can do them better, but right now, the federal government is doing too many things, and it is not doing them well.”

State governments can handle many functions the federal government has taken on.

Theron said no one is being prosecuted for the recent contamination of two Colorado rivers by the Environmental Protection Agency. One river was subjected to a spill of 3 million gallons of waste. The agency has jailed executives for spilling as little as 100,000 gallons, he said.

Many differences between the two candidates stem from how that’s being handled, Theron said.

“The federal government is not abiding by its own rules,” he said.

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