McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 17, 2012

Senate candidates answer questions at Tuesday's forum

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — During a forum held Tuesday at the Kiamichi Technology Center, candidates for the U.S. Congressional District 2 seat in the House of Representatives answered several questions relating to issues facing residents of Pittsburg County. 

Michael Fulks, an Independent, and Rob Wallace, a Democrat, appeared before packed room to answer question by the McAlester News Capital’s James Beaty and Brandy Brackett.
Candidate Markwayne Mullin did not attend the forum.
The first question asked candidates to address the logjam on Capitol Hill. 
Fulks said the logjam is caused by special interests and it happens in both parties. He said he does not accept money from any special interest group and he is completely unconcerned about reelection.
Wallace answered the question by asking the audience how many of them believed the House of Representatives represents them. He said Congress needs to be sent a message that they represent the people in the room, referring to audience members attending Tuesday’s session at KTC.
Next, a question was asked about sequestration and what would each candidate do to help Oklahoma survive budget cuts due to sequestration.
Fulks answered that people are frustrated that their own voices cannot be heard and the only way to be heard is for the people to send a representative from this area.
“No one from Washington can intimidate me,” Fulks said.
Wallace said sequestration is a symptom of the gridlock caused by Congress.  He said the results would be devastating to rural areas, including rural fire departments. “We have to do something about it now,” Wallace said.
Next, a question was posed to the candidates asking their position on selling Southeastern Oklahoma water to Texas or piping it to the Oklahoma City area or other parts of the state.
Wallace said he was against selling the water to Texas. 
“Instead of moving the water to Dallas, so they can have more jobs, let’s keep the water and move the jobs here,” he said.
Fulks said when the latest water study was done, it didn’t take into consideration the consumptive use. 
“Let them bring the jobs here,” he said. “It’s the wrong move to let the water go without benefit to this area.”
The candidates were also asked about their stance on the defense budget for the nation and if it should be cut, left alone or increased
Wallace said the defense budget has been huge because the country is supporting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We are slowly coming home (from the war) and naturally a reduction in the budget will come with the reduction in staff,” he said.
Fulks said he didn’t believe the military was on the right track.
“I believe special interests have their ear,” Fulks said, adding that the ongoing return of the veterans from the war means “we need to help the wounded warriors ...”
A question from the audience was asked of the candidates. 
“If given the opportunity, would you vote to repeal Obama Care?”
Fulks said he would not repeal Obama Care. He said his daughter had a preexisting condition and was not able to get medical insurance.  
“There are still changes to be made, it can be made better,” he said.
Wallace answered that there can be no changes made to Obama Care because there are not enough votes to make the change. 
“Until there are 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no repealing of the plan,” he said. 
He added that the country needs to move forward to make health care available to everyone. “Repealing is a moot point,” he said.
The last question was from the audience. “How would you facilitate cooperation between the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Oklahoma state government to balance tourism needs with hydro-power needs in lakes managed by the Corps?”
Wallace said the question recognizes what’s going in Congress and that Congress most work with the Corps and the state to balance the needs and any settlement with the tribes would come from congress.
Fulks said the tribes stand up for their rights and “we need to stand up for ours.”

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Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.