Conole, Williams address questions at local forum
ROME — The Rome Chamber of Commerce held its Congressional Candidates Forum on Wednesday, where Francis Conole and Brandon Williams answered some of the questions on constituents’ minds.
Delta Lake Inn, 8524 Fish Hatchery Road, served as the stage for the forum with questions collected from attendees seeking insight into the candidates for the state’s 22nd Congressional District’s views on various topics and how they will conduct business if elected to Congress.
Conole, a Democrat, is a Naval Academy graduate, Iraq War veteran, and Defense Secretary Policy advisor. He served as the Syracuse city chair of the Onondaga County Committee, supported the Navy’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and currently serves as a commander in the Navy Reserves.
Williams, a Republican, was born in Texas and attended Pepperdine University in California, where he received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. William was a Navy nuclear submarine officer and during his service said he made six strategic deterrent patrols in the Pacific aboard the USS Georgia as a strategic missile officer.
Among the first questions on the mind of attendees was inflation and what the candidates would do to resolve it.
Williams said inflation harms the economy and the community, but in particular, it harms the middle class and working Americans — “61% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “And our energy costs here in Central New York are projected to go up 39% this winter. Where does that money come from? Are [people] choosing to heat or to eat?”
Williams said the cause was “...progressive left policies.”
“We’ve had over $3 billion in spending since Joe Biden took office, and that drives up inflation,” he said. “And the energy policies [of the Biden Administration] have cut off American energy production, cascading through our entire economy. We need to reverse this. We need affordable energy here in Central New York. And that’s natural gas and nuclear power.”
Conole said inflation continues to be a problem locally and globally.
“We have to look at where we’ve been,” Conole said. “The pandemic made us lose 21 million jobs, and while those jobs have returned, we continue to face higher costs. And I think both Democrats and Republicans have gotten this wrong. I think we need to do more to address the rising costs for working families and the middle class.”
If elected, Conole said he’d like to see middle-class tax cuts implemented and something done to address the costs of healthcare that these families face. “The cost of prescription drugs and healthcare is perennial,” he said. “It’s a tax on middle-class families.”
On the topic of student loan forgiveness, both Williams and Conole agreed and didn’t support the efforts of the Biden administration.
“I don’t support the transfer of debt from one group of people to the rest of the people,” Williams said. “Debt isn’t eliminated; there’s no such thing. You just transfer it. And it’s grossly unfair to transfer it to the taxpayers. It’s unfair. There are problems with higher education, but the cost is working itself out in the marketplace right now.”
Conole said he’s spoken out against Biden’s debt cancellation program but understood there’s a crisis. However, he disagreed with Williams, saying he didn’t think it would work itself out. “Educating our young people is imperative,” he said. “We need to make sure we have our young people educated and ready to take advantage of the jobs of the future.”
One question addressed to both candidates was their position on the “...Department of Justice directing the FBI to investigate concerned parents questioning school board decisions regarding the teaching of critical race theory and transgenderism.”
According to the Associated Press, the FBI is not targeting opponents of critical race theory. In October 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland instructed federal authorities to address a rise in criminal conduct targeting school board members and public school employees, following a National School Boards Association request. In a memo by Garland, the FBI would work with law enforcement to develop strategies to combat what Garland called “...a disturbing spike” in violent threats facing schools.
Conole said he doesn’t support the Department of Justice getting involved on a local level, and those decisions should be made by parents and teachers working together. “And I’ve talked to teachers, and they’ve affirmed that critical race theory is not being discussed in their curriculum,” he said. “I think parents should be involved, and I have tremendous respect for our teachers, especially with how tough it’s been for them. Our young people have fallen behind in reading and math and could potentially be a crisis.”
Williams said, “When the president of the United States can politicize law enforcement and go after a particular group of people — and we have politicians who cheer them on — then I think that’s a very dangerous place. These are tools of tyranny. The United States cannot go down that path, and we cannot weaponize the federal police the way it has been done over time. We have to have equality before the law, regardless of politics, the color of skin, or religion. That cuts across both aisles.”
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. To learn where your polling place is, visit www.vote.org/polling-place-locator/
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