The three candidates for the state’s 2nd District congressional seat faced off in the final AETN debate, discussing banking reform, the national debt and other issues.
The debate featured Republican U.S. Rep French Hill, Democrat Dianne Curry and Libertarian Chris Hayes.
Asked what banking reforms are needed to protect smaller banks from regulations while keeping the country safe from big banks’ unsafe practices, Hill, a former banker, faulted Congress for passing the Dodd-Frank Act, saying it hurt small community banks.
“Dodd-Frank has instituted ‘too big to fail.’ It did not cure ‘too big to fail,” he said.
Hayes said the country should return to the Glass-Steagall Act that once governed banking practices. He said Americans were sold out by the bank bailout. Curry said lower-income Arkansans can’t get loans and are forced to pay higher fees.
Responding to a question about the national debt, Curry said the country should balance its budget, including by looking at areas such as defense, transportation and agriculture. Hill said he favors a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution because elected officials need the discipline it would provide. He said entitlements have to be reformed and that Congress should try to cut discretionary spending by 1% a year. Hayes called for an audit of the Federal Reserve.
The candidates were asked about a $15 minimum wage and how to balance the concerns of businesses and employees. Hayes said he opposes the minimum wage because the federal government should not have a role in that area. Curry said she supports a higher minimum wage but $15 may be too high. Hill said Arkansas raised its minimum wage in the 2014 elections and labor markets should be determined locally. He said a better way to help people in that income bracket is through an earned income tax credit.
Asked about Donald Trump’s recently recorded remarks about groping women, Hill said the remarks were offensive, but so too has been the conduct of Hillary Clinton concerning her private emails as secretary of state. Both candidates are flawed, but Trump is better for the economy, national security and the future, Hill said. Curry called it “appalling” that Republicans would support Trump, saying she’s “about inclusion.” She criticized Trump for refusing to release his tax returns. Hayes said the words were “deplorable” and a “distraction.”
Asked about restoring congressional power versus the executive branch, Hill said over the last decade the executive branch has exceeded its authority and usurped the legislative branch through executive orders. He said Democrats and Republicans should unite so that the legislative branch maintains legislative and appropriation power. Hayes said it would depend on what the president brought to the Congress. Curry said Republicans and Democrats should work together.
The three were asked about bias in the judicial system. Hill said he doesn’t think there is “tremendous bias” in the judiciary. He said ex-inmates need a better way to return to work. Hayes said ex-inmates after a time should have their voting rights returned. Curry agreed that ex-inmates should have a chance to have their voting rights restored and said criminal justice reform is needed, especially for nonviolent offenders.
In his opening statement, Hill said he was motivated to run for office to change the country’s direction on economic policy, saying fewer people are working in four of his district’s seven counties than were working in 2007. Curry said as a single mom and a grandmother, she has had to work two jobs and knows how difficult it can be to make ends meet. Hayes said he would like to see government programs reduced.