A newly re-drawn Congressional District is in play in part of the Lehigh Valley. That district, the 17th, will include Easton and northern parts of Northampton County starting next year.
Republican Laureen Cummings and Democrat Matthew Cartwright are seeking the seat, which is currently occupied by Democrat Tim Holden, who was defeated by Cartwright in the spring primary election.
Both candidates were invited to a public forum Friday night in Palmer Township hosted by the Lehigh Valley 9/12 Tea Party Group. Cummings accepted the invitation; Cartwright declined.
Cummings, who spoke before an audience of about 100 at the Charles Chrin Community Center, opened her remarks by noting she had been a long-time Democrat until coming to the conclusion that the Democrats "are stealing money right out your paycheck" through their tax policies. The Lackawanna County woman said she came to this conclusion after seeing the negative impacts over-restrictive regulations and tax policies were having on her home-care nursing business.
Cummings, who founded the Scranton Tea Party organization, called for sweeping tax reforms. She went as far as calling for the implementation of a national sales tax instead. "It's transparent and would get rid of lobbying, because there would be no tax code to lobby for." A federal sales tax, she said, would be fair across the board and generate more revenue by gaining money from tourists, in addition to residents.
Cummings called for an "all of the above" approach in addressing energy needs. She criticized the Obama administration by funneling $90 billion to "green energy," while stopping off-shore drilling permits. "I would rather by our oil here in America," she said.
Cummings said the federal health care act of 2010 (often referred to as "ObamaCare") should be repealed. She says the law's mandates are negatively impacting hundreds of thousands of businesses.
Cummings called for limited government involvement with business, and said over-burdensome regulations must be scaled back. She criticized the federal government for bailing out businesses that are supposedly "too big to fail."
"It's picking winners and losers through the federal government and that's not fair," she said.
Cummings believes Congress would be more functional if comprised of part-time legislators who collect only a salary, with no pension or other benefits.
She supported the concept of a balanced budget constitutional amendment, but said there would need to be exemptions for certain emergency situations.
Cummings criticized the federal Department of Education for imposing policies that should be handled by local boards of education and parents.
She described the Tea Party organization as a "movement to stop tyranny in our government today." She called out "progressives" for wanting the public to get used to things like $4 per gallon gasoline and expensive groceries.
"I've had it with government regulations, taxes and people suffering. I don't want our kids to think $4 a gallon gasoline is the norm."