The five candidates running in the newly created 9th Congressional District met Tuesday for a candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters Oakland Area and Patch.
The 9th Congressional District covers parts of southern Oakland and Macomb counties, including Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Royal Oak, Clinton Township and St. Clair Shores.
The wide-ranging – and sometimes heated – debate touched on a variety of issues from health care to the environment.
Below are summaries of replies by the candidates to questions asked by more than 100 attendees in the standing-room-only crowd.
Did you agree with President Obama's rescue of General Motors and Chrysler?
Levin: "Absolutely," he stated, and added it was not an easy decision. "We helped to save the auto industry and helped to rebuild Michigan ... the future of Michigan's economy was at stake."
Townsend: He disagreed with the way the government went about the bailout, and how a number of dealerships lost their franchises.
Volaric: "I would have taken it down a normal bankruptcy," he said. "There is no reason why the federal government should have picked winners and losers."
Williams: "I don't think the bailouts went far enough to save our manufacturing base."
Fulner: "The corporations and unions worked together to get your tax dollars in their pockets."
Should immigration law be controlled by state or federal law?
Townsend: He advocates an amendment to end birthright citizenship.
Volaric: He is in favor of some sort of e-verification run by the private sector and there should be deterrent to those who come to the United States and get a job illegally. He also believes the country does not need to "build a large fence around this country," and surveillance could be conducted by new technology.
Williams: Believes the United State doesn't punish corporations that hire illegal aliens, and there is no "deterrent to do anything about it."
Fulner: States that he would "make it as easy as possible to get a work visa" for those who come to the United States to work.
Levin: "The borders are matter of federal domain," he said. Levin added that the control of immigration has to be under federal control.
What is your position on Obamacare?
Volaric: "Obamacare is about 20 percent right. The American public deserves 100 percent right," he said. He believes the country needs a free market solution to "keep a relationship between you and your doctor, not you and your clinic."
Williams: "If we institute a single payer, we will save $400 billion a year," she said. Williams is concerned about the high rates of infant mortality and other issues, that are not addressed by Obamacare.
Fulner: "I would vote to repeal Obamacare. We need a true free market system," he said. "This whole half-corporate, half-government thing will get us nowhere."
Levin: Stated that about 100,000 young people in Michigan now have health care due to Obamacare, in addition to providing insurance to those with pre-existing conditions. "It is a step in the right direction," he added.
Townsend: "There has been a substantial increase in costs because of Obamacare," he said. "We are trying to provide a Cadillac-type insurance plan for everyone."
What should Congress do about invasive species?
Williams: "This is a regional issue. We need regional, federal guidelines," she said. "The lakes are our greatest asset."
Fulner: "It is not the responsibility of the government to protect the lakes," he said and advocated individuals purchase and protect waterways.
Levin: Stated during his career he has worked to clean the lakes, but "more has to be done." He is concerned about cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and believes the government needs to take the lead on the effort.
Townsend: "You want to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes at all costs," he said. He added that the federal government has the authority to take action to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.
Volaric: He stated "states can handle it," and the federal government should focus on issues such as jobs and energy independence.
What further steps should Congress take to help the economy recover?
Fulner: He stated that the main thing government can do is "get out of the way."
Levin: "We need a further federal, state, private and public partnership," he said, and added that he would further support programs to help construction in Michigan.
Townsend: He stated that the government can allow the country to develop natural resources.
Volaric: "Congress needs to understand they are not the answer to all the problems," he said. He added that Congress needs to concentrate on federal tax reform and reduce the size of government.
Williams: Stated that Congress needs to control and toughen regulation on Wall Street, invest in clean energy and education while controlling "sky rocketing health care costs."
What schedule of withdrawal would you support for Afghanistan?
Levin: "I support the president's position," he said. "This president has set a course that essentially looks at the national security of this country as a priority."
Townsend: He stated that there is a problem with the rules of engagement for the troops, which makes them targets.
Volaric: "We are fighting a conventional war in an unconventional country," he said, and would bring "our soldiers home right now."
Williams: She would support to end the wars and close the bases. She added that the United States is losing more soldiers to suicide than hostile action currently, and as a country, is spending more on defense than "the next 13 countries" combined.
Fulner: "The only timetable I would accept is tomorrow," he stated. "We have no place being the world's policeman."
What will you do to help make the House of Representatives a better body?
Townsend: He stated the gridlock in Congress is caused by the two-party system, and an elected body that is run by those who have been serving the longest. He made a pitch to end the gridlock, vote for a third party.
Volaric: "I am not here for the two social clubs," he said. He added that he would work in Congress to bring pro-U.S. policies and bring back manufacturing to the country.
Williams: "It is a systemic problem," she said. "They are more concerned about their job security, and their lobbying position after they lose their position than they are in you."
Fulner: "The two of them continue to argue about nothing," he said. "If you elect third parties candidates like myself you will break that gridlock."
Levin: "We need to sit down and work together," he said. "I think compromise has become a dirty word." He added that the parties need to sit down and work together, but added that the Republican party has been taken over by the "radical right."
Do you believe we need a balanced approach to balance the budget?
Volaric: He stated there needs to be federal tax reform in the country and economic growth.
Williams: She stated that the economy can be improved by investing in education instead of banks and warfare.
Fulner: "We don't have a tax problem, or spending problem, we have a government problem," he stated. "Talking about less government doesn't change anything."
Levin: "We need a balanced approach," he stated. He added that revenue needs to be increased and budget cuts be made.
Townsend: "The balanced approach to taxes is code word to raising taxes," he said.
Should energy policy be a state or federal policy?
Williams: "This is a federal responsibility and (the government) has been falling down on it," she stated.
Fulner: Stated that there are loopholes and "maybe we should get rid of the government and let people do good things."
Levin: Cited the work done by Congress to stop a proposed California emission standards that would have "crippled" the domestic automotive industry as an example of the importance of the role of the federal government.
Townsend: Stated that almost nothing the Environmental Protection Agency has done has been beneficial to the small business owner, and if states can handle the regulations, they should.
Volaric: "We do not need the federal government imposing their giant footprint on the state," he said.
Will you call for an end to the Department of Education?
Fulner: "Yes, I would call for the end of the Department of Education," he said. "I believe in nothing less than the separation of school and state."
Levin: He was against closing the Department of Education because of the help it gives students through Pell Grants, and other assistance, to pursue education. "Saying get the federal government out of education ... is to turn your back on assisting students," he said.
Townsend: "I would abolish it," he said, and believes states can take the place of federal government.
Volaric: "I believe the federal government has no place in education," he said. "No one knows better what your child needs than the teacher."
Williams: "I don't agree with ending the Department of Education," she said. She added that there has to be parameters and rules for the states to follow.