WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, candidates for U.S. House and Senate agreed Thursday that the federal government has a role in helping states respond to natural disasters.
Incumbent Democratic Rep. John Carney Jr. and Sen. Tom Carper, along with their Republican challengers, Tom Kovach and Kevin Wade, answered questions at a Rotary Club candidate forum. They agreed that while state and local governments should lead disaster response efforts, the federal government has an important role in providing resources and other assistance.
"We're all in this together... It's a shared responsibility," said Carper, who is seeking a third term and trying to beat back challenges from Wade and Independent candidate Alex Pires Jr.
Pires, a wealthy lawyer and businessman whose sharp personal attacks against Carper have dominated the Senate race, skipped the Rotary forum and an Urban League debate later Thursday evening to offer his own assistance to storm victims.
"In light of the sheer devastation caused by Sandy, and the unhappiness it has brought to thousands of people, I am uncomfortable campaigning," Pires wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Instead I am using my resources and my time to purchase large quantities of food and have it tractor trailered to the American Red Cross distribution centers in New Jersey, working hand-in-hand with officials of the Delmarva Red Cross."
Meanwhile, the four candidates at the Rotary forum answered questions on issues ranging from the country's deteriorating infrastructure to the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Kovach and Carney, along with Carper, said the government needs to invest more in infrastructure, with Carper suggesting that user fees pay for replacement of America's crumbling interstate highway system.
That drew a quick response from Wade, who has criticized Carper for suggesting that gasoline taxes be raised by 25 cents over three years to help reduce the deficit and pay for transportation improvements.
Wade said finding money to pay for infrastructure improvements could be difficult when the government is already facing a staggering debt load of $16 trillion.
While Carper and Carney support government subsidies to alternative energy companies to help reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, their Republican challengers said the government should not be in the role of cherry-picking which companies to help. Several solar power companies that received hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from the Obama administration have gone bankrupt.