Video: Jon Golnik, Sam Meas, Tom Weaver and Bob Shapiro Debate in the Shirley Republican Candidates Forum

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5th Congressional District Republican Candidates Debate

The four Republican candidates challenging Rep. Niki Tsongas for 5th Congressional Representative debated at the Shirley Republican Town Committee Candidate Forum on April 10th. The video was posted today, and it helps give us a sense if any of these challengers can be a serious threat to Rep. Tsongas.

Jon Golnik is clearly the standout from among the four. He had specific, rational policy ideas on every question. He knows the facts behind the issues, and his policy ideas seem to be based on practicality and reality. He sounds like the kind of practical political leader who can listen to different sides of an issue and find reasonable solutions.

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Sam Meas also represented himself fairly well. He had many good policy ideas and he alos seemed to know the issues – but not nearly as well as Golnik. Language is a problem for him. His English isn’t great, and being a politician requires, among other things, the ability to communicate well. He would be at a severe disadvantage debating Tsongas. She doesn’t have the rhetorical gifts of someone like Barney Frank, but she can be a powerful speaker. To have a chance, Republicans need a candidate who has the language skills to go up against her. (Watch the video of Tsongas to get a sense of what these candidates are up against.

Tom Weaver and Bob Shapiro don’t sound like serious candidates, and were simply not well prepared. Neither of them gave many policy specifics. They were vague, long on rhetoric, but very short on substance. And some of the things they said were frankly wacky.

» Niki Tsongas (D) $380,660 incumbent
» Jon Golnik (R) $133,396
» Sam Meas (R) $-6,960
» Robert Shapiro (R)
» Tom Weaver (R) $1,898

The Points Made in the Debate

I watched the whole 8 part mini-series. It’s worth watching part of the debate to get a rough sense of how these candidates present themselves. If you just want to skip to their policy positions I have the following notes:

Jon Golnik:

Health Care Reform:

  • The current health care reform bill is a “job killer”
  • He believes real health care reform starts with tort reform, which he says would save $94 billion over 10 years.
  • He would increase competition among insurers by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines.
  • He believes states must repeal mandated coverage for some procedures to control costs.
  • The current health care bill includes a 3% excise tax on medical device manufacturers, which would hurt the district’s manufacturing base.
  • The current health care bill cuts MediCare re-reimbursements, which reduces citizen access to health care.

Economy and Jobs:

  • He would give a $10,000 tax credit for businesses that hire new employees.
  • He would increase small business access to credit by expanding SBA loans.
  • He would reduce the current 35% corporate tax rate.

Controlling Spending:

  • He is against TARP bailouts and government overspending.
  • Extend Bush tax cuts to 2012
  • Reduce spending by repealing the health care bill, stopping further spending on economic stimulus and government bailouts.
  • Eliminate Dept. of Education, devolve decision making to the state and local level.

Illegal Immigration:

  • He believes in diversity, and that immigrants are a benefit to the country, but insists they must come here legally.
  • He is practical on amnesty for illegal immigrants. He would consider amnesty if it worked, but Reagan tried it, and it didn’t work so he does not support it.
  • He would strictly enforce employer verification of illegal immigrants.

Foreign Policy:

  • He supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The biggest foreign policy threats are failed states: Iraq Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea.
  • Does not support trying terrorists in civil courts. He said: “Someone who comes here and tries to destroy our constitution should not be afforded the protections of that very document.” (ed: I think here he misunderstands the purpose of civil liberties. We must extend constitutional protections to even the worst offenders so that our own rights are protected.)

Other Stuff:

  • He believes Tsongas is unresponsive to voter concerns – especially on health care reform.
  • Democrats and Republicans are well intentioned but would put country on different paths.
  • Does not promise to be perfect – but promises to be responsive, and to let people know where he stands.

The debate was about an hour long, and each candidate got to speak for about 12 minutes total. You can see from this list that Golnik was able to cover a lot of ground, with a great deal of detail. One great thing is that, even though he was able to communicate ideas quickly – he managed to keep the language simple and straightforward.

As a speaker, Golnik was not especially passionate or inspiring, but definitely sounded professional and competent. He sounded like a congressman.

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Sam Meas:

Health Care Reform:

  • Supports parts of the bill, including insurance for catastrophic care and pediatrics.
  • Says the rest is a disaster, increased costs and bureaucracy. Would repeal most of it.
  • Supports tort reform.
  • He would increase competition among insurers by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines.

Economy and Jobs:

  • Would remove penalty on early withdrawals from 401k so people can access their retirement during the recession.
  • Would cut business taxes 50% across the board

Illegal Immigration:

  • Against illegal immigration
  • Against amnesty
  • Against factory raids. Says they are counter productive.
  • Penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
  • Increase foreign aid around the world and then charge foreign nations for the health care costs to illegal immigrants from that nation. (ed: Does that mean we have to start by sending massive foreign aid to Mexico, before we can charge them with their health care costs? )
  • Would make sure borders are sealed.

Foreign Policy:

  • Supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Says we got rid of the Taliban. (ed: really?)

Controlling Spending:

  • We should focus on spending cuts before tax cuts.
  • We can’t cut spending without sacrifice: Would reduce spending on Social Security and MediCare.


  • Says we must get rid of Niki Tsongas, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and vote in more Republicans to the Massachusetts state legislature.

Robert Shapiro:

Shapiro’s answers were generally rambling, short on specifics and sometimes a little wacky.

Health Care Reform:

  • Would repeal the health care bill
  • Says people have always had access to health care through emergency rooms. (ed: the problem with that is out of control costs)

Foreign Policy:

  • Focus less on fighting in Afghanistan & Iraq and more on sealing up our borders and beefing up intelligence so we can see threats in advance.

Controlling Spending:

  • Would Lower taxes. Said: “There is no such thing as a tax cut without a spending cut”.  Cut spending first, then cut taxes.
  • Predicts deficit spending may cause hyperinflation.

Illegal Immigration:

  • Would “seal the borders”.
  • No public benefits to illegals since they don’t pay taxes. (ed: they do)
  • Against amnesty.
  • Be prepared the price of lettuce to go up.


  • All bills should have to go through a “constitution committee” which would approve them only if they are constitutional. (ed: Wouldn’t this then be a super committee that essentially would control Congress. Can I be on that?)
  • Would impose a 100 page limit on any bill submitted to congress.


Weaver has a sort of Wilfred Brimley warmth to him. His answers were full of metaphors, and folksy imagery, but very little in the way of policy.

  • Cites navy experience
  • Would lower taxes to create jobs.
  • Would repeal the health care bill.
  • Can’t set tax rates while spending is out of control.
  • Legislators should read the constitution to control spending.
  • Supports a balanced budget amendment.
  • Hinted at cutting retirement programs like social security, but didn’t quite say it.
  • Seemed to advocate a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
  • Would “seal the borders”.

All of these candidates, save Golnik, when talking about illegal immigration used the term “seal the borders”. I’m sure that sounds good to many voters who are increasingly unhappy with the number of people crossing the border illegally. But that isn’t a rational policy. Our land border with Mexico is 2000 miles long. Building a wall that long is not practical, and even if we did, people would still cross, as they always have, by sea. Many illegal immigrants cross legally on tourist visas and then just don’t return. Saying you will “seal the borders” is a meaningless platitude.

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