RI congressional hopefuls discuss stimulus, wars

Providence, R.I. – Candidates vying to replace Rep. Patrick Kennedy in the U.S. House of Representatives shared their views on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, energy policy and federal stimulus money during a forum at a senior citizens' residence on Thursday.

Several of the candidates decried what they said was the overwhelming influence of special interests in Washington. They expressed concerns that government was not doing enough for average citizens and said they feared an exodus of young adults from the state because of a lack of jobs.

``Washington, in my estimation, is broken,'' said Bill Lynch, the former chairman of the state Democratic party. ``I have concerns about the kind of country we're leaving for our children and our grandchildren.''

Added Providence Mayor David Cicilline: ``We are living in a time of unprecedented cynicism and people have really lost hope that Washington can do anything right to really improve their lives.

Cicilline and Lynch are among four Democrats running to fill the seat, along with two Republicans and two independents. Kennedy, a Democrat, announced in February that he would not seek a ninth term.

Asked about oil policy, businessman Anthony Gemma, a lawyer who's running as a Democrat, said people need better incentive and education to use sources of alternative energy.

``In some cases, the dollars and cents of it doesn't make sense for them to invest the money because we haven't educated them,'' Gemma said.

State Rep. John Loughlin, the leading Republican in the race, criticized federal stimulus money as ``government-directed'' help. He said jobs were not created by government but by entrepreneurs and successful businesspeople.

``The way to get this economy going is to get the money back into the hands of the risk-takers and entrepreneurs,'' Loughlin said.

State Rep. David Segal, a Democrat, said he supported a moratorium on offshore oil drilling and that Rhode Island has a chance to be a leader in renewable energy.

``The power of the wind, the power of water is something that's really understood by Rhode Island, per our sailing culture,'' he said.

The candidates generally voiced support for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, with Segal saying he would support of a cutoff in federal funding of war efforts.

Cicilline said too much funding was being diverted to warlords and corrupt government officials and said troops needed to start coming home, but also stressed the importance of stabilizing the region.

``We have a responsibility to make sure that the money is going where it's intended to go. That is not happening in Afghanistan,'' Cicilline said.