By Linda Beaulieu
It's Friday evening of Labor Day weekend. Most folks are looking forward to a long, lazy weekend. But for Congressional candidate Larry Kissell it's prime campaign time.
Kissell and Tom Thacker from his campaign office are in Troy knocking on doors. At the first house on West Spring Street, no one's home so Kissell tucks a flyer in the front door and moves on. At the next house, a man answers and Kissell goes into his spiel. "Hi, I'm Larry Kissell from over in Biscoe and I'm running for Congress." He chats a minute and finds out the man isn't registered to vote. Kissell encourages him to register and asks for his support. And so it goes, up and down Spring Street and hundreds of other streets throughout the Eighth Congressional District.
Kissell, who was defeated by less than 400 votes the first time he ran two years ago, hasn't changed his message or his reasons for running.
"In the Eighth District, it's about the loss of the American dream for so many families. The first essential is jobs," he says, citing Employment Security Commission figures of more than 60,000 jobs lost from business and industry closures in the district since 2000, and more than 50,000 currently on unemployment. "I know the people behind these numbers, people I go to church with, people I worked with. I teach their children. This election is about restoring the American dream to these families."
He says the district has been hurt by bad trade deals and he would like to see a moratorium on all trade deals until jobs come back. "We need to quit rewarding companies that take their business overseas and reward businesses that have stayed here," he says. "We need to give tax breaks to the middle class and small business, not corporate welfare for big business."
He talks about the need for affordable energy, noting that he addressed the issue in 2006, when prices at less than $3 a gallon were hurting people in the district. "It's taken till 2008 for other people to decide it's important enough to get involved," he says.
"The answer to energy is competition and pursuing alternative energy," he said. He's not opposed to offshore drilling, noting that there are 68 million acres of public land already leased to oil companies for drilling, 33 million of which is off shore. "Drill that now," he says, adding that the oil companies capped "tens of thousands of wells" when the price was low, which could be now used profitably at the higher prices.
He cites figures showing that in May this year the United States was setting records for the amount of oil exports, 1.6 million barrels a day. "A lot of that was gasoline, the most since the end of World War II when we were sending gasoline to allied nations. Before trying to drill our way out, keep it here," he says.
A parent and a teacher, he feels strongly about education, saying that the role of federal government needs to be reduced. "No Child Left Behind is not the answer; we need to listen to and respond to teachers and put the emphasis on real education, creative thinking and working in groups, not high stakes testing," he says.
The rising cost of health care is another issue. Kissell says a national focus is needed to find ways to bring down costs through competition and make healthcare more affordable to more people. He wants to make sure that Social Security remains protected and is opposed to privatization and would like to see Medicare expanded to help older people stay at home, noting that home care is far less expensive than nursing homes and other institutionalized care.
He believes that needed programs can be funded by returning to a balanced federal budget. "In 2000 we had a balanced budget, the longest stretch of economic growth in the nation's history and were projecting a massive surplus," he says. "It can be done."
He says America has completed all its missions in Iraq. "The mission was weapons of mass destruction; there were none. The mission was getting rid of Saddam Hussein; he's gone. The mission was to democratize Iraq; they have it," he says. "It's time to phase out the troops and bring them home and get ready for the next crisis We need to look at Afghanistan. We took our eye off the real threat."
Kissell believes many of the problems in Washington are caused by partisan gridlock. "We've got to have people who can work together and that hasn't happened," he says. "That's why it's important to have a new voice as well as new ideas." He says he is willing and able to work with anybody. "And wouldn't it be great to have a congressman who knows Montgomery County and proudly calls it home."
As he knocks on doors throughout the district, when folks have the time to listen to his message, he adds the same statement he made two years ago: "If you think the nation is headed in the right direction, I'm not the person to vote for. If you thing we need effective change, I think you will be rewarded by voting for me."