Senate candidate John Fetterman answers Erie-area voters' questions – GoErie.com

Editor’s note: The Erie Times-News asked voters to submit their questions for candidates running for Pennsylvania governor, U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, Pennsylvania 16th District. Here, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, answers those questions.
Question: Most of the crime that we have in this country right now is directly related to guns and the easy access to guns. The more guns there are on the street, the harder it is on law enforcement. How would you address crime? If not through gun reform, what would be your strategy? Do you have any ideas beyond more law enforcement, more prisons, and bail reform, etc.? 
Answer: I know how to stop crime, because I’ve actually done it. And as a senator, I’d address it through a number of initiatives, including gun reform.
More: John Fetterman has reforged every political office he’s held. Now what?
My whole career in politics started because of gun violence. Braddock was a town deeply plagued by violence when I began my career here helping local youth get their GEDs and find jobs. After two of my GED students were gunned down, I decided to run for mayor to stop the violence. During my tenure as mayor of Braddock I succeeded in confronting the gun violence epidemic — with Braddock going 5 ½ years without the loss of life through gun violence. I worked closely with the police and the community, showing up at crime scenes and accidents myself, riding with police on patrols, and implementing a community policing model to promote more collaboration between the Braddock community and the police. I also fought for grants to provide Braddock youth with summer jobs, to keep them out of trouble and provide a stable income; and helped build a new community center in Braddock to expand extracurricular opportunities.
In order to combat gun violence and crime, we also have to address the underlying causes of crime such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, drugs, and education, and make commonsense fixes to our current laws that have allowed guns to fall into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.
I will fight to expand investments in workforce development programs to provide good-paying jobs; promote and expand funding for extracurricular activities for children, to keep them safe and out of trouble; invest in schools to expand educational opportunities; and increase accessibility of drug treatment facilities. Additionally, we must eliminate the filibuster to pass commonsense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, with policies like universal background checks for all gun sales, red flag laws, and a ban on military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. 
Election 2022: Your guide to the candidates for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania
Please state whether you believe the 2020 state and presidential election was free and fair and valid, and if not, based on what evidence? What is your position on the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the multi-pronged effort to overturn the election? Would you have voted to certify the 2020 election results if you had been in the Senate on Jan. 6, 2021? 
Yes, the 2020 election was decided long ago. Even Newsmax and Fox News called the election for Joe Biden. I absolutely would have voted to certify the 2020 election results if I were in the Senate. But still, my opponent Dr. Oz said just a few weeks ago that “there is lots more information we have to gather in order to determine” the 2020 election winner. The 2020 election is settled. It’s time to move forward. The events at the Capitol on January 6th were a disgrace. The people convicted of violently attacking Capitol police, breaking into the Capitol, and plotting to overturn the results of the election deserve to be held accountable. This should be simple.
To strengthen our democracy, we need to do more to protect the right to vote, including passing voting rights legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We also need to prevent another January 6 by reforming the Electoral Count Act immediately — something Congress is working on right now. 
More: Fetterman’s lead on Oz slips as Shapiro’s widens over Mastriano in USA TODAY/Suffolk poll
What actions would you support to deal with the southern border crisis and stem drug and human trafficking? 
At the southern border, we need more investment, and we need to provide border patrol with the resources they need. First, we need to increase staff, at both the border agent level and at the processing level, to expand capacity and clear the backlog of asylum applications.
Second, we need to make investments in innovation and technology to make the border more secure and modernize our processes. And we need to increase resources across the board so that our border patrol agents can focus on stopping drug trafficking and human trafficking. A combination of manpower, technology, and creating a reasonable pathway to citizenship can help us stem the flow of drugs, human trafficking, and illegal immigration. 
Should marijuana be legalized as Lt. Gov. Fetterman advocates? Won’t that lead to more crime and overdose deaths? How would that help people? 
Yes, marijuana should be legalized. There is no scientific evidence that legal marijuana is linked to overdose deaths. And removing marijuana from its classification as a Schedule I drug would allow researchers to investigate both its medical benefits and risks.
The reality is that legalizing marijuana would allow our police force to focus on violent crime and crack down on traffickers dealing hard drugs like heroin and fentanyl. There is no reason why our police force should be wasting its time on the use of a plant, when it could be investigating violent crime or hard drug trafficking. Republican state Senators Dan Laughlin, who represents Erie, and Mike Regan, who is a former law enforcement officer, agree that we need to take action and legalize marijuana. This is a bipartisan issue that is supported by the vast majority of Pennsylvanians.
In addition, it would provide extensive economic benefits. Right now, there’s a marijuana market in Pennsylvania, but it’s an illegal market and the money goes to cartels and dealers. If we legalize marijuana and tax it — like many other states across the country have done — we can use that funding to reinvest in our schools or use the income as a tax rebate for hardworking Pennsylvanians, instead of letting it go to drug dealers and cartels. 
More: Experts say Dr. Oz’s medical records look standard, unlike his decision to release them
Do you support the Afghan Adjustment Act? 
The Afghan Adjustment Act would strengthen our commitments to humanitarian efforts and offer a pathway to citizenship for people seeking a safe haven — including and especially those who risked their lives to assist and protect our military service members throughout the war in Afghanistan. I support this bipartisan bill. 
Do you have a desire to help with student debt, and if so, why not look at helping lower the interest student loan rates rather than loan forgiveness? 
Yes, I support a number of policies to help lessen the burden of student loan debt, including lowering interest rates. I have always been clear that we need to cancel some of the student loan debt that’s crippling Pennsylvanians, especially for folks who are struggling. If the government can give massive tax breaks for Dr. Oz and all his rich friends, then it’s entirely reasonable to take action and cancel some student loan debt for those who need it most. Pennsylvania has the third-highest rate of student loan debt in the country, and people need relief.
But we also need to support people who chose not to go to college, to make sure that you can get a good job with good pay without having a degree. That’s why I support increasing investments in career and technical programs to prepare young adults for successful and in-demand careers in industries that do not require a college education. This really isn’t an either/or issue; we must be helping folks who need it, with or without college degrees — it shouldn’t be that complicated.
I also know that the cost of college is far too high and needs to come down. I support efforts to lessen that burden on Pennsylvania’s young people, like making two-year community and technical colleges tuition-free. We should also eliminate interest on federal student loans and expand Pell Grants for students that come from low income households. 
More: In campaign return, Fetterman says ‘if you can’t win Erie, you can’t win Pennsylvania’
Why are residency requirements so weak for those seeking to run in federal elections in PA? Do we need to strengthen them? 
To run for state office in Pennsylvania (like state senator or state representative), a candidate must have been a resident of the state for four years. There is no reason why someone should be able to run for federal office to represent an entire state, with the only requirement being that they are a resident at the time of the election. Weak residency requirements incentivize opportunistic people seeking political power and allow people to seek office who know nothing about the unique issues facing the people of Pennsylvania.
I would support implementing residency requirements for federal offices to match those for state offices, so that anyone running for federal office in Pennsylvania is required to have been a resident for four years prior to their run, as our state senators and representatives are. 
Do you support federal policy around police accountability? 
If elected, I would support legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to build more trust between police and the communities they serve, and to expand accountability and transparency in police departments. As mayor, I helped implement a community policing model in Braddock to build that trust, and I know these kinds of programs can be successful. As mayor, I helped build relationships between police and community by having officers speak to kids in the Braddock Youth Project, working as a go-between between police and the community to resolve complaints, and weeding out officers with a history of complaints. I would sometimes even patrol Braddock with my police officers. I also hosted gun buy-back events to get guns off the street and worked to get Braddock police the funding and resources they needed through multiple avenues. 
What will you do as senator to protect human rights such as reproductive rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, BIPOC rights, and women’s rights? 
Each of these communities faces its own unique challenges in the fight for equal rights and protection under the law.
Women’s reproductive freedom is under attack by Republicans trying to pass national abortion bans, and my opponent Dr. Oz thinks every abortion is a “murder.” In the Senate, I would vote to eliminate the filibuster to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and codify abortion access into law. I would also strongly support legislation to close the wage gap.
The LGBTQ+ community has also become subject to rising levels of violence, health care discrimination, employment discrimination, and housing discrimination. I would support legislative efforts like the Equality Act, to explicitly guarantee LGBTQ+ Americans are protected from discrimination; the BE HEARD Act to strengthen protections in the workplace for LGBTQ+ and others; and the Fair and Equal Housing Act to ensure the LGBTQ+ community is protected from discrimination in housing.
The Black community also faces high levels of discrimination, including in the workplace, where equal pay is lacking; in the criminal justice system; in health care, where insurance coverage and treatment are not easily accessible; and in education, where there is a lack of fair funding to improve opportunities. In the Senate, I would vote for criminal justice reform proposals like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to build and restore trust between police and the communities they serve. I would vote to increase K-12 funding and expand Pell Grants to make college more affordable to ensure the right to a quality education. And I would support expanding health care coverage by taking on the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to ensure affordable prescription drugs, expanding Medicare to include hearing, vision and dental, and lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz is the Republican candidate in Pennsylvania’s race for U.S. Senate. The Erie Times-News reached out to his campaign to invite him to answer questions submitted by area voters. The campaign did not respond to the questionnaire.

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