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WESA Candidate Survey: Chris Deluzio and Jeremy Shaffer on the issues

We surveyed Republican Jeremy Shaffer and Democrat Chris Deluzio, the candidates for Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, on top issues for the 2022 election.

About the WESA Candidate Survey: WESA sent surveys to all candidates running in competitive races for federal and state offices in our listening area, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Cambria, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. Our candidate survey was based upon input we solicited from voters.

We have fixed basic capitalization and punctuation issues, but have not otherwise edited candidates' answers.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly has proposed a federal ban on abortion after 6 weeks, with exceptions for life or health of the mother, but not for rape or incest. Would you support such a proposal — yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance and identify other changes, if any, you would support at the federal level.

Deluzio: No. I will stand against Republican attempts to ban abortion and attempts to punish women and doctors. Unlike my opponent, I risked my life for our freedom and will fight to protect women’s reproductive rights. Jeremy Shaffer’s position to ban abortion nationwide with no exceptions for rape and incest threatens liberty and is wildly out of step and too extreme for PA-17. I would vote in Congress to codify Roe v. Wade under federal law.

Shaffer: No — I support exceptions for life of the mother and for rape or incest as well (which this bill doesn't contain). In Congress, I will fight attempts to force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions up until the point of birth, and at the same time, I will also support providing the resources to support mothers with high-quality of care and family support services.

The federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Do you favor federal action to change the minimum wage?

  • Please explain your stance and, if you support a change, identify the minimum wage rate you believe is appropriate.

Deluzio: Yes, I support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. I know in western Pennsylvania we value hard work — no one who works full time should not be able to afford to feed, house and provide for their families.

Shaffer: Yes — we should consider a system like in Florida that raised the minimum wage and indexed it to inflation. We must also encourage and train people to have the skills they need to make substantially more than the minimum wage. I will also work hard to fix the current economic approach that is driving rapid inflation and making cost-of-living unaffordable for many Americans — which especially hurts those who are on fixed incomes or making close to the minimum wage.

Earlier this term, the U.S. House passed the "For the People Act" (H.R. 1), with provisions requiring states to offer options like early voting and automatic voter registration, and to create independent commissions to draw Congressional boundaries, rather than have the legislature and governor do so. The measure died in the Senate. Would you vote for H.R. 1 in office? Yes/no?

  • Please explain your answer, and suggest any federal action — either in H.R. 1 or outside it — that you think would be appropriate for Congress to take on the conduct of elections.

Deluzio: Yes, I have dedicated my life — as an officer in the military and as a voting rights lawyer — to protecting and defending our democracy. Our Constitution and our democracy are under attack and it is our duty to elect leaders who intend to uphold their oath to the Constitution, an oath I first took as a 17-year-old at the Naval Academy.

Shaffer: No — we need to work in a bipartisan manner to make any improvements to our election process. It is absolutely critical that all Americans have full confidence in our elections. This should primarily be done through the individual states that have administered elections the entire history of our country. I have personally supported common-sense election integrity efforts like voter ID. One of the issues I do feel strongly about is finding ways to eliminate egregious gerrymandering done by both parties. For a democracy to work, people need to know that their voice matters.

President Biden recently signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will move the United States toward reducing carbon emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. That’s short of a 50 percent reduction by 2030, which scientists say is necessary to limit the worst impacts of climate change on the globe. Would you support further legislation aimed at that target — yes or no?

  • Please explain your stance, and describe any changes you wish to see to federal energy or climate policy.

Deluzio: Yes, I support legislation to create jobs, strengthen American manufacturing, lower prescription drug costs, reduce the deficit and fight climate change. With the strongest and most skilled union workforce in the nation, we’re ready here in western Pennsylvania to win the fight today and tomorrow for our energy security.

Shaffer: No — though I am a strong supporter of protecting our environment and reducing our carbon emissions, the specific approach done in this bill is the wrong one. What this bill will do is harm our economy even more and drive up energy costs even higher. As an engineer, I know we have the technology and ability to have both a strong economy and a clean environment. That’s why I believe in an all-of-the-above energy plan that protects our environment without hurting our economy. We can continue to drive down carbon emissions without massive federal dictates.

Inflation is a concern for Pennsylvanians, and some legislators have called for either reducing or suspending the federal gas tax. Would you support such a measure? Yes/no?

  • If yes, how would you replace the revenue — and are there other inflation-fighting policies you would pursue? (Please limit your answer to 100 words)

Deluzio: Yes, I would support suspending the federal gas tax. This revenue could be replaced if billionaires and the greedy corporations gouging all of us paid their fair share in taxes. And for us to bring down costs, we have to bring our supply chains back home and start making things here again, with union workers, and hold price-gouging corporations accountable. I’ll fight to undo the lousy trade deals that decimated our manufacturing and gutted American jobs.

Shaffer: Yes — this could be a temporary short-term solution, but we would need to backfill road and bridge funding with general fund revenues so we do hurt our infrastructure needs. The most important thing is to address the root cause of the problem: a Biden-Pelosi administration abandoning American energy producers and instead going to other countries begging for foreign oil. We need to continue investment in refineries, oil, and gas production to provide market stability, or we can quickly have large shortages and price spikes that crush our economy while we are phasing in other energy sources.

In the face of rising homicide and other crime rates, would you support requiring universal background checks for gun purchases? Yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance, and describe other approaches to fighting crime that you would support.

Deluzio: Yes. I served on the ground in Iraq and at sea, leading Americans in harm’s way. I carried weapons of war in dangerous places and received the best training available through the American military. And I know just as well as anyone that there should be background checks for gun sales, that 18-year-olds shouldn’t be walking around our streets with assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and that we need laws on the books to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves or others.

Shaffer: Yes — I do support background checks for all commercial sales. All Republicans and Democrats agree we want safe schools and safe communities. To do that, we should all support common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and at the same time oppose any efforts to defund the police that protect us.

Do you support proposals for the federal government to wipe out student debt?  Yes/no?

  • Please explain your stance and describe the changes you would support to change student loan programs.

Deluzio: Without addressing the underlying issue of the ballooning cost of higher education and Republican efforts in the states to defund public higher education, we aren’t going to solve this problem. And any proposal in the Congress should be paired with strong support for apprenticeship programs, growing the trades and local community colleges.

Shaffer: No — I do not support the current proposal. The college funding system is severely broken and college prices have been growing at much faster rates than inflation for decades. Student debt forgiveness, while well-intentioned, simply adds fuel to the fire and makes the problem of college funding worse over the long run, and it adds a trillion dollars to our already out-of-control national debt. Instead of election-year gimmicks that don't address the root of the problem, we need comprehensive bipartisan college and student-loan reform and an education policy that helps more people go into the trades and apprenticeship programs.

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.