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Bucshon, Crooks discuss national security at WestGate forum

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Congressman Larry Bucshon.(By Nick Schneider)
Democrat challenger Dave Crooks from Washington.
(By Nick Schneider)
Indiana 8th District Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-Newburgh), at right, exchanges a handshake with his challenger Dave Crooks (D-Washington) following a 90-minute forum Thursday afternoon at WestGate Academy in Crane Village on the topic of National Security in Southern Indiana. The event was not a debate, but an open discussion by both candidates on the importance of NSA Crane in terms of national, state and regional security.
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
CRANE - The Indiana 8th U.S. Congressional District has long been known as 'the Bloody 8th" around political circles, but Thursday night the two candidates seeking the House of Representatives seat shed no blood, traded few verbal barbs and were hardly adversarial during a forum that probed National Security in Southern Indiana.

Incumbent Republican Congressman Larry Bucshon, from Newburgh and Democrat challenger Dave Crooks from Washington were not engaged in a debate, but a 90-minute open forum discussion on the importance of the NSA Crane base as it relates to national, state and regional security as well as economic development.

The event was sponsored jointly by WestGate Academy Conference and Training Center and Crane Federal Credit Union.

Candidate Dave Crooks, at right, answers a question read by forum moderator Craig Hartzer from the Indiana University School of Political and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
Both candidates held to the format that was moderated by Craig Hartzer from the Indiana University School of Political and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).

The candidates agreed on most issues discussed -- something that 's unique among politicians less than a month before the General Election.

Each candidate was allowed 15 minutes to speak with each session followed by a question and answer period with questions submitted by a sizable audience that gathered in the new $8 million WestGate Academy, in the WestGate at Crane Technology Park.

Incumbent Congressman Larry Bucshon makes a point during Thursday's forum at WestGate Academy.
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
Both agreed that completion of Interstate 69 is important.

Buschon, who was first to the podium by virtue of winning a pre-forum coin toss, said, "I recognize the importance of Crane not only for our national security, but for our economic development."

The first-term Congressman said completion of I-69 is essential.

"I don't think I can stress the importance of having this highway come past Crane when the Department of Defense starts looking at access to an interstate highway (in the BRAC process). It's very important," Bucshon said. "It will be up to the next governor, whoever that is, to work with the federal government to find funds to fund the rest of the highway. That is going to be a very important issue."

Bucshon said the I-69 corridor will become what he called a 'destination for defense industry jobs' outside Crane, in places like WestGate Tech Park.

Crooks, who served in the Indiana General Assembly as a state representative from 1996 until 2008, agreed that finding the money to finish I-69 through the state is key.

He credited current Gov. Mitch Daniels with seeing the project through and noted that the 69-mile section from Evansville to Crane will be done before the governor's tern expires in December.

"He got it done," Crooks said. "We have got to find a way to build this road all the way to Indy to interstate standards. It's about jobs."

Bucshon also talked about the budget sequester that came about with the Aug. 2011 Budget Control Act, the debt-limit deal that gave Congress the choice of coming up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years or letting automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs take effect on Jan. 2, 2013.

Many fiscal conservatives voted against the budget control measure, but Bucshon voted in favor of the measure.

Bucshon says the planned cuts to the Pentagon budget would devastate the nation's defenses and they should be replaced by reductions to domestic programs or other budgetary offsets that don't involve raising taxes. He says it has to be reversed or the military will not be able to protect the country.

"The DOD has historically shown that we can have cost savings in Washington D.C. that doesn't effect the warfighter," Bucshon commented. "We need to reassert America's strength in the military and show the world we have the best fighting force...Crane will be a very important cog in that wheel."

Crooks, during his remarks fired at both sides and said, "Politicians need to quit playing games with the defense budget."

He added, "I do think we have to cut spending, but we have to be smart about it."

Crooks said sequestered job cuts are estimated at about 24,000.

He stressed that it is important to keep Crane base viable and active for the state and the local region.

Buschon said he did not like the Obama administration's reaction to the recent attack on the Syrian embassy that claimed the life of a U.S. Ambassador and three guards.

"I think our government showed weakness. We didn't show a (military) presence in the region," he said. We need to show American strength and protect American citizens around the world. You can not rely on other governments to protect American citizens...we have to project strength and prevent these kinds

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