Mount View Middle School students grill candidates on variety of issues

By Ben Holbrook | Oct 01, 2012
Photo by: Ben Holbrook District 45 candidates Ryan Harmon, left, and Brian Jones, right. answer questions generated by students during a forum at Mount View Middle School.

Thorndike — Mount View Middle School students grilled the two candidates running for the District 45 state representative seat during a forum Thursday, Sept. 27, on a variety of topics ranging from how to fix the economy to health care.

Republican Rep. Ryan Harmon of Palermo and Democratic candidate Brian Jones of Freedom spent two hours fielding questions and explaining to students what they hope to accomplish if elected.

On issues concerning the economy, students asked the candidates why oil and gas prices are so high, what they would do to improve the economy and where they stood on raising or lowering taxes.

The question of whether the candidates would raise taxes elicited different responses from each candidate, with Jones supporting progressive taxation and Harmon saying he wouldn’t raise taxes on anyone.

Jones said he supports progressive taxation –– the more you make, the more you pay –– but said taxes should be kept as low as possible.

“I’m a patriot. I don’t mind paying taxes if the money is being spent for the good of the community,” Jones said.

Harmon said he favors lowering taxes while acknowledging the need to strike a balance when it comes to how taxes are assessed

“I don’t believe money should be taken out of people’s pockets,” Harmon said.

Education was also a popular topic, as students questioned the candidates about the state's providing laptops to schools, regulations regarding serving nutritious foods in school and what they would do to improve the education system.

On the issue of state-issued laptops, both candidates agreed it’s important for students to become comfortable using computers, as they are used in virtually all aspects of the business world.

Harmon said he taught students at an inner-city school how to type, use PowerPoint and Excel programs, and he wants to continue seeing laptops issued to students.

Jones agreed that computers are important tools in education, but he also encouraged students to take a break from using computers and pick up a book instead to develop their imagination.

Near the end of the forum, the candidates were asked what issue was the most important to them. Harmon said his most important issue is his children, because he wants to make sure they have the same opportunities that he did.

“I think all parents probably think that way,” Harmon said.

Jones said he agreed with Harmon about making sure children are well educated and prosperous, while noting that one of his concerns is how divisive politics can be.

“We have trouble as a government working together,” Jones said.

Students were given a final opportunity to ask Harmon and Jones any final general questions before the forum ended. Students asked very poignant questions such as, why the candidates chose their respective parties and did either candidate believe in the death penalty.

Thursday’s forum was held to illustrate to students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades the similarities and differences between the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as to demonstrate how people can have opposing views and still be respectful.

After the forum ended, Harmon and Jones spoke briefly about why they feel it is important to speak to students.

“It’s their future. What we do now will affect them,” Harmon said.

Jones agreed and said it’s important to begin building the next generation of civic-minded residents.

“A lot of people have disengaged from politics and civic life,” Jones said. “Democracy requires everybody’s participation.”

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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