Canton Repository

October 30, 2006

Many differences separate Rep. Regula, novice foe

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, one of the longest-serving and most powerful members of the House, faces opposition from a political novice who believes his experience as a minister can help solve national problems.

“I have experience at balancing budgets, at listening to conflicting points of view and finding the common ground,” said the Democratic challenger, Tom Shaw, who has been pastor of Church of the Cross United Methodist Church in Wooster since 2003.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, is seeking an 18th term in the strongly Republican district, which includes all of Stark and Wayne counties and much of Ashland and Medina counties.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, Regula said he is pursuing another term to increase federal support for math and science education, preserve national park land in Ohio and promote research on major diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

“I would like to expand our math and science programs and in the process give a greater range of opportunities to young people, particularly in the engineering field, because there is a lot of future in that particular program area,” he said.

Shaw, 48, said he is running because of dissatisfaction with Republican control of Congress.

TAXES AND DEBT

“Our nation was formed to pass on the blessings of liberty to ourselves and posterity, not to pass on debt to one generation after another,” he said.

Shaw faults the Bush administration and Congress for presiding over a growing federal deficit after budget surpluses achieved during the Clinton administration.

Regula, 81, conceded the administration and Congress have a mixed record, with a “difficult challenge in Iraq.”

But he praised the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which he supported. Regula contends the tax cuts stimulated the economy and increased federal revenues. As a result, he said, the projected 2006 deficit has fallen to $250 billion, 21 percent less than the previous year.

THE IRAQ FACTOR

The candidates reflect their respective party’s positions on the war in Iraq.

“Iraq was never in my opinion … a threat to the world,” said Shaw, who favors setting a timetable for U.S. forces to leave the country. “It’s old news now: no weapons of mass destruction.”

Regula supports continued training of the Iraqi military and police until they are able to “take over the country,” he said. “We need to support this beginning government that they’re putting together.”

He argues that a timetable would be a victory for insurgents, who would resume their violent activities once Americans left.

FEDERAL SPENDING AND TRADE

As chairman of a congressional subcommittee that oversees $140 billion in funding for education, medical research and job training, Regula said he has sought to develop a coordinated response among local, state and federal officials to a possible bioterrorist attack or avian flu outbreak.

“I’ve taken steps to make the health care system seamless,” he said.

Economic and trade issues divide the candidates.

While Regula backed the tax cuts, Shaw said he has seen “little if any benefit to the working class, to the middle class, from these tax cuts.”

Shaw said he would have opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 and the Central American Free Trade Agreement last year.

“It seems (the agreements) benefit one segment of society without really benefiting workers here or the workers in those other countries,” he said.

Regula opposed NAFTA in 1993 but supported CAFTA last year.

A former chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus who advocated tougher treatment of illegal imports, Regula said it’s still “too easy for other countries to dump into the American market.”

DRUG BENEFITS AND CORRUPTION

Shaw faults the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which he said is too complicated and benefits pharmaceutical companies more than seniors.

Regula defends it as a good program “on balance,” while adding that Congress should take a look at making it “a little easier for people to use.”

Shaw also has raised the issue of corruption in Congress, which he sees as a reason to end the practice of earmarking by powerful lawmakers who are able to bypass the agency review process and funnel millions of dollars in government spending to their districts and political supporters.

Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., pleaded guilty last year to steering millions of dollars in projects to a lobbyist who bribed him. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath, also has admitted trading favors for lobbyist gifts.

“I’d like to see no earmarks,” said Shaw. If they are not completely eliminated, he said, they should receive closer scrutiny.

Regula is a staunch defender of earmarks who estimates he has steered more than $100 million in federal spending to the region.

Before any other changes are made, he said, Congress should see how recently enacted rules affect the process. The rules require greater disclosure of earmarks in legislation, including the names of their congressional sponsors.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, 16TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Term of office: Two years

Salary: $165,200

THOMAS SHAW

Age: 48

Address: Wooster

Party: Democratic

Education: Doctorate in ministry, Wesley Theological Seminary

Occupation: Pastor, Church of the Cross United Methodist Church, Wooster

Family: Wife, Susan; four children

Religion: Methodist

Political experience: None

Why are you running? “I was prompted to run … by a great love for our country. I’m very proud to be an American and I’m also very distressed or dismayed or disappointed at the direction the government has pushed our country in the last six years.”

RALPH REGULA

Age: 81

Address: Bethlehem Township

Party: Republican

Education: Law degree, William McKinley Law School

Occupation: U.S. representative

Family: Wife, Mary; three children

Religion: Episcopalian

Political experience: U.S. representative, 1973-present; state senator, 1966-72; state representative, 1964-66; member Ohio Board of Education, 1960-64

Why are you running? “We’re doing a lot in education. As you get better educational opportunities it enhances the employment opportunity, because people are better equipped to hold jobs. I think the competitive world we’re living in requires that we do this.”