Candidates Forum PA 11th Congressional District

Democratic challenger Sarah Hammond, answers questions during a candidates forum for Pennsylvania's 11th congressional district, at the LNP offices at 101 North Queen Street in Lancaster Monday Oct. 5, 2020. Republican incumbent Congressman Lloyd Smucker, declined LNP's invitation to attend.

Here are five takeaways from Monday night’s LNP Media Group/York Daily Record forum for the candidates running for the 11th Congressional District seat:

1) It wasn’t so much a forum as it was an extended conversation.

Unlike last week’s presidential debate, Democratic nominee Sarah Hammond didn’t have to worry about her GOP opponent interrupting her. That’s because two-term incumbent Lloyd Smucker refused to participate.

When forum organizers first issued invitations to the candidates, Smucker said he couldn't attend the first suggested date because he needed to be in Washington to cast votes. But in late August, to the surprise of forum organizers, he sent constituents an email saying he refused to participate in LNP-hosted forums. "They are no longer a trusted news source for the readers of Lancaster County," Smucker said.

That left the stage to Hammond alone, who answered questions from a panel of three reporters for nearly 90 minutes.

2) Hammond endorsed the movement for racial justice and Black Lives Matter.

She said past patterns of racism in law enforcement must be acknowledged and addressed. She said she supports Black Lives Matter and agrees that police resources should be reallocated to what she called “funding what works.”

In her view, that means shifting money to crisis intervention. She said society is letting police officers down by having them respond to some situations without adequate training.

Treating drug addiction and providing mental health counseling are also needed, she said, as are more forms of community policing.

3) Politicians must set an example on COVID-19.

Hammond, a 27-year-old high school field hockey coach who is running on a progressive platform of climate action and Medicare for All, framed some of her answers against the backdrop of the pandemic. She favors mandatory masking, saying, “It’s not an abridgement of rights to protect other people when you’re in a public place.”

She called out Rep. Smucker for failing to wear a mask at a recent Trump campaign event in Harrisburg, saying it’s hard to encourage people to wear masks when leaders do not consistently wear them.

She acknowledged the pandemic’s impact on the county’s tourism and entertainment industries, mentioning that her partner is a sidelined touring musician. Still, she said she does not favor relaxing coronavirus precautions. Stricter measures should have been implemented in the beginning, she said.

4) Climate action is needed to help farmers.

Hammond said she supports the Green New Deal, an aggressive climate change and renewable energy plan put forward by many of the most liberal congressional Democrats (and which critics say would come at an unbearable cost to taxpayers and the economy).

She said climate change is not a partisan issue, pointing to the times she's been asked about it by young conservative voters in the district. Noting the negative effects of rapid climate change on agriculture, Hammond touted her connections to farming -- her policy director worked on a dairy farm and her mother grew up on a farm. She said the climate crisis poses a direct threat to farms of all sizes, including Pennsylvania’s many family owned farms. Farmers need to be part of the conversation about tackling climate change, she said.

5) It all ties back to the economy.

Hammond stressed her support for universal health care and student debt forgiveness in discussing economic concerns.

She said she built her economic platform by listening to the concerns of independent and third-party voters. She sees generational concerns of access to housing and making sure that the nation’s tax burden is shared fairly. And while a wealth tax is needed, she said her plan would limit increases to people earning more than $500,000, and made the case for targeting the ultra rich, people making $10 million a year or more.

“My opponent is leaning on Old-World solutions from an Old-World view,” she said.

Where to watch

The full forum can be viewed here. The next 2020 election forum is scheduled for Oct. 15 and will feature the candidates for the 13th state Senate district, incumbent Scott Martin (R) and challenger Janet Diaz (D). The forum begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be streamed at LancasterOnline.com.