The election is Nov. 3. WPSU is speaking with candidates in the race for the U.S. House in central and northcentral Pennsylvania.
As part of that, WPSU’s Anne Danahy interviewed Robert Williams, the Democratic candidate in the race for the 15th Congressional district.
The district includes northern and western Centre County, and stretches north and west to cover a large part of the WPSU listening area including Clearfield, Cameron, Elk McKean, Warren and Forest Counties.
WPSU also spoke with Republican incumbent Glenn Thompson.
Anne Danahy: The election is November 3rd. As part of our coverage, WPSU is speaking with candidates in the race for U.S. House in Central and North Central Pennsylvania. Today, we'll hear and interview with Robert Williams, the Democratic candidate in the race for the 15th Congressional District. Yesterday, we heard from the Republican incumbent, Glenn Thompson. The district includes Northern and Western Centre County and stretches north and west to cover a large part of the WPSU listening area, including Clearfield, Cameron, Elk, McKean, Warren, and Forest counties. Robert Williams, thank you for talking with us.
Robert Williams: Thank you. Good morning.
Anne Danahy: You live in Cherry Tree in Clearfield County. For voters who don't know you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you think you're a good candidate to be in the U.S. House?
Robert Williams: Sure. I'm 54 years old, and I'm a transplant from California, Southern California. And I've been out here for about 18 months, and I immediately got involved in the community. And I think one of the things I initially noticed is that we've got a close-knit community group, but we don't have the benefits of the city. And one of the things that you're supposed to have in a representative is someone that represents the needs of the community. And I was noticing over the last 18 months that we haven't-- we don't have that. Most of the people don't even know who the representative is because they've never seen or heard from the representative. So, it was a choice I made after I looked around and I said, "You know, I'm the new kid in town, but I think I can do this. I think I can make a difference. I think I can bring life back to our community;" because after the people who live here now pass away, we're gonna be dead. Unless we get some change and growth and infrastructure out here, we're going to be dying communities, we're gonna be ghost towns. And, I hate to say that, this is home now and I love it, and I want to do something productive to keep it going for years to come.
Anne Danahy: How would you see yourself bringing that life back to the district if you were elected?
Robert Williams: The first thing I would love to do is bring in big businesses, the T-Mobile's the AT&T the Verizon's, and say, "You're advertising in our communities. You're asking us to buy your product, but you're not giving us the same quality service that you're providing in the big cities." So, as executives, try to make a phone call, try to reach somebody. And this is what we're dealing with. Right now, we're homeschooling. That's not fair to our students, because they don't have the ability to do what the kids in the cities are doing. The urban kids have more resources than the rural kids, and that's not fair. And that's not, that's not an America that we should be living in in 2020.
Anne Danahy: On your website, you say you want to expand Social Security and Medicare. Can you explain specifically, in what way you would expand those programs? And how would you pay for it?
Robert Williams: Well, let's start with Medicare. Medicare needs to serve all of the people all the time, not some of the people some of the time. And I know that's cliche-ish, but we need to make sure that if you're not working, or you've worked for 40 years and you paid into the system, that we're able to take care of you. If you're [a] single person and you have no offsprings, no dependents, that-- if you have to be put into a nursing home, or skilled living facility-- that you're covered, that you're taking care of, that after 190 days your checks gone and you're kicked out on the street, we have to stop that. We have to have a system that makes sense. The bottom line is, we're gonna have-- we collect taxes, and we need to re-allocate those taxes. We need to look at programs that are not necessarily needed in the federal government and subsidize that way. How many assistant directors do we need in certain government positions? We don't need 14 assistant directors. So, we'll streamline and trim down agencies, departments and make it work smarter. And the second part was Social Security, I believe?
Anne Danahy: Mm.
Robert Williams: You know, it's a great program. We just need to look at it and be fiscally responsible. If you come to the United States and you're granted citizenship, you can also collect Social Security. If you are married at 20 and your husband dies at 25, you're able to get survivor benefits. Not-- nothing's wrong with that, but we also need to be smarter about it. Because would you rather me pay you survivor benefits at 25? Or would you rather me pay you and keep you in your home living to a style you're accustomed to at 65?
Anne Danahy: We've talked about a lot of different issues. What would your priority be if you were elected?
Robert Williams: It sounds-- I think everybody mentions it, everybody says it; but, we need to take care of our men and women who serve in the military. We need to get them off the street. We need to get them into housing. We need to get them into jobs. We need to get them working and feeling good about themselves because of what they've done for us. And it's an easy fix in rural America, because, in rural America-- we talked at the beginning about the dying communities-- so, let's bring some of them to these dying communities and let them find housing that's affordable, build the houses, use their ingenuity to start businesses and bring business and life back to the community. Rural America is mom-and-pop. Rural America isn't the Walmart. It's the Billy Bob and Billy Joe and Billie Jean who have been married for 50 years, having the hardware store that we shop at and, in the back of the hardware store, there are clothes. And that's what we need to do. We need to give our military personnel places to go when they come back home. Places-- but, at the same time, offer them services, because, you know, it's a yucky world out there and they go through things that we have no idea. So, we need to make sure we mentally take care of them as well.
Anne Danahy: Robert Williams, thank you for talking with us.
Robert Williams: No, thank you. Appreciate your time today.
Anne Danahy: Robert Williams is the Democratic candidate for the 15th U.S. House District representing Pennsylvania. We talked with his competitor, Glenn Thompson, yesterday. You can listen to that and other candidate interviews at wpsu.org/vote. I'm Anne Danahy, WPSU.