The election is Nov. 3. WPSU is speaking with candidates in the race for U.S. House in central and northcentral Pennsylvania. WPSU’s Anne Danahy interviewed Republican incumbent Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, who is running for reelection in the 15th congressional district seat, which includes part of 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 Thompson's Democratic challenger Robert Williams
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 from Republican incumbent, Glenn "GT" Thompson, and tomorrow we'll hear from Democratic challenger, Robert Williams. They're running for the 15th Congressional District seat, which 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. Congressman Thompson, thank you for talking with us.
Congressman Thompson: My pleasure, Anne, it's great to be with you.
Anne Danahy: More than 200,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19. We're seeing increases in cases in some parts of Pennsylvania, particularly Penn State and the surrounding area. What do you think should be happening at the federal level to get COVID-19 under control?
Congressman Thompson: Well, Anne, what we know is this is a very highly contagious virus. There's no doubt about that, when you look and compare that with some of the previous viruses that we've experienced. This one, what's important is to look at it-- not so much the number of cases, but, quite frankly, what are the ramifications, the consequences of that. For example, we look at Penn State. It's a significant number, which should be no surprise. We're bringing together, typically, mostly healthy young adults, and they're in a, sort of a communal setting; and so, it should be no surprise. And what I'm not surprised about also is the number of admissions, hospitalizations. And that's really what we should be looking at at this point. We know who's most at risk. And I do believe that's where the-- obviously, the federal government will continue to-- two phases: number one is health. So, we need to make sure that we continue to protect those who are most vulnerable. And then on the economic side, the economic harm that's been created as a result of, you know, some of the actions that have been taken by 50 individuals across the country; just 50 and that's our governors, you know, they responded in different ways. And I'm not saying that those weren't necessary, but the practical implications of, you know, preventing businesses from operating [is] blocking people from their livelihoods. As a whole, obviously, they help restore the economy, and they help our businesses and our families through those economic challenges.
Anne Danahy: Are you happy with or satisfied with the federal government's response so far?
Congressman Thompson: I am, I am. I think it could have been a whole lot worse if we would have not took a step back, back in February. If we continue the-- you know, left unchecked the travel into the United States from areas where this virus originated, you know, one death is one death too many, obviously. I say that every year when it comes to influenza, where we lose as many as 35,000 Americans with the flu each year, you know, when you look at what the, obviously, what the potential incidents could have been, quite frankly, we've done relatively well, despite the fact that the loss of life that we've seen with 200,000 is-- unfortunately, is a result of nobody's fault in this country, anyways. You know, the mitigation that has been done, has been, really has been monumental by all parts. And I give that credit from the White House down to our local communities, and everybody in between. We took this very seriously and reacted appropriately.
Anne Danahy: What [would] your top priority be if you are re-elected?
Congressman Thompson: My top priority going into this, obviously, is centered on COVID-19, so that we make sure that there's the vaccine, which I'm really pleased with the progress we've made. You know, if you look back at the polio epidemic that our families lived with for over a decade before we had a vaccine. But that's a top priority of having that, of getting those so that they're widely available for folks, but also addressing-- continue to address the economic consequences that have occurred. I mean, we have some businesses that are just-- have really been hurt. When you look at the hospitality industry-- restaurants, you just look at the restaurants and the hotels on Penn State campus, you know, the impact there, and then that's all across the country, not just like the congressional district. The airline industry, the travel industry, and other businesses as well. And so, there's still additional assistance that needs to be had. Obviously assistance for our schools, because we're seeing additional education costs when it comes to making sure the classrooms are done-- making the absolute best possible education. We have connectivity issues we need to continue to invest in. So, that was really a top priority. But then it's always jobs, for me, and helping people become qualified for jobs is my national leadership and career technical education. And then I-- if I had to just go with three, I would say really trying to make a little history. I'll be the first member of Congress in Pennsylvania in 202 years to chair the Full House Agriculture Committee. Last time that happened, it was a federalist. And that's important for, you know, not just food, but its a rural economy, rural education, rural health care. And, quite frankly, Penn State is a land-grant university, authorized through the Agriculture Committee.
Anne Danahy: Right. So, you're in the running to lead the House Agriculture Committee and you currently serve on that committee. Can you give a specific example of legislation you would like to pass that, if you are elected to lead it, that you would spearhead?
Congressman Thompson: You bet, and it starts with one of my top priorities, connectivity. The fact is, that people who live in rural America, rural Pennsylvania, certainly our congressional districts, don't have the same amount of confidence that they have reliable high-speed internet broadband connectivity as they do when they go to the light switch and the lights come on. Internet broadband connectivity is incredibly important. It's important, obviously, for-- as we've learned the hard way-- for education, certainly during pandemics, but I do think that tele-education is a great supplement, I wouldn't say it [would] supplant, but supplement in-classroom education. Tele-health, which is something I was kind of a pioneer on when it came to two previous pieces of legislation, one signed by President Obama and the other by President Trump, it expanded and addressed tele-medicine, tele-health. Commerce, you know, we want our small business owners and entrepreneurs in rural America to have a fair fight in terms of being able to compete, you know, just, you know, all those things that-- and, quite frankly, when it comes to agriculture, it's about technology today, precision agriculture. And so, that would be one of the-- be one of my top priorities related to the Agriculture Committee that's within our jurisdiction going forward.
Anne Danahy: Congressman Thompson, thank you for talking with us.
Congressman Thompson: My pleasure, Anne. It's always a privilege. I appreciate it.
Anne Danahy: Glenn Thompson is the Republican candidate for the 15th U.S. House District representing Pennsylvania. We'll talk with his competitor, Robert Williams, tomorrow. To listen to all our candidate interviews, go to wpsu.org/vote. I'm Anne Danahy, WPSU.