Pubdate: Tue, 24 Oct 2000
Source: Spokesman-Review (WA)
Copyright: 2000 Cowles Publishing Company
Contact:  P.O. Box 2160 Spokane, WA 99210
Fax:  (509) 459-5482
Author: Betsy Z. Russell - Staff writer


BOISE -- From free trade to the war on drugs, the four candidates for
North Idaho's seat in Congress traded views Monday in their first
appearance together.

Ron Wittig, the Libertarian Party candidate, called for completely
unrestricted trade.

"By entering government into the business of trade, the economy and
that, trying to regulate it, you're destroying the one thing the free
market brings to the world economy -- the ability of people to trade,"
Wittig said. "Get the government out of the way."

Kevin Hambsch, the Reform Party candidate, said, "I think I'm the only
individual here who's absolutely opposed to WTO (the World Trade
Organization) and the normalization of trade relations with China. ...
Those people undercut us everywhere we go. They don't live by the same
rules we do."

Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter said, "I have no argument with making
everyone play according to the rules. That's what the Clinton
administration has promised, ... but they have not done that. I think
what government should be doing is providing an environment for free

Democrat Linda Pall said, "I think it's extremely important that we
have free and fair trade. I'm very concerned that in some of these
countries, if you want to join a union, you're arrested." Others don't
have freedom of religion or don't protect the environment, she said.
"I believe we need to bring everyone along to a much more level
playing field."

The candidates, each with coffee cups, sat around a table in the
center of a downtown Boise coffeehouse, Flying M Espresso. The
session, sponsored by the local Fox TV affiliate, was one in a series
highlighting local candidates and allowed the public, along with a
panel of journalists, to pose questions to the candidates.

Andrew Lynch of Boise asked the candidates about trade and also took
the opportunity to compliment Otter for "his hands-on trips overseas"
as lieutenant governor to promote Idaho products. However, Lynch said
he still believes Idaho exports are "sadly lacking."

Though Otter and Pall have debated several times, Monday's session was
the first to attract all four candidates. The two third-party
candidates are running low-key campaigns and haven't attended most
other forums even when they've been invited.

Both suggested voters visit their parties' Internet

"If you want something different from Tweedledee and Tweedledum, you
can get a totally different opinion from the Libertarian Party,"
Wittig said.

John Hummel of Boise asked the candidates about hate crimes but
pointed his question specifically to Otter, who had said during an
earlier debate that he believes all crimes are hate crimes. Given
that, Hummel asked Otter if he thinks his 1992 drunken-driving
conviction was a hate crime.

"Obviously I was irresponsible in my public duty," Otter said. "There
are people who consider DUI to be a hate crime. Yeah, I guess it is a
hate crime against society and should be treated the same no matter
what color or what religion the person is."

Pall said she supports federal hate-crimes legislation, the only one
of the four to take that stance.

"A hate crime has to do with singling out a special group, such as
African Americans or Jews," she said. "It's not just a crime against
that individual. That individual was picked because of their status.
It's a crime against that whole group."

Wittig disagreed. "It's just a crime, period," he said.

Hambsch said no one can know what's in a criminal's mind as far as

"I agree with Butch in this one instance only, probably," he said,
drawing laughter from the other candidates.

Hambsch said he believes crimes against animals also should be taken

In response to a question from Joe Rohnert of Boise, Wittig, Hambsch
and Pall decried the war on drugs while Otter praised it.

Pall called for more focus on treatment of drug users and said long
mandatory prison sentences aren't "a good use of our resources."

Wittig said, "The drug dealers today are no different from the
bootleggers of the '20s and '30s. Prohibition didn't work then, and I
don't think it's going to work now."

Hambsch said he favors keeping drugs illegal but does not favor the
"throw them in jail" approach. Anti-drug education for children is a
must, he said.

Hambsch blamed the Clinton administration for the current crisis in
the Middle East, while Wittig said he favors an isolationist approach.
"We've got our nose in everybody's business," he said. "We're not
going to change those people's minds."

Otter said an inadequate energy policy has led to "divided loyalties"
because the United States wants both to defend its ally Israel and to
protect oil sources.

Pall said the problems in the Middle East didn't originate in the
current administration or any other administration in recent decades.
"They've been there since 1948," she said. "The best policy for the
United States is to encourage the peace process as much as we can."
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