PUBLISHED: MAY 4th, 2018

SCRANTON — Republican 8th Congressional District candidates John Chrin, Robert Kuniegel and Joe Peters took turns allying themselves with President Donald Trump during a debate Thursday at the University of Scranton.

Peters, a Scranton resident, did it with the first answer to the first question, which focused on Congress’ 13 percent approval rating in a recent Gallup poll.

“I think the only way to change the Congress — and therefore the perception of the Congress — is to change it from the inside out. President Trump often talks about draining the swamp,” said Peters, a former Scranton cop and state prosecutor. “That (polling number) is emblematic of that need to drain that swamp and I support him in that.”

Chrin, a former Wall Street investment banker who lives in Northampton County, credited Trump for thinking “outside the box” by making his first call as president to the leader of Taiwan, a major thorn to China, a country he regularly criticized during the presidential campaign for flouting fair-trade rules.

“He was bringing common sense and a businessperson’s perspective in terms of negotiation,” Chrin said. “And you know what it did? It shook up China. They had no idea what to do with the United States and how we were going to move forward.”

That led China to push North Korea to the bargaining table over its nuclear weapons and Trump “actually achieved something that presidents for decades before him (were) unable to do,” Chrin said. “That was extraordinary.”

Kuniegel, a small business owner and former state prison guard from Spring Brook Twp. who actively campaigned for Trump, made clear his support when answering what characteristics the House speaker who replaces retiring Rep. Paul Ryan should have.

Kuniegel said he wants a speaker with “a high sense of justice.”

“If I can’t find anybody who has a high sense of justice, I’m going to want to find somebody that’s going to back President Trump’s agenda,” he said. “Because I believe President Trump loves America, and he’s going to do everything possible to make America great again. He wants to put the Trump stamp on America. And the Trump stamp is pure gold.”

All three praised the tax cut bill that Trump and Congress adopted in December and questioned a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the tax cut would produce a $1 trillion deficit by 2020.

Kuniegel, who advocates amending the U.S. Constitution to require balanced budgets, said the CBO estimate doesn’t account for the likely return of factories from abroad that will add new revenues.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

Peters called for making all the tax cuts permanent and said an economy that enables small business will produce “that trickle down.” Under the bill, individual tax cuts are not permanent.

Chrin said the tax cut bill was “one of the most powerful things to happen to this country in two or three decades.”

“I think Republicans have not done a good enough job selling the power (of the tax cuts) and we have to be patient,” he said.

The League of Women Voters of Lackawanna County sponsored the debate.

The winner of the May 15 Republican primary election will face U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Moosic Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election. Cartwright has no Democratic primary opponent in the primary. House members earn $174,000 a year and serve two-year terms. The 8th district includes all of Lackawanna, Wayne and Pike counties and parts of Luzerne and Monroe counties.

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