Congressional hopefuls spar during forum

Stark differences on energy, taxes and the role of government surfaced Wednesday night at a forum featuring five congressional candidates at Burbank City Hall.

About 120 voters filled the City Council chambers and dozens more watched on a monitor placed on the steps of City Hall as candidates for the 27th and 29th congressional districts clashed at a League of Women Voters Glendale/Burbank forum.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Republican rival Mark Reed traded barbs while staking out contrasting positions. Rep Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) squared off with Republican John Colbert and Libertarian Bill Cushing.

The Democratic incumbents defended the recent health-care-reform bill and the president's 2011 troop withdrawal strategy for Afghanistan if conditions warrant the change. They also touted their records of pushing for local transportation projects and other regional benefits.

Colbert and Reed vowed to repeal "Obamacare," and called for the government to cut spending and curb what they see as over-regulation of business.

Reed said tax cuts approved by the Bush administration must stay in place.

"The government needs to get a handle on itself, not our wallets," he said.

Sherman favors repealing those cuts for people earning more than $250,000 a year. Separately, he said Republican calls to end the estate tax would be “an outrageous gift to billionaires.”

All agreed the nation must reduce its dependence on foreign oil, but disagreed on how to do it.

Schiff said a shift toward renewable energy will undermine "petro-dictators" in Venezuela, Russia and elsewhere, and that the new technologies will provide a long-term boost to the economy.

"I want America to lead that revolution," he said.

Colbert blamed the nation's Middle East oil dependence on domestic production restrictions.

"As long as we're using oil in this country, we should, for crying out loud, produce oil in this country," he said.

Cushing said the notion that America can quickly wean itself from petroleum-based products is "Alice in Wonderland, frankly."

The self-proclaimed voice of "the largest minority in this country — the individual," Cushing was the only candidate to say U.S. troops should not be in Afghanistan.

Sherman and Reed skirmished half a dozen times, using time designated for answering moderator Rita Zwern's questions to continue their back-and-forth.

Schiff twice jabbed at Colbert for failing to vote between 1983 and 2008, "not for president, not for school board, not for anything," he said.

Colbert acknowledged his voting record was "not the best." But he said Schiff's votes for cap-and-trade environmental rules and health-care reform were more important.

"We can live with my voting record, but can we live with his?" he asked.

The forum will be rebroadcast several times before Tuesday on Burbank government access Channel 6.

FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version to clarify Sherman's reference regarding tax cuts.

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