Democratic congressional candidates Paul Hodes, vying to represent Hanover and the rest of New Hampshire's second district, and Vermont State Senator Peter Welch discussed the war in Iraq, the economy and their party's electoral prospects in front of an audience of approximately 125 Dartmouth students and local residents on Monday night.
The event, titled "A Return to Responsibility," was sponsored by the Dartmouth Young Democrats and the Upper Valley chapter of Democracy for America.
Hodes, a 1972 Dartmouth graduate, said he was happy to return to his alma mater. Hodes' opponent, Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., graduated from Dartmouth in 1974.
Hodes said he will need to garner the votes of Democrats, Independents and "Republicans of conscience" in the second district in order to unseat the incumbent in his congressional race.
At a dinner prior to the discussion, Hodes criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq.
"Empires fall when they rule by fear. It's not working in Iraq," Hodes said. "Until the United States learns that we can be both a world leader and a world partner, we are going to have troubles in the 21st century."
Welsh also criticized the Bush administration for demonstrating what he called "unilateralism," arguing that Bush "rush[ed] to war, brushing aside the advice of our oldest and most trusted allies."
The two candidates also agreed on domestic policies, including a call for universal access to health care.
"The issue of health care is the single biggest domestic issue that we have to deal with," Hodes said. "It makes simple economic sense to insure everyone in this country."
Audience questions steered the candidates toward the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Welch said that her nomination left him "mystified" and that he would have voted against the confirmation of new Chief Justice John Roberts.
Welch called for new leadership in Washington.
"More and more Americans are beginning to see the bankruptcy of the radical direction of the Bush administration. They have substituted rigid political ideology for any practical judgment," Welch said.
Hodes, a trial lawyer, also emphasized the need for new voices and perspectives in government in order to effect change.
"I'm not a professional politician," Hodes said.
Hodes expressed optimism for the Democrats' chances in the upcoming 2006 midterm elections.
"We've become the party of fiscal responsibility," Hodes said, contrasting himself with Republicans, whom he said have burdened the country with a massive budget deficit.
Sarah Ayres '06 and Jacob Crumbine '07, delegates to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, joined the congressional hopefuls on the panel and concluded the event with recommendations for Democratic success in upcoming elections.
"I would like to see Democrats bring up religion in a way that is not divisive," Ayres said.