LIVE AT 5:30: Pantano talks issues

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Republican Congressional Candidate Ilario Pantano appeared live on WECT News at 5:30 to talk about his campaign in the final days of the election season.

Pantano said he and his wife have endured some "slings and arrows" in this latter part of the campaign, including criticism of his wife on a website and questions about his military record in his service in Iraq.

"Some of these things you mentioned are acts of desperation," Ilario Pantano said.

When asked about the repeal of the military policy of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" for homosexual military members and same-sex marriage, Pantano says he supports neither.

"I support marriage in the traditional sense.  I think the conservative values are ones I am running on," Pantano said.  As for the talk of eliminating DADT, Pantano said, "candidly, it's not appropriate.  We're in the middle of two wars.  We don't need to see this."

Pantano says this is the Democratic Party's attempt to re-engineer social policy.

The big issue heading into this last week of the campaign is the future of Social Security.  Congressman Mike McIntyre has claimed in ads that Pantano will hurt the program.

Pantano says McIntyre continues to spend the Social Security money with multi-trillion dollar debt.

"That kind of spending does not go with fiscal conservatism," Pantano said.  "Because that kind of money that is being spent is the kind of money in the social security fund."

Pantano says don't touch Social Security benefits for those 55 and older.  For those younger, he supports making changes.  He says Congress should consider rolling back the retirement age incrementally for those under 55.

"We're going to need to start doing some things differently," Pantano said, noting that those under 55 are not considered seniors.

Pantano also said younger people should be given the option to voluntarily invest some of their Social Security money in private accounts.

"Wouldn't that be neat?  If all that money we pay into Social Security, you can leave some of that to your children?" asked Pantano.

Pantano explained his statement to one viewer question about how Congressman McIntyre has changed since he won a seat in Washington D.C. in 1996.  He said McIntyre promised to serve no more than six terms, but is now attempting to win his eighth.

Pantano said he would hold town halls on a quarterly basis as Congressman.

"Not one on one meetings in private, but absolute transparency," Pantano said.

WECT's Jon Evans asked Pantano who he could himself working with across the aisle in Washington.  Pantano pointed out Virginia Senator Jim Webb, but could not name a Democrat in the House.

"I have to take a moment and think about it for a minute," Pantano said.

As for committees he'd like to pursue as a member of Congress, Pantano said Agriculture, Armed Services, Intelligence and Homeland Security.

When it comes to getting money from Congress, Pantano said he's not against government, but we need to change the way we spend.

"I think what we need to do is adjust our spending priorities," Pantano said.

McIntyre has said in debates that he will fight to get the money out of Washington as long as it's being doled out, but Pantano said that's the wrong way of thinking.

"How about we stop taking money out of your pocket and send it to Washington?" Pantano said.

Pantano said there are several worthwhile projects like beach renourishment to spend money on, but Congress needs to reprioritize.

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