Ernest Fenton, a Markham attorney, is a Democrat running in the 2nd Congressional District special election. Fenton ran for mayor of Markham in 2009, winning 35 percent of the vote.
Q: You're up against five candidates who have held office before. Why are you trying to start at Congress?
A: One, because I have the experience to do it. In my estimation, the person who's best qualified for the job is me. I have a firm grasp of business principles, a firm grasp of the law and legislation, a firm grasp of the needs in the community.
Q: One thing that you talk about that I haven't heard any of the other candidates talk about is foreclosure. How hard has the 2nd District been hit by foreclosure compared to other areas around the country?
A: I would imagine the 2nd District is in the Top 10 in congressional districts. Roseland, Harvey are communities that have been decimated.
Q: What are your plans to end the foreclosure crisis?
A: We have to stabilize communities. There's a program called the Home Affordable Modification Program, and four million homeowners were expected to be helped. Approximately 1.2 million have received assistance. People can't afford their mortgages, and monies were provided to banks in order to provide incentives and modifications, and the banks signed an agreement with the federal government pursuant to the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In my estimation, the program is not being honored, at least as it relates to homeowners and middle class and poor Americans. I've been at the forefront of the foreclosure crisis since its inception. I've assisted more than 20,000 homeowners directly or indirectly. This is a major part of my law practice and my radio program on Saturdays on WVON. It's called the Social Justice Hour, 12 to 1 p.m., and then Sunday mornings on 106.3. It's called the Gospel Truth Legal Show.
Q: How do foreclosures contribute to crime in the 2nd District?
A: My entire platform depends upon the fact that until we stabilize our communities, we cannot resolve the other issues in our communities, including jobs and high crime. Vacant houses are breeding grounds for crime. You can't attract nor support businesses in the community when they see the community devolving with those foreclosures. And then that means property taxes go up. So now that means people who could afford their mortgage can no longer afford their mortgage.
Q: Why are guns the biggest issue in the race, and how do you stand on the gun control measures the president has proposed?
A: Ernest Fenton does not believe that guns are the most important issue. Ernest Fenton believes that stabilizing our communities is the most important issue.
Q: But where do you stand on the president's plan to ban assault weapons, to ban high capacity magazines, and close the gun show loophole.
A: I like the idea of placing some kind of restriction on assault weapons. I'm a veteran, and I have experience with assault weapons -- M-16s and .50 caliber machine guns. There is no possible reason that a regular citizen needs that type of firepower. However, as an attorney and respecting one's rights, I'm not so certain I would place a complete ban on assault weapons. If one is allowed, after very extensive background checks -- which I support, enhancing the background checks. I support greater fines and penalties. I would take it one step further and look at the feasibility of requiring gun sellers as well as ranges to establish some type of holding cell for weapons that are purchased through them or are utilized at their range. You sell an AK-47, you're also responsible for storing that AK-47. If you utilize a range, you have to register with the range that you use, and when you transport your weapon to the range, it has to be either kept there or at the place where you purchased it. You can't bring it home.
Q: What do you think of McDonald v. Chicago?
A: I still have to look more into that. I don't believe that it's going to be a great deterrent, allowing people to carry around guns. That would just make a criminal say, "Let me make sure I'm more violent and more aggressive because of the possibility of them having a gun." It's not going to cut down on crime among regular citizens. You're going to have a lot of accidents happening.
Q: Do you own a gun yourself?
A: I have a Glock, and I have a little .22 rifle that I got from my father.