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Recapping the 8th Congressional GOP Primary Debate

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The 8th Congressional District Candidate Debate was held Tuesday night February 21 in Concord, N.C. featuring the five Republican candidates running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Rep. Larry Kissell (D).

The Candidates are Richard Hudson, former Republican staffer and activist and owner of Cabarrus Marketing Group; Dr. Scott Keadle, former Iredell County Commissioner and regional chairman for Americans for Prosperity; Vernon Robinson, former Winston-Salem City Councilman; N.C. House Rep. Fred Steen and neurosurgeon Dr. John Whitley. Charlotte radio personality Wayne Powers moderated.

Debate questions covered many topics. While the candidates mostly agreed, there was an occasional lively exchange. Below are summaries from the almost two-hour event. Not all comments are attributed to a particular candidate.  Additional information is in italics.

Opening statements: I define success as feeling good about America again. Our opponent is Larry Kissell, not each other.

Current Presidential Candidates: If asked to vote today for one of the four Republican presidential candidates; Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, all would vote for Rick Santorum except for Dr. Keadle who is undecided. He says U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) more closely reflects his political views.

Term Limits: All would sign a pledge requiring term limits of three two-year terms in the house and two six-year terms in the senate except for Mr. Robinson. His point: If the average length of service of a lobbyist is 15-20 years, and the average length of service of staff is 20 to 30 years, and if all the legislators are new every six years, guess who will be running the show? Also, many committees are not open to freshmen. It takes one term to get fully acclimated. No one wanted term limits when Jesse Helms was in office. Mr. Robinson prefers to trust the voters to impose term limits (elections).

Balanced Budget Amendment: All five would vote for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, (which would ensure that the U.S. could not spend more than it raises in income. Most states have adopted similar amendments.) Mr. Hudson also mentioned requiring sunset provisions for legislation, meaning that the law would expire by a particular date unless action is taken to extend it. “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program” – Ronald Reagan.

Earmarks: All five candidates would vote to discontinue the practice of allocating funds to a specific project, program or organization that provides rich patronage benefits. (Also known as pork, or pork barrel spending.)

Party Loyalty: All five candidates vowed to support whichever of them wins the primary in May.

Lobbyists: All five agreed that you have to handle lobbyists with care, making sure to maintain the best interests of the district you are representing. They also pointed out that the ability to lobby elected officials is a form of free speech and should be protected. Dr. Whitley compared lobbyists to pharmaceutical and medical supply vendors who call on his office. Dr. Keadle said it isn’t the lobbyists who are the real problem as much as it is the crooked politicians who put their interests ahead of their constituents. That’s why it’s important to send representatives to Congress, like himself, who won’t be there to make a living off of it. Mr. Robinson challenged his opponents to commit to not becoming a lobbyist for 10 years after leaving office should they win the election.  All agreed except for Mr. Hudson, who stated that he could become a lobbyist now if that was his intention; instead he wants to serve in elected office.

High Speed Rail: None of the candidates support high speed rail. Rep. Steen preferred to spend money on roads, bridges and other projects with a higher priority. His thinking: Why should we borrow half a billion dollars from China to pay for a rail project that will save less than 15 minutes in commute time? Mr. Hudson says if you look at the federal transportation trust fund and the way that money is spent it’s got to be reformed. We’ve got roads and bridges in this country that need to be repaired, but we’re spending our money on bike paths and walkways. Dr. Keadle said he thinks the bigger issue here is subsidies and whether the federal government ought to be subsidizing things, picking winners and losers and generally getting involved in private business. Mr. Robinson thinks the bottom line is we shouldn’t be diverting scarce funds from surface transportation, where we need it, to light rail.

Economic Incentives: All five candidates agreed that economic incentives are a bad idea, several claiming past votes against it. They compared economic incentives to corporate welfare.

Lumbee Indians: (In 1956 Congress passed H.R. 4656, known as the Lumbee Act, which recognized the Lumbee as Native American people but withheld recognition as a “tribe.” This prevents the Lumbee from receiving federal services ordinarily provided to federally recognized tribes through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Lumbee are seeking full federal recognition through congressional legislation. One thing this would do is allow them to operate casinos.) Now that the 8th District includes Robeson County, would you vote to give the Lumbee Indians full recognition by the Federal Government? All the candidates agreed that the tribe should be given full recognition except for Mr. Robinson, who said that any recognition given should be with the caveat that the Federal Government does not have money to meet the financial obligations that might entail at this time. Dr. Keadle supports federal recognition without increasing overall spending for Indian services. Mr. Hudson commented that that is already the law. (Full recognition would not increase the costs because the monies are distributed from a set amount established by Federal Law.)

Baseline Budgeting: (The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 established the practice of baseline budgeting, which is a method of developing a budget using existing spending levels as the basis for establishing future funding requirements.) If elected to office, would you vote to repeal baseline budgeting? All the candidates agreed that they would.

Several of the candidates mentioned a budget devised by FreedomWorks, another liked the plan proposed by Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL). Dr. Keadle has developed his own plan to balance the budget immediately.

Federal Reserve: What is the role of the Federal Reserve? Should it be changed, and if so, how? All of the candidates agreed that the Federal Reserve needs to be audited and should have more oversight. Dr. Whitley said that the Fed. is a “made up” entity. It’s really a group of private banks, there is nothing Federal about it. He agrees with Ron Paul that it’s an example of duplicity. It’s run by a closed board. Everyone should read “The Creature from Jekyll Island.” Their monetary policy, including quantitative easing, has hurt our economy.

World Financial Crisis: If Greece collapses and the European Union continues to struggle with debt, what role should the U.S. play? The candidates agreed that the U.S. should not bail out Greek banks. Since it is a socialist region, there is no economic engine to create jobs and wealth. One candidate would like to see the countries that make up the EU leave the union and become sovereign nations again. They should discontinue the euro. The U.S. should not be a part of the New World Order.

Iran: How should the U.S. respond to Iran and the nuclear threat? Should we attack, and when? The candidates all agreed that the U.S. should stand with Israel. We should keep a military response on the table as an option. Thugs only respond to force. Weakness in the face of dictators gets Americans killed. We need to have a backbone. Ronald Reagan, where are you? Mr. Hudson urged us not be naïve, because these are not rational people.

Pakistan: Americans must do what is in our best interest. If we give aid to Pakistan, it must be tied to actions. Pakistan must show a commitment to keeping the Islamists under control. Dr. Whitley said if we pull out of the area and reduce our influence things will settle down. The other candidates believe the U.S. needs to keep a presence there.

Egypt: Right now Americans are being held hostage in Egypt and no one is counting the days. The mainstream media is not reporting it. (The transitional regime in Egypt has decided to put on trial 19 Americans and two dozen others who are guilty of the apparent crime of trying to develop civil society and democracy. Those held hostage include Sam LaHood, son of a cabinet member, who is head of the International Republican Institute’s Cairo office.  Egypt is dependent on the U.S. for more than $1.5 billion in annual aid.)

Syria: The “Arab Spring” is resulting in civilians being murdered across Syria. Should we get involved? If we’re not willing to commit troops, then we should not encourage the people to rebel. I’m not a fan of the United Nations, but perhaps this is an occasion for them to intercede. It would be refreshing for the U.S. to have a foreign policy.

United Nations: Should we stay in the United Nations? All five agreed that we should not. We should relocate it to a country that needs it more than we do.

Education: The federal government needs to stay out of education except perhaps to set standards for parents to use to measure the effectiveness of schools. Rep. Steen thinks that No Child Left Behind is one of the worst federal mandates. He says education should be administered on the state level, but ideally control should be brought down to the local level where the needs are best assessed.

Independent Thinker: Mr. Robinson believes you need to elect a representative who will vote against a sitting Republican president when they are expanding government.

Eric Holder: If elected, what would you do to reign in an attorney general like Eric Holder? Eric Holder is even worse that Janet Reno. He should be fired immediately and brought up on charges. We should refuse to work with the President until Holder is replaced. The incident known as the Fast and Furious Scandal is as close to tyranny as we’ve ever seen. It borders on treason.

Pro-Life: All of the candidates are pro-life.

Obamacare: All are in favor of appealing it.

Closing Statements: We have a sacred obligation to restore our country.  You need to elect a solution-minded candidate. Rep. Steen wants to bring N.C. values to Washington D.C.

The Cabarrus Republican Women meet on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at The Village Church, 9280 Davidson Hwy. Concord, N.C. 28026.  www.cabrw.com.

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