GOP Senate candidates fight for nomination

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comMay 10, 2014 

Each of Georgia's seven Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls tried to stand out from the pack during a debate Saturday night at Columbus' RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.

But apart from Cobb County patent attorney Art Gardner, who was quick to stake out his ground as the moderate in the race, they seemed much in agreement on most issues, particularly on repealing Obamacare.

"Government has no business in health care," said Derrick Grayson, a minister, when asked about the Affordable Care Act. The legislation should be repealed so states deal with private insurers themselves, he said.

Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel called the law an "$800 billion tax" that's crushing jobs.

Congressman Jack Kingston said health care constitutes a sixth of the U.S. economy and should not be under government control.

The law should be repealed and programs for tax-free health savings accounts expanded, he said.

Business executive David Perdue said he and his wife recently got notice of new insurance requirements that included maternity care, though they're well past their child-rearing years.

"Now if my wife has a baby today, we've got a real issue," he joked.

Congressman Paul Broun said the law should be "ripped out by its root."

Congressman Phil Gingrey said he publicly pledged to make repealing Obamacare a priority, proving he had "skin in the game" on the heath care issue.

Even Gardner, the centrist, said, "Obamacare is awful and needs to be repealed."

He also said U.S. patent laws are making Americans pay more for prescription drugs than residents in other countries and should be altered to even the playing field.

But he drew cackles from some in his conservative audience when in response to another question he said that climate change is real.

Gardner got the question right after Broun, who of climate change said, "We don't have any scientific basis for it."

Broun added the federal Environmental Protection Agency should be eliminated so the states enforce their own environmental rules.

Said Gardner, "Getting rid of the EPA is the stupidest thing I've heard tonight."

Handel said the climate is always changing, and fears of climate change should not impede projects like the Keystone pipeline or continued drilling to plumb America's ample fuel resources.

Kingston also said the pipeline project should continue, but he emphasized the value of nuclear energy, which he called "clean and renewable."

Perdue said environmental regulation has been dominated by the "liberal agenda," throwing it out of balance. It should not be allowed to interfere with America's "God-given boom" in natural resources, he said.

Said Gingrey, "Clearly the climate-change science is not settled."

In his closing statement, Brown pulled from his pocket a Constitution and pledged to fight an out-of-control government that's violating the country's principles.

Grayson said he would "name names" of those violating the Constitution, if sent to the Senate, and asked why voters would "give it away to these folks who keep violating us."

Gingrey said the race was not about only one Senate seat, but also about retaking the U.S. Senate from the Democrats, and battling President Barack Obama. "He's taken us down the road to socialism."

Gardner said Georgia Republicans need a candidate who can win the general election and work with the mainstream. "We don't need the most conservative nominee in this election."

Handel said the party needs a nominee who can beat Democrat Michelle Nunn in November. She said her opponents who are incumbent Congressman had their chance to address the issues America faces and failed.

Perdue hit a similar note, of the Congressmen asking, "If they were going to make a difference, wouldn't they have done it already?" It's time to send a different kind of leader to Washington, he said.

Prompted by Handel's mentioning former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin endorsed her, Kingston noted his endorsements, saying he's the candidate who votes most in-line with the American Conservative Union and the National Rifle Association.

Among those who have endorsed him are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, TV host Sean Hannity and former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, he said.

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