Republican debate sparsely attended as primary nears
by Mike Parks
Republican candidates for Congress faced off last week to try and separate themselves as the right person to represent the area in Washington, D.C. Problem is, there were nearly as many candidates as there were voters on hand.
Nine of the 10 Republican candidates sat wedged together on stage Thursday, April 19, at the Ballantyne Hotel. Andy Dulin, a candidate and SouthPark’s representative on Charlotte City Council, was unable to attend until the debate was nearly over. The men are all in the running for Rep. Sue Myrick’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, as the long-time representative and Republican prepares to step down. Only one of the candidates will move on after the party primary May 8 to face Democrat and County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts and Libertarian Curtis Campbell.
Each candidate had a maximum of six minutes to speak on the five questions asked by Warren Cooksey, debate moderator and Ballantyne-area representative on council. Questions covered the economy, budget, constitutional amendments, foreign policy and the ninth district. Once a candidate had spoken for a combined six minutes, they couldn’t answer any more questions.
Robert Pittenger considered using all of his six minutes when he stepped up for the first question on the economy.
“I speak a lot with companies in our region and they’re heading overseas,” Pittenger said, adding that small businesses have to be able to get “government off our back.”
Pittenger said the country has a real need to become more competitive, and that means getting the corporate tax level down.
On the matter of taxes, Dan Barry says the country has a “spending problem, not a revenue problem.” Barry wants to see a reform of the tax code, a sentiment echoed by many others on stage Thursday night. Others, including Ken Leonczyk and Mike Steinberg, called for the country to switch to a flat tax.
Jon Gauthier said the country can’t keep providing aid to corporations, especially if those corporations are going to turn around and cut jobs. He added that more should be done to make it easier for businesses to get started.
Edwin Peacock said one of his main concerns is cutting the corporate tax rate down, and to get away from using incentives to lure in companies. He pointed specifically to companies that chose to build right across the state line from Ballantyne in South Carolina due to that state’s taxes being much less than businesses face in North Carolina. He also said he’s worried passing the N.C. Amendment 1, which would define marriage as between a man and a woman, might drive potential companies away from the state.
Ric Killian said it’s time the country stops spending to meet the “wants” of special interests, and instead spends for the “needs” of citizens.
Changing the constitution
Meanwhile, Killian and others said they’d consider a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, with Jim Pendergraph saying “the government should have to balance its checkbook just like we do.”
Richard Lynch doesn’t have an amendment he’d like to support, though he does have a five-point plan. Lynch’s plan includes, in part, requiring that no bill brought before Congress is longer than 10 pages, that no riders are attached to any bill and that they have to be posted online for seven days for all citizens to see before being approved.
Killian, Leonczyk and Pendergraph gave a good bit of their time to the discussion over foreign policy.
Killian, who recently returned from serving in Afghanistan, said it’s vital the nation keep a strong military, but not for that military to be the first option when dealing with international crisis, adding the military should be used to win wars, not “nation build.” Killian also said the U.S. should not make a unilateral strike in either Syria or Iran.
Leonczyk said he’s very worried about the thought of Iran with nuclear weapons, saying he’s seen the signs of “radical Islam” while a first responder at the World Trade Center and while working in the Sudan. Steinberg also brought up the concern of radical Islam, noting that he was raised Jewish and is familiar with the issue.
Pendergraph added that he feels better screening needs to be done at the nation’s airports, saying “I’m not sure we’ve learned an awful lot” since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Pendergraph questions the screening tactics of the TSA to screen “old grandmas” when “terrorist-looking people are walking right through.”
But Lynch said the country’s “greatest threat is the debt,” not terrorists.
Added Barry, “If a bomb goes off in SouthPark Mall it isn’t going to matter” because people can’t afford to be shopping there, he said.
Sending money back to District 9
As for how they’d react to requests for federal funding from back home, Barry says “there’s things we have to do and things we’d like to do … we’re broke, and sooner or later the credit card bill comes due,” with Steinberg adding “I’m not going there to bring home the bacon, I’m going there to slaughter the pigs.”
Most of the candidates said they’d be hesitant to send federal money back to the area, though Peacock said getting federal dollars for local projects can be vital, especially when it comes to building infrastructure and helping businesses grow. “It’s runaway earmarks people hate,” he argued, not spending for needed projects.
Gauthier has a history of not sending money back to districts from when he worked with President Reagan on cutting budgets. “The deficit is the reason I got involved in this race,” he said.
Nearly all those watching the debate said they were undecided on who’d they vote for before things started Thursday night, though one man offered “I’ll vote for a Republican.”
Find more information on the election at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website, www.meckboe.org.
Meet District 6 candidates
The League of Women Voters will moderate a May 2“Meet the Candidates Forum” at the Levine Senior Center, 1050 DeVore Lane, in Matthews.
The 10 a.m. forum will feature County Commissioner District 6 candidates Ed Driggs, Bill James and Connie Green-Johnson. Driggs and James will square off in the May 8 Republican primary, with the winner to face Green-Johnson, a Democrat, for the seat in November.
The candidates also will answer questions from the audience. The event is free and open to the public.