- Last Updated on 12:00 AM 05/19/10
- BY BY DALLAS K. WESTON/SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE
The seven Republican candidates hoping to face-off against Democrat incumbent Congressman Tom Perriello took to the stage of Robert E. Lee Community Center In Chase City on Saturday afternoon, giving voters a chance to decide, face-to-face, which of the candidates will carry the banner for the Republican Party in the 5th District congressional race in November.
Billed as a forum instead of a debate, candidates Robert Hurt, Ken Boyd, Ron Ferrin, Feda Kidd Morton, Jim McKelvey, Michael McPadden and Laurence Vega fielded a variety of questions, including questions from audience members.
Although the candidates all agreed on basic Republican party themes, including curtailing government spending, reducing the deficit, lowering taxes along with reductions in government, the candidates cited their varied backgrounds and experiences in making them the best candidate to face the Democratic incumbent this fall.
The candidates revealed some of their basic political philosophies when asked what issues they would and would not be willing to negotiate if elected.
“First and foremost, the Constitution is not negotiable period,” said McKelvey. “There will be no negotiating from me when it comes to the Constitution. There will be no negotiation for me when it comes to the fiscal responsibility of this country.”
While Ferrin also said he would be reluctant to negotiate on principle, he would entertain negotiation on some details.
“There are certain values that you just cannot break or go back on,” said Ferrin.
Boyd told the audience he shared most of the core conservative principles as the other candidates. “I will never go back on any of those principles, and I have a record to prove it.” Boyd added that during his 10-year career in public service, he had not resorted to making deals.
Morton told the audience, “I am not going to negotiate on life. Life is not negotiable from conception to natural death. I wouldn’t negotiate on our liberties or our constitutional freedoms.”
Warming to her subject, Morton also stepped in on the issue of state rights.
“Our states rights are an area I like to park on. I am so happy with what Arizona is doing to stand up against the illegal aliens who are coming into our country and killing our citizens,” said Morton. “Arizona has got the guts to stand up and say you go back, you stay there. Let’s block our borders. Let’s enforce the federal regulations here at the state level.”
An educator, Morton also praised Arizona’s stands on education.
McPadden said there were areas where he would be open to negotiate and cited the area of what he has called “drastic” tax cuts.
“What does drastically mean? Well,” said McPadden, “we can negotiate on that. Is it 25 percent is it 26 percent? That is negotiable. What is not negotiable is the principle of cutting taxes and spurring economic activity. Those are the kind of negotiations I will be involved in. Never, never, never will I negotiate or back down on principle.”
Hurt, considered one of the frontrunners in the race, told the audience that although constituents elect people to change Washington, often, Washington changes the people.
Hurt told the group two of the candidates were currently serving in elected office.
“That is something that you can look at,” said Hurt. “My record, my record of standing up for my people. Standing up for my principles, That record is what you must look to when you’re trying to judge. Can you trust this person to go to Washington and to stand up for the people, and stand on principle. I’ve done it year after year, and I will do it if given the opportunity to serve you as your next congressman.”
Verga said the problem with government at all levels was a willingness to deal and negotiate.
“It is destroying the country. It is why we are broke. It is why we have real unemployment past 17 percent.”
Verga said he had passed out thousands of copies of his “pledge” to voters.
Verga expressed his distaste for what he considers deals made by incumbent Congressman Tom Perriello.
“Obviously, your current congressman stepped all over you when he made the deal for Obama care. The president said thank you, we know you live in a conservative district. That is the kind of negotiation that is destroying this country. The only kind of negotiation I will be happy for is, for example, lowering corporate taxes so we can manufacture again. Right now it’s 35 percent. I’d like it to be 8.5 percent.”
He concluded, “But as far as core conservative principles and the Constitution, there is no negotiation. That is the problem with elected officials in D.C. right now.”
Asked what committees the candidates would hope to serve on, most replied that they would be interested in serving on the appropriations and/or the ways and means committees in order to cut spending.
Boyd said with his background in business, he would like to sit on the finance committee.
Morton said she would also like to be involved in appropriations and on education committees, “mainly because the federal government is too big and too intrusive into our school districts.”
Morton also advocated the elimination of the Federal Department of Education.
McPadden said he would like to serve on the ways and means committee and aviation subcommittee.
Hurt told the group that as a state senator, he has served on the courts committee.
Hurt said that serving on the courts committee would enable him to work for a balanced budget amendment on the federal level.
“People in Washington have gone wild with money they don’t have. Borrowing money they can’t pay back,” said Hurt. “The first thing we have to do is require Washington to spend no more than it takes in. That’s what we do in Virginia. That’s what we did on the local level that’s what we do as individual citizens across the 5th District. That’s what we need to do in Washington.”
Verga agreed that serving on committees to check spending was the most important job in Washington.
All of the candidates indicated at least some level of support for the “fair tax”.
McKelvey strongly supported the idea of a “fair tax.”
McPadden pointed out Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War and had a congressman who opposed the war exiled from the country.
Hurt said he was opposed to extending rights to terrorists.
Verga agreed Americans must preserve their liberty and criticized those who rally behind what he called “overzealous” political correctness.
“For me,” said McKelvey, “the answer is real simple. You follow the Constitution. Use that as your guide and you’ll never go wrong.” He added that he had no problem in denying those rights to terrorists.
“Enemy combatants, terrorists, call them what you will. None of them deserve any rights under our Constitution. Keep Gitmo open, that’s where we send them.”
Ferrin said the Democrats had offered a solution through a national identification system.
“With a national ID, we could make sure that no worker is an illegal alien, that you vote once and only once. There’s a lot you can do with national ID,” said Ferrin. “We can also know where you go, who you are, who you socialize with, where you live, where you vacation and all the information we want to know about you.”
Ferrin said he felt the best solution was to enforce laws already on the books.
Boyd said America was walking a fine line between protecting citizens and infringing on rights. Although some sacrifices must be made, he said, government must not needlessly infringe on the rights of citizens.
Morton said she believed the government has already been infringing too much on the rights of citizens.
Asked if the candidates who failed the nomination would support the winning candidate, answers varied.
Verga told the crowd that he would support a true conservative who was willing to fight for conservative Republican principles.
McKelvey was clear on the fact that he would not automatically support the Republican candidate.
Ferrin offered a different point of view.
“I believe we absolutely must defeat Tom Perriello,” Ferrin added that he believed a Democratic victory would make this a Democratic district. “I’m not interested in living a Democratic district,” said Ferrin, adding that he will support and endorse whichever candidate was selected to face Perriello in November.
Boyd agreed. “I absolutely will support whoever is the winner of this contest.”
Morton said that she will not oppose any Republican candidate but said she feels “we have to have principled, true, moral conservatives representing us in Washington.”
McPadden also did not voice his outright support of the Republican candidate.
McPadden said he feels most of the problems in the country were of politicians from both parties doing the same things in the same ways. “We’ve got to quit sending retreads to Washington,” he said.
“I will support the nominee if they prove a couple of things to me,” said McPadden. Those things, he said, were leadership , a focus on cutting taxes, a focus on a balanced budget and energy independence for the country. “If the nominee doesn’t support those things, I don’t know if I can support them,” he said.
Hurt disagreed, vowing to support whatever wins the nomination and throw his support behind them.
Although Hurt said many expected the upcoming race to be an easy win for Republicans, he did not agree. Hurt said Congressman Perriello is the incumbent with the majority party, has a large war chest for the upcoming race and has support from labor unions.
“For anybody to say anything less than support for the Republican nominee I’m afraid is Nancy Pelosi’s greatest dream. Let’s not forget that,” said Hurt.