by Eric Johnson
Republican candidates state cases in Evans debate
Audience members expecting a bare-knuckle free for all at the June 30 Columbia County District 12 Congressional debate went home disappointed. Though Augusta businessman Rick Allen and Evans real estate attorney Wright McLeod
did spar briefly over Allen benefiting from the stimulus funding and McLeod being a part of the housing market process where mortgages were being bought by the federal government though Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, neither seemed too committed to putting on a public show.
Not only has the Congressional race been competing for headlines with the Richmond County Sheriff’s race, many in attendance might have been Richmond County voters searching for a reason to refrain from voting Democrat themselves so they can have a say in that Sheriff’s race.
Moderator Phil Kent, formerly the editorial page editor of the Augusta Chronicle and a well-known conservative, started the event by poking the candidates in their perceived soft spots, asking Grovetown farmer Lee Anderson to have another go at the Federal Reserve question that tripped him up at the Statesboro forum, asking Wright McLeod to explain his vote for Democrat Bill Richardson and the $10,000 he and his wife contributed to Democrat candidate for attorney general Rob Teilhet and questioning Dublin attorney Maria Sheffield about how she could be so bothered by campaign “trackers.”
Allen, who has himself cast Democratic votes and signed over checks to Democrats, was asked a question about e-verify, which seemed to some in attendance to be a softball, considering the other leadoff questions.
Crafting believably conservative answers was especially important to McLeod, who of all candidates seemed to have suffered the most public abuse in recent weeks, though how effective it’s been remains to be seen.
For McLeod, a former naval officer who flew as part of an F-14 crew in Iraq, questions about foreign policy and the military seemed to be the easiest for him to answer.
“Obviously, national defense is the subject matter I am most comfortable with,” he said. “I believe in this country and I believe the primary role of the federal government is national defense. Politicians have taken that to mean trying to exert our will on other people, and we disguise that as nation building.”
McLeod seemed to be able to use his personal experience to connect with the audience.
“I fought in Iraq and you go in and you’ve trained and you’ve trained and you’ve trained and you welcome the opportunity to demonstrate your bravery and that you know what to do,” he said. “But you look back on it and you say, what are we doing? Does it protect us? Does it hurt us?”
Allen took a similar view of nation building, though as in most of his answers, he steered it toward the economy, which seemed to be the subject he felt most comfortable talking about.
“As far as our neighbors out there, wherever they might be,” he said. “You try to help them all you can, but you know what, folks — we have no money. This pace that we’re on is unsustainable.”
Anderson, who consistently beat the drum of “I believe…,” while explaining his positions, said he believed it was time to bring the troops home.
“We’re up against a wall and we must get our own country back on track,” he said. “If someone attacks this soil, yes — we go after them and we take care of business, but we don’t stay there. We come back home and build our country even stronger.”
Sheffield, who declared herself the “clear winner” of the debate in an email sent while audience members were still milling around the lobby outside the Performing Arts Center at the Columbia County Library, came off seeming particularly confident about her answers on economic issues.
“I believe we have to start with a fair and consistent tax policy,” she said. “If we don’t have fair and consistent tax policy, if our small business owners don’t have certainty, then they’re never going to hire. We’re never going to grow this economy, and that’s exactly what we’re going to have to do if we’re going to create jobs.”
In contrast, Allen seemed to believe that a healthy economy was an answer in itself.
“Once we get the economy growing, we’ve got to audit every area of this government and we’ve got to ask ourselves the tough questions,” he said. “As far as entitlements go, the more we grow the economy, the less people have a need for entitlements. Once we get the economy going, we’ve got to deal with entitlements. The waste has got to stop.”
McLeod painted a rather bleak vision of the economy, saying the nation is spending roughly $3.2 trillion a year, 60 percent of which has already been determined.
“Of the 40 percent that’s left, a third of that is military, so you can’t take that off the table. So now you’re left with discretionary spending.”
And a five to 10 percent cut in discretionary spending, he said, won’t accomplish a thing.
“That doesn’t work,” he said. “Do the math. You’re not cutting anything. You’re not even hardly slowing the rate of increase in spending down.”
The winner of the primary will face U.S. Rep. John Barrow in November, though with so many candidates, it’s likely there will be a runoff, which would be on August 21.You Might Also Like: