Congressional forum: 9 candidates, no incumbent, address healthcare, voter rights, helping veterans and the fate of Social Security as well as energy and inflation concerns.

Congressional forum: 9 candidates, no incumbent, address healthcare, voter rights, helping veterans and the fate of Social Security as well as energy and inflation concerns.

Nine of the 10 candidates for the 14th Congressional District attended Monday’s congressional forum at Rome City Auditorium. Photo by John Bailey/Rome News Tribune

 

For two hours Monday evening, Washington came to downtown Rome as nine of the 10 candidates for the 14th Congressional District talked jobs, voter rights, Social Security, critical national security concerns especially cyber attacks and one common target: Incumbent Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was invited but didn’t attend.

Based in Rome’s City Auditorium before a live audience and broadcast on Facebook Watch, the candidates followed their opening statements with responses to questions from  moderator Doug Walker with an assistant from John Ware. Sponsored by One Community United, the NAACP and the Floyd County Democratic Party, the event was shaded by local Republican Party — which didn’t stop five of six GOP candidates from taking part.

Their responses were emotional at times and usually direct. But it lacked any of the bitterness witnessed Sunday night in Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial debate. Three Democrats, five Republicans and one Libertarian focused on the answers to the questions they were asked — and taking occasional shots at Greene.

  • Most supported addressing veterans issues, especially when asked what their first goals would be if elected. “We made a promise to those folks when they offered their very lives for our freedom.” said Democrat Wendy Davis.
  • Social Security was another focus as several candidates cited the promise the government had made to working Americans, a commitment cemented with their first pay checks. Social Security reform was discussed and perhaps some options such as giving younger Americans an opt-in clause vs. investing contributions on their own. Said Republican Charles Lutin:  “Reduce benefits in some form or fashion” to help sustain the overall program.
  • Prescription costs and the battle in some households of getting needed medicine vs. food or childcare was debated.
  • Very compelling assessments were made about the dangers of cyber warfare, especially with Russia, and how the country needs to bolster defenses to stop future attacks.
  • Voting broke into several areas, from what some candidates called an attack on citizens’ ability to vote to those raising new concerns about election integrity and problems from 2020 — and even 2016.
  • The economy was a key plank, with inflation concerns including gas prices. Energy independence as well as alternate energy sources were supported. Republican James Haygood said the solution is to return to the Keystone pipeline and expand drilling for American resources.
  • Healthcare reform varied not only from party to party but to candidate to candidate. As for Medicare, Republican Jennifer Strahan said,  “I do not support Medicare for all’ and cites her healthcare background. She favors a “free, private market.”
  • A question about President Biden’s “Build Back Better” program brought mostly party-line responses. Said Democrat Marcus Flowers: It shouldn’t come down to a choice between broadband and bridges (infrastructure).
  • The candidates’ final comments crossed all topics. Holly McCormack, a Democrat, said addiction issues have to be a priority. Flowers and Lutin focused on the incumbent, with Lutin saying any of the night’s panelists would do a better job for the district in Congress.

CANDIDATES COMMENTS: Below please find a summary of each candidates’ comments, from opening to closing statements and the forum’s questions in between. The responses are separated by the questions (summarized and appearing in bold). Part of the webcast was lost during some of the opening statements and those comments are not included here. The link to the final 90-plus minutes appears above.

District 14/Democrats:

  • Wendy Davis, D. The first candidate to speak. Talks about Berry roots, helping bring the Rome Braves to Rome, winning two terms on the Rome City Commission; touts national contacts; says 90 past and current elected officials endorse her campaign. Questions: ‘Our last two members of congress went to Washington and just stayed there.’ Pledges to ensure money allocated for local resources is spent. … Healthcare: ‘I’m more concerned about people having good care’ vs. whatever the plan is called. Cites plan that failed after Northwest Georgia Regional was closed in Rome. ‘We need to make sure things work.’ Voting rights: Wants all eligible citizens to participate and says ‘we’re going backwards.’ ‘I’m a democrat with a little D’ before the party designation. National security threats: Cyber threats: we’re not prepared for… vulnerable infrastructure. Economy: Families are hurting but not oil companies. Need an ‘all of the above’ energy policy. Requires thoughtfulness and planning. Need green economy. Build back: Cites benefits of human infrastructure advantages, especially prescription costs. People should be able to afford their medications. Social Security reform: Are promises we’ve made and we have to keep those promises. Need to stop raiding those funds. We can’t cut benefits for current retires. Instead focus on new ideas, revenue targets. If elected: Overhauling the VA. ‘We made a promise to those folks when they offered their very lives for our freedom.’ Final comments: Cites record as a fierce advocate for the community… wants to bring people together to solve problems.
  • Marcus Flowers, D. ‘Proud Democrat;’ joined Army at age 18. ‘Service to this country has been my life.’ Cites Greene as trying to ‘infect’ America. Says we have to quit treating our neighbors are enemies. Healthcare: ‘We can do better …we must do better.’ Cites insulin costs. ‘Other side being soft on Putin, hard on diabetics.’.. Voter rights: Close down polling locations, make it harder to send in a ballot, you’re making it harder for people to vote. Says blacks, seniors’ voting rights are being attacked. National security threats: Need to strengthen cyber infrastructure; go on the offensive with it. Economy: Wants jobs brought to our district including electrical vehicles. 21st Century jobs for our kids. Build back: Filled with so many things to help the residents of the district. Shouldn’t have to chose between bridges and broadband. Social Security reform: These are earned benefits; it is common sense to try to save it. Talks about Social Security being taken out in all of our first pay checks. If elected: Cites being a disabled veteran but says most critical thing is protecting voter rights. Final comments: Points at ‘unique danger Marjorie Taylor Greene’ represents.
  • Holly McCormack, D. Cites lack of leadership in Washington; McCormack focusing on ‘kitchen table’ issues. Likewise attacks Greene. ‘I actually want to make life better for people here.’ Healthcare: Families in our district ‘underserved’ by our state. Favors expanding to include mental healthcare. Voting rights: Are under attack. ‘Should be doing everything in our power’ to expand access to vote. Says her team has worked on voter registration for a year. National security threats: Russian cyber attacks among the biggest threats. Wants media companies held liable for not combating infowars. Economy: Invest in families and protect our planet. Bring green jobs to the congressional district. Build back: Most important parts are family and children. Social Security reform: Supports fairness act of 2021. If elected: Combat addiction issues.. it is a family disease. Final comments: Vows to bring more of your tax dollars back home.

District 14/Republicans:

  • Eric Cunningham, R. Thanks event sponsors while citing ‘strong, conservative’ roots. Talks about YMCA service; battling opiods. Healthcare question: Wants less government involvement in all facets of life. Doesn’t want to copy Canada’s healthcare plan; opposes Medicare for all. Voting rights: We need integrity — in elections and with politicians. Talks about own issues in 2020 election. National security threats: ‘If China takes over Taiwan, we’re screw, folks’ because of chip  production. Build back: Considers it a live opposum sandwich. Get government spending under control first. Only thing he likes: lower Rx costs for elderly, veterans. Social Security reform: Look at investments and how we spend taxpayer money. If elected: Help our veterans. Final comments: Needs honest dialogue in government similar to One Community United’s mission.
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene, R, incumbent. No present.
  • James Haygood, R. Says he grew up in Adairsville; talks about current politicians beating up the middle class; ‘not be a celebrity or rock star and fly all over the country.’ Healthcare: Government needs to stay out of healthcare… should privatize healthcare.’ Voting rights: Not under attack. Wants more accountability. National security threats: Cites national debt; dependence on other countries. Tighten border security. Economy: Reopen Keystone Pipeline. Open up drilling. Build back: Some issues are critical but too polluted. Does want ports and airports strengthened. Social Security reform: Wants privatizing examined. If elected: Energy independence… get rid of the state tax. Final comments: Politicians never seem to fix the problems.. I’m somebody new, I’m an outsider.
  • Charles Lutin, R.  Webcast down for his opening statement. Question: ‘Most serious challenge we face is divisiveness among ourselves.’ Says he’ll reach out to both parties. Healthcare: Free market system hasn’t worked for 75 years… Says we pay twice what other countries do for healthcare… Special interestings ‘taking slices of the pie.‘ Voting rights: More concerned about the counting of the votes… says there’s been a backslide from nonpartisan election boards… National security threats: Cites Lincoln’s prediction that if we fall, we fall from within. Cites Trump’s refusal to concede. Economy: Need to reduce so many vehicles… poor: raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour. Build back: Most concerned about child care, families. Social Security reform: ‘Reduce benefits in some form or fashion.’ If elected: Term limits for Congress. Final comments: Criticizes Greene, says anyone on stage would do a better job for the district. Congress needs someone to put people back together.
  • Jennifer Strahan, R. (web link dropped). She  cited her continuing to work hard. Questions: Talks about the stress of ongoing inflation (‘terrifying to fill up our gas tanks.’)  Wants government spending brought under control. Healthcare: ‘I do not support Medicare for all’ and cites her healthcare background. Favors ‘free, private market.’ Voting rights: Support ensuring voting integrity. Supports SB 202. National security threats: Border concerns, energy independence, strengthen international relationships. Economy: Faults Biden administration for energy issues. Build back: Doesn’t support it at all but wants drug costs addressed. Social Security reform: Protect seniors — and those on the way up. Responsible use of taxpayer dollars. If elected: Manage and improve constituent services. Final comments: Restoring customer service.
  • Seth Synstelien, R. Also thanks hosts for inviting Republicans. ‘You need to love your neighbor; you don’t need to agree with them.’ U.S. Marine, former law enforcement officer. Healthcare: Said he couldn’t afford Affordable Care Act. Says VA is ‘America’s socialized medicine.’ Voting rights: Imperative only American citizens vote… wants voter ID… Chides the whole voter/water issue. National security threats: Key concern is ‘information’ wars with Russia and others. Economy: Many  people can’t afford an electric car. Build back: ‘Riddled with earmarks.’ Energy planks the most important. Social Security reform: Taxes need to be fairer. Maybe tax cannibas? If elected: Streamlining VA care. Final comments: ‘I’m a dad; what I’m doing is for my kids’ and local kids.

District 14/Liberartian

  • Angela Pence: ‘Unicorn in the race as a Libertarian.’ Talks of getting needed signatures to get on the ballot in November. Healthcare: Government shouldn’t be involved in healthcare at all.. wants insurance companies to ‘truly compete.’ Voting rights: Are being attacked for multiple reasons. Cites issues in 2016 election. Says third party candidates have ‘an insane number of hoops’ to jump through just to get on the ballot. National security threats: Says our own government is a big part of the problem; cites post-2001 patriot act. ‘We need to reign our own government back in.’ Economy: Need to tackle climate change. Build back: One thing she agrees with: tax break for electrical vehicles. Social Security reform: Proposes a voluntary system; you can opt in or out; people could invest on their own. If elected: Criminal justice reform; impacts minority communities. Final comments: Willing to work with anyone who has ideas and solutions to solve country’s problems.

Key dates:

  • Sunday: Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Series. Of key interest is  the 14th Congressional  District Republicans, all six of them, who are invited for the taping and webcast set for 11:15 a.m. Sunday, May 1 (televised 3 p.m. that day on GPB). Not scheduled: The three Democrats on the May 24 ballot; the press club cites  a lack of time to include the Democrats. Webcast link
  • Sunday: Republican governors debate, 7 p.m., GPB. Details / Webcast link
  • Monday-Tuesday. Additional statewide ballot candidates, GPB. DetailsWebcast link
  • May 2: Advance voting begins at the elections office at 18 E. 12th St. and the Anthony Recreation Center at 2901 Garden Lakes Blvd. NW.. Please click here for which races are on the ballot
  • May 3: The Floyd County Republican Women will meet at the Coosa Country Club. RSVP for lunch is required by April 27. Speakers for the event are Marjorie Taylor Greene, Luke Martin and Katie Dempsey.
  • May 24: The primary.  Please click here for which races are on the ballot.
  • June 21: The primary runoff (and it will be needed this election cycle)

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