Candidates take stage during relaxed congressional debate

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 3, 2008

MONTICELLO – Candidates competing for the state’s ThirdCongressional District seat took advantage of a relaxed atmosphereprovided by Thursday night’s debate by mixing in a little humor,drawing strange comparisons and delivering responses with anedge.

The debates, hosted by the Lawrence County Republican Party andthe City of Monticello, were far less formal than the ongoingdebates hosted by Mississippi State University’s John C. StennisInstitute of Government. There was no timed light, no threats ofremoval for noise from the crowd and every candidate weighed in onthe same question.

The back porch nature of the forum allowed some of thecandidates to reach deep into their bags of debate banter.

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“Ghengis Kahn was a nice guy compared to Bill Marcy,” said BillyMarcy, a Republican from Meridian, while speaking about hisattitude toward equipping the U.S. military. “Our military needsonly the best.”

Some debate participants drew attention to three absentcandidates who sent representatives to speak for them.

“I’m Gregg Harper, and since I’m here, I don’t have to repeatmyself 10 times during a two-minute spiel,” said Gregg Harper, ofPearl. “I had two other events I could have attended tonight, too,but this is where I chose to be.”

Joel Gill, the lone Democrat who requested to join theRepublican debate at the last minute, delivered a special pleaseeking votes from possibly disgruntled Republicans.

“On March 11, you folks will go to the poles to pick who youthink will be best to represent you,” said Gill, of Pickens. “Fivewill not make it. Then you’ll choose again, and one will not makeit. By the time you get down to it, you will be facing your thirdchoice. Unless you just have to vote for your party, I’d ask you toconsider me.”

In some responses, candidates got loud, holding the microphonetight and close and letting their ire shine through.

“I don’t think the government should bail out people from makingmistakes,” Marcy said when asked about certain government aidprograms and drawing applause from the audience.

Marcy would garner even more applause with later comments aboutfilling the work force void for small businesses left if illegalimmigrants were deported.

“We have a lot of Americans that don’t work – we are paying fora lot of people to not work, to sit around and watch theirbig-screen televisions all day,” he said. “We need to encourage -by taking away welfare benefits from folks who are able-bodied -people to get better jobs!”

Not every response from a candidate evoked approval from theaudience, however.

Moans and groans went up from the audience when Gill alluded tothe establishment of a semi-national health care system wherecitizens would be able to choose between more expensive, privatehealth care and public, state-provided doctors.

“Insurance companies are in business to make money – they arenot benevolent charities,” Gill said. “What we need is baselinecoverage. I’m not talking about Hillary-care.”

Despite the somewhat off-kilter comments, applause from theaudience and the occasional hiss, the five candidates and threecandidate representatives did discuss the pressing national, stateand local issues with serious comments and suggestions.

“Communities like yours here in Lawrence County are going tohave to get together with your neighboring counties and form analliance,” said Mike Marsh, who sat in at the debate to speak forabsent candidate Charlie Ross, as he answered a question abouteconomic development.

James Broadwater, of Flowood, proposed an interesting idea-consistent with his faith – for dealing with a possible work forcevacuum left behind by the deportation of illegal immigrantworkers.

“We have 200 million across the globe being persecuted for theirfaith in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Why don’t we bring them into ourcountry for an opportunity to work and gain a better life?”

Gregory Hatcher, of Meridian, proposed the most simple idea forlimiting potentially harmful imports from China and othercountries.

“Buy American,” Hatcher demanded. “Free trade agreements havenot been in our benefit, and the power of free trade also restswith the consumers.”

On the matter of rising fuel costs, Harper promoted domesticdrilling.

“We know that when we buy oil from overseas, part of the moneygoes to fundamental Islamic terrorists – yet we continue to do it,”Harper complained. “Why hasn’t our country built a new oil refineryin decades? Why can’t we drill in Alaska? It can be done safely.There’s oil here in our country and we need to get it.”

The candidates had several different approaches to one audiencequestion about their plans to reunite Congress withbipartisanship.

“I have no particular plan,” Broadwater said, favoringconservative control of the body instead of compromise. “We need togo back to being conservative Republicans; that’s what we’resupposed to be. We need to go back to our roots, to our moralChristian foundation.”

Each candidate also shared his views on the upcomingpresidential elections, all of them vowing to support their party’snominee. But the discussion went beyond simply naming names.

Broadwater is holding out for Mike Huckabee, whom he believes”still has a very good shot at it.”

“Huckabee is the most pro-life, marriage and family candidaterunning for president,” Broadwater said. “When it comes to pro-lifeand pro-marriage issues, you don’t want to choose between thelesser of two evils. The race isn’t over yet.”

Marcy threw his support to the Republican party nominee, but hada warning for Third Congressional District voters about theelections, even if the turns out to be Republican candidate JohnMcCain, who is often criticized within his own party for not beingconservative enough.

“What we really should understand is that we are at acrossroads,” Marcy said. “We will possibly have Barrack Obama forpresident, and the county will go socialist. I’m a warrior – andthis Congress will have the be the one that plants its heels in thedirt and says no. No, of course to Obama, no to Hillary, and maybeeven no to John. We need to make sure that whoever we send toCongress will say no to all socialistic policies.”

Gill, a conservative Democrat, took a different approach. Hesaid he would support the Democratic nominee, but had a warning ofa different sort.

“We’re faced with extremely liberal candidates on both sides,”Gill said. “If we do have a Democratic government, you’re gonnaneed someone on the inside. Freshmen will have very little power,about as much power as a freshman on the student council. But it’sbetter to be in the room, saying, ‘Why don’t we do it this way?’than to be outside, saying, ‘We don’t like the way you dothings.'”

Overall, the candidates shared similar views. Every candidatesupported the enforcement of illegal immigration laws and opposedany form of amnesty. Every candidate is a firm believer in theSecond Amendment and vowed to fight gun control.