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9th District candidates share conservative ideas at debate
Job creation, tax reform, less government spending were topics of conversation
Candidates for the 9th District U.S. House seat, from left, Chris Cates, Tom Graves, Lee Hawkins, Bert Loftman, Eugene Moon, Bill Stephens and Steve Tarvin participate in a debate at the Georgia Mountains Center Friday evening. The event was hosted by the Hall County Young Republicans and the Hall County Teen Republicans. - photo by Tom Reed

Election calendar

Monday-Friday: Candidate qualifying for state primary
May 11: Special election to fill open seats
June 8: Special election runoff, if needed
June 21: Last day to register to vote in state primary
July 20: State primary
Aug. 10: State primary runoff, if needed
Sept. 21: Special election to fill vacancies
Oct. 4: Last day to register to vote in general election
Nov. 2: General election
Nov. 30: General election runoff, if needed

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Seven candidates vying for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives came together Friday for a debate that wasn’t much of a debate at all.

All candidates were conservatives — six Republicans and one independent — who agreed that Georgians need a leader in Washington that will support states rights, the fair tax, job creation and a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, among other things.

The event was hosted by the Hall County Young Republicans and the Hall County Teen Republicans in advance of the May 11 special election. The victor in the special election will serve out the term of former Rep. Nathan Deal before running again for a full term in November.

Members of the audience were allowed to submit questions to the moderator, who allowed each candidate the same amount of time to give an answer.

One of the top issues that was discussed was how to reduce the unemployment rate and create jobs.

“We’ve got to get the government off the backs of the entrepreneur and the businessman,” Chris Cates said. “Let small business get us out of this recession.”

Tom Graves pointed out that he has supported job creation during his time in the Georgia General Assembly.

“I’ve been the author of the Jobs Act in both 2009 and 2010, which eliminated and reduced taxes and regulation on businesses here in the state of Georgia,” Graves said. “You take that to the federal level and it’s about getting government and taxation out of the way.”

The candidates were also asked how they would change the current tax system.

Hawkins said he supports a consumer-based tax.

“We should have passed the fair tax years and years ago. Any tax that prohibits more work and punishes savings is a tax our forefathers never intended for us to pay,” Hawkins said. “We watch the spending, be honest with the people, and we’ll get results.”
Bert Loftman said the fair tax, which could abolish income tax and institute a retail sales tax instead, is an achievable change that the next congressman should support.

“We have to push it as hard as we can,” Loftman said. “Who would have thought the Berlin Wall would have fallen the week before it fell? All the sudden somebody came and took a stone out and there it was. The fair tax will come the same way because freedom comes in big chunks.”

The candidates also expressed their feelings that the Constitution must be upheld as it was originally written.

“I view this not as a bill of rights but as a bill of prohibitions on what the government can and cannot do to us,” Eugene Moon said.

“The one thing people are missing is states’ rights. States have got to take their rights back and the Constitution affords them the right to do that.”

Bill Stephens said the next congressman should be a strict Constitutionalist.

“I think the Constitution is divinely inspired,” Stephens said. “There’s no other way to explain how in the last 235 years we’ve made the progress we’ve made. I think that document is under attack now. I think whoever is elected will have to go to the front lines defending that document.”

The candidates were also asked to address what the government’s role should be in America.

Steve Tarvin said the government needs to be as limited as possible.

“I think the No. 1 goal is protect us from enemies both foreign and domestic,” Tarvin said. “Give us life and liberty. I think our liberties are being infringed on. I run strictly to restore liberty to this country and to take the money out of Washington.”