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Crowded Republican field aims to replace Doug Collins, represent 9th District in US House
U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol is seen at the end of the day Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, in Washington. - photo by Associated Press

A wide GOP mix of newcomers and political veterans are running to keep a Republican as the U.S.House’s Georgia 9th District representative.

Michael Boggus, Paul Broun, Andrew Clyde, Matt Gurtler, Maria Strickland, Kevin Tanner, Ethan Underwood, Kellie Weeks, John Wilkinson are running in the June 9 primary to replace U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who is hoping to unseat U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

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Michael Boggus
Michael Boggus

Age: 42

Occupation: crane operator

Political experience: first run for office

Residence: Commerce

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Paul Broun
Paul Broun

Age: 73

Occupation: family medicine doctor

Political experience: represented Georgia’s 10th Congressional District from 2007 to 2015

Residence: Towns County

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Andrew Clyde
Andrew Clyde

Age: 56

Occupation: gun store owner

Political experience: first run for office

Residence: Jackson County

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Matt Gurtler
Matt Gurtler

Age: 31

Occupation: home builder

Political experience: has served two terms as Georgia’s House District 8 representative

Residence: Tiger

Maria Strickland
Maria Strickland
Maria Strickland

Age: 56

Occupation: retired police officer

Political experience: first run for office

Residence: Blue Ridge

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Kevin Tanner
Kevin Tanner

Age: 48

Occupation: farmer and small business owner

Political experience: has served four terms as Georgia’s House District 9 representative

Residence: Dawsonville

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Ethan Underwood
Ethan Underwood

Age: 42

Occupation: property rights attorney

Political experience: ran unsuccessfully for state House five years ago

Residence: Cumming

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Kellie Weeks
Kellie Weeks

Age: 50

Occupation: gun store owner

Political experience: ran unsuccessfully for school board

Residence: Lula

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John Wilkinson
John Wilkinson 

Age: 65

Occupation: retired educator

Political experience: has served in the Georgia Senate the past nine years

Residence: Stephens County

Some Hall County voters have received absentee ballots with an incorrect congressional district listed, although the candidates listed are correct and the ballots can still be used. The incorrect ballots include a heading for Georgia’s 1st Congressional District. Hall County is in the 9th Congressional District.

For Boggus, it was early experiences with his previous, late wife’s opioid addiction and a kidnapping of his young daughter that pushed him toward politics.

“I had to fight the sheriff’s department … and none of the politicians would help,” he said. “That’s my biggest issue. We are the people. We are the government. We deserve to be represented and heard, and we’re not.”

Opioids is a big issue for him, but he’s also concerned about “taxation of the middle class.”

“Both parties seem to be getting rid of the middle class, leaving just the poor, and the poor has the dependency of the government,” Boggus said. 

He would like to repeal the National Firearms Act of 1934, which imposed an excise tax and required registration of certain firearms.

Boggus, 42, who works as a crane operator, also would like to abolish the IRS, “and I know that it’s probably never going to happen.”

He also wants to cut spending and limit foreign aid.

“Why pay countries that hate us?” Boggus said.

A former four-term, 10th District U.S. House member, Broun said the reason he’s seeking the 9th District seat is “it’s the most conservative congressional district in America, and I was the most conservative congressman. The 9th District fits me, and I fit it.”

Top issues for him are “stopping this out-of-control government. We’ve got to deal with this debt that is totally unsustainable and growing by the weeks.”

Broun, 73, a family medicine physician, added: “We’ve got to bring manufacturing back to America. We’ve got to get rid of Obamacare and put doctors and patients in charge of the health care decisions.”

He said that, as someone who served in the Marines, he believes “both political parties are destroying our liberty and freedom and the foundational principles that made this country great. And it’s got to stop.”

He said he believes the top issue now for Congress is restoring the economy, but the pandemic “will hopefully be a nightmare we’re all trying to forget” by Jan. 1, when Collins’ replacement takes office.

Motivating Clyde to run for Congress was a 2013 run-in with the IRS that ended up in a court battle and eventually the enactment of a federal law.

“I’m going to fight for what I believe is right,” said Clyde, 56. “That’s the way my mom and dad raised me. We fought and fought, and we won.”

“That (experience) showed me there’s a very thin line between ‘we the people’ running our government and our government running us,” said Clyde, who served 28 years, active and reserve, in the U.S. Navy.

And because of that ordeal, government overreach is a big issue for Clyde.

Gun rights is another biggie for the 56-year-old Athens-based gun store owner, who said, “I think I know the Second Amendment inside out and sideways. The Second Amendment is the teeth behind the Constitution, protecting the First Amendment.”

Also, “I’m very pro-life — from conception to natural death,” Clyde said. “

Gurtler is running for Congress for the same reasons he ran for — and won a seat in — the Georgia House of Representatives.

“I want to bring that same message of liberty and bring principles back into politics,” he said.

“I really believe we’ve got to fight for our rights in our country, and that we need to get back to the ideas … that the founders intended,” Gurtler said. “I’ve never compromised on core values and principles.”

At 31, he said he believes he could “bring that millennial perspective to Washington, D.C.”

A top concern for Gurtler is the national debt, which “is our greatest threat to our national security and freedoms,” he said.

“I’m concerned for the future because we have the Democrats and the bandwagon Republicans just kicking the can down the road, and no one is taking the hard stands. We can’t just keep raising the debt ceiling.”

Also, he supports gun rights, which is “paramount to upholding the rest of our constitutional rights. Shall not be infringed, to me, means shall not be infringed.”

Strickland had always been involved in politics, “but quietly.”

She decided to run for the 9th District seat because “we need less politicians and more people to fight the socialism,” said the 56-year-old retired police officer. 

“I will go in fighting for the people and not the special interest groups and the establishment, which seems to grab hold of everybody.”

Veteran issues is a major focus for Strickland.

The Department of Veterans Affairs “needs to be redone — again,” she said. “They’ve taken care of the higher administration. It’s that middle part that needs to be re-managed and reformed a lot.”

She said she believes the U.S. Department of Education should be eliminated, as the federal government “ties the hands of the schools, teachers and even the parents.”

The future of Social Security is also a concern.

“Congress is constantly pulling money from the Social Security reserve and not giving (recipients) raises,” Strickland said. “It’s a system that needs to be managed better.”

Tanner, 48, a state House member based in Dawsonville, said he’s running for Congress because “Washington is broken, and we need an effective conservative fighter that can get the job done for the 9th Congressional District.”

“Having started and run numerous small businesses, led a law enforcement agency, managed a county government and delivered in the State House, I know how to lead, and I am ready to use that experience to join,” he said.

“With the huge challenges we face in our nation and the threats to our freedom and values, we have too much at stake to rely on those who do nothing but talk,” Tanner said. “There’s too much of that in Congress now.”

The farmer and small business owner said his top priorities include “standing with President Trump and fight to get our economy roaring again, build the wall and end illegal immigration, hold China accountable and start making things in America again, protect our farmers, and safeguard life, religious freedoms and our Second Amendment right.”

Underwood, 42, is running “because I want my four children to have the same opportunities that I do.”

“And I’ve been very concerned about the current embrace of socialistic ideas among Americans — anything from socialized medicine to socialized education,” he said. “You don’t get anything from the government that doesn’t have strings attached.

“America has done so well because we have economic freedom and we respect private property rights. I got into this race to help protect those values and to articulate the opportunities America creates.”

For him, “our top priority is getting our economy moving again,” Underwood said. “We’ve got to get people back to work … and help people recover from this COVID-19 crisis, both physically and economically.”

Part of the recovery is “making sure we have rural broadband,” the property rights attorney added. “We’ve trapped everyone in their houses and said, ‘Hey, educate your kids, and by the way, you may not have internet, and if you do, you may not have enough access on the lines.”

Weeks, 50, a Gainesville-based gun store owner, decided to run for Congress because she is frustrated.

She’s said she’s tired of “seeing the same people or same type of people” seeking office and that she was upset the Republican Party couldn’t get things done when President Donald Trump was elected.

“And then, (the GOP) lost the House,” she said. “I’ve decided that I would take a chance and run.”

Gun rights are a big issue for Weeks.

“So many people say they are for gun rights, but they end up settling, and we have to give up a little bit each time, instead of staying firm with ‘no.’ We don’t need to be punishing law-abiding citizens when a criminal does something wrong.”

Term limits is another key issue.

“People get in there and then, they never leave,” Weeks said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about who’s in the White House 4-8 years. You need to worry about who’s in Congress for 40 and 50 years. They’ve got too much and it’s not fair to states that have a new (legislator).”

Wilkinson’s concern for the next generation is what drove him to seek the U.S. House seat.

“As you get older, you think about what your legacy is going to be,” said the retired educator and a member of the Georgia Senate the past nine years

“I think about my five grandchildren and the America they’re going to live in. And I’m concerned. I think we’re going to really have to do some work for them to have a better life in America than my generation.

“So, with the time I have left, I want to work hard to try to help them to have an even better America than the one I grew up in.”

Wilkinson, 65, of Stephens County, said he “really does believe we need less government in our everyday lives and we need less regulation.

“I think the free enterprise system is the greatest system in the world. I think we need to get government out of the way and let it work,” said the retired educator.

Candidates on 3 issues

Budget and national debt

Boggus: “Government spending is what we’ve got to look at. We’ve got to look at the total cost to make said product versus the cost of said product we’re selling or buying. We have no economical people in Washington, D.C. It’s spend, spend, spend. We’re so far into debt that when it comes time for me to retire, there’s not going to be any Social Security.”

Broun: “We’ve got to send powers back to the states, as the 10th Amendment demands, and stop this out-of-control spending in Washington. (As a former congressman), I wrote a bill that totally eliminates the U.S. Department of Education. We need to keep education dollars in Georgia, pay our teachers more and let our teachers teach.”

Clyde: “We do not need to be continuing to go into debt. That is wrong. That is a burden we will be placing on future generations, that we are unwilling to pay for right now. We need to have a balanced budget. We need to eliminate some departments of the federal government … like the department of education, the IRS and (Environmental Protection Agency).”

Gurtler: “I’ve been the outspoken member … on the budget problems we have in Georgia. I will continue to be outspoken on the federal deficit, which … is unsustainable. If you’re a Republican, you’re supposed to be for limited government, less taxes and less spending, and that’s what I’ll do.”

Strickland: “Businesses are starting to open and the economy is going to start rolling … although it’s going to be quite a while before we get back to where we were. We really need to take care of these small businesses. We need to focus on bringing them back. Small businesses are the backbone of this country.”

Tanner: “We can no longer ignore our national debt. It is one of the biggest threats facing future generations. It’s time to pass a balanced budget amendment to force Congress to balance their budget just like we do in Georgia and … once we have a balanced budget, work should then begin on identifying wasteful programs and spending that can be eliminated.”

Underwood: “We’re not going to be able to fix the federal deficit and budget issues in one year. It’s going to take some discipline to restrict our spending and to make sure we’re paying down the debt. As far as where we can make budget cuts, first we stop providing aid to some (United Nations) programs and countries that don’t like us.”

Weeks: “I’m a fiscal conservative. After losing one business and starting over, I don’t believe in going into debt for anything. I just believe living within your means helps everybody and that’s (also true) with our government. We’ve got to slow everything down and stop sending so much money to every other country.”

Wilkinson: “I think there are some things we need to be careful about.” Citing the federal $600 weekly unemployment benefit, he said, “Whatever legislation we pass, we’ve got to give people an incentive to work and be a part of the economy. We can’t give people an incentive not to go back to work.”

Health care

Boggus: “I think Congress shall not write a law that exempts them. They throw Obamacare out there, but do any of them use it? Nope. We need to go to a private health care system. That way, we have transparency and we can pick and choose. That’s what capitalism is.”

Broun: He seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “We must not have health care controlled by bureaucrats and policed by the IRS. We need private-sector, market-based, patient-centered solutions.”

Clyde: He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “We need to go to free market solutions. The free market gives us the best for the least amount of money. I think we need competition in health care plans across state lines.”

Gurtler: “Health care should be a free market. Get the government out of it. You have better quality, you have lower prices, you have more competition. We need to stop subsidizing big insurance companies and big (pharmaceutical companies). Socialized medicine doesn’t work.”

Strickland: “The biggest thing is we need to completely repeal Obamacare. I think we need an open market. We need to open up that market again. It’s capitalism, competition, supply and demand. … Once you get that competition, and people have the better choice, that’s going to help the whole thing.”

Tanner: “I will join President Trump in finally achieving the complete repeal of Obamacare. Obamacare has been a disaster that has failed to deliver. We need … reform based in the private sector that reduces costs while ensuring access to care. We need to empower states to devise plans best for their state by giving Medicaid block grants.”

Underwood: Noting that one of his children had to have open-heart surgery, then chemotherapy, by the time she was 1, “had we been in a single-payer system where a government bureaucrat was deciding who gets treatment and who does not, then she would never have gotten the treatment she needed in time to save her life.”

Weeks: She said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed an issue with jobless people also losing health insurance. “It almost seems like with paying their lost wages that they should have a little bit of funding that would go for paying health insurance.”

Wilkinson: “I would be for repealing Obamacare. I think we need to do some things like let companies work across state lines. Put more competition into that and let people shop for the companies that they would like to have for the health care providers. 

Illegal immigration

Boggus: “With illegal immigration, it all goes back to our judicial system. When they cross the border, we give them a piece of paper in hopes they come back for a court date, and they don’t. During that time, when they miss their court date, they should be charged $500 a day. And when they’re caught, they don’t get a second court date — they go to court then and there.”

Broun: “We need to secure the borders. I applaud President Trump’s efforts, but we’ve got to fund it immediately and start enforcing the laws on the books. We’ve got to give employers the tools they need to make sure they comply with the law. … We’ve got to make English the official language of America.” 

Clyde: “Everybody must come here legally. There should be no path to citizenship until someone comes here legally. If they’re here illegally, they have to go back to their home country and apply legally to come here. The wall on the southern border is very important, so I fully support that.”

Gurtler: “We can’t have a welfare state and have weak borders. So, we have to have strong borders, following the rule of law, and we have to defund sanctuary cities. And we should only allow Americans to vote in elections.”

Strickland: “We need border security, whether it’s south or north of the border, or people coming in from other countries. But also, a large part of our budget is all the illegals in our country.”

Tanner: “We should start by actually enforcing our laws and stop illegal immigration. That’s why in Georgia, I have championed several efforts to stem the tide on illegal immigration and crack down on illegals that commit additional crimes. In Congress, I will immediately join President Trump in fully funding and building the border wall and ensuring (border security).”

Underwood: “We need to address it as a national security issue and national health issue. We want people to come into the United States to work, we want visas to be readily available … but we need to know who’s in our country, we need to know we’re not allowing terrorists to sneak in.”

Weeks: “I think we need to close our borders. We need to stop people from coming in illegally, but at the same time, it would be nice if we had an easier way for people to come in legally. It seems like it takes so long for people to get approved to come in that they end up coming in illegally.”

Wilkinson: “There are a lot of immigrants who come to this country legally and we have a legal pathway to come to this country. Whoever comes here should follow that process and come here legally. We need a temporary worker program that works, where people can come here, work, then go home.”

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