2014 election calendar
Voter registration deadline: Oct. 6
General election: Nov. 4
State runoff: Dec. 2
Federal runoff: Jan. 6
Hall County advance voting
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday from Oct. 13-31, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25
Where: Hall County Elections Office, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
Incumbent Republican Doug Collins of Gainesville will square off against Democrat David Vogel of Hull in the 9th District U.S. House race this November.
In interviews with The Times, the two candidates discussed their differing stances on many of the major issues of the day: foreign policy, immigration, health care, the economy, education and the environment.
America’s latest Middle East military action has put Collins in a position where he shares some common ground with President Barack Obama. Collins said he supports the recent airstrikes approved by the president on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.
“At this point, I think he is continuing a process of a very narrow and limited approach of dealing with (Islamic State),” he added.
But Collins said he believes that defeating the terrorist group will require greater involvement from Arab countries.
“That region has to fight for themselves,” he said, adding that American support is not unconditional.
Vogel, meanwhile, said he opposes military action against the Islamic State.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can accomplish militarily,” he added. “You can degrade a beehive by swatting it with a stick but it doesn’t get you the result you want.”
The other major geopolitical conflict roiling the world brings Vogel and Collins more in line.
Both candidates said they supported the economic sanctions placed on Russia as a result of its incursion and meddling in Ukraine.
But while Collins said he believes the sanctions have worked, he said Obama’s foreign policy has been too timid, leaving the United States with only bad options to tackle growing threats.
Vogel, on the other hand, said he is concerned that America and Russia might be moving to a new Cold War, a prospect he laments.
“I hope people have not forgotten what nuclear weapons are really like,” he said.
In recent months, a media focus has highlighted unaccompanied Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in droves. The heartbreaking scenes of parentless children being rounded up by the Border Patrol put a new face to the issue, which Washington lawmakers have repeatedly tried, and failed, to address through comprehensive reform.
Vogel said he is unsure whether he would support executive action, as Obama has proposed, to deal with immigration.
“That depends on how he intends to address it,” he said.
Vogel said he supports measures that open a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, such as the DREAM Act, which grants residency to immigrants who arrived in the country as minors, graduated from high school and have lived here for at least five years by the time the bill becomes law. There are other stipulations for military service.
Collins said he opposes any executive action, adding that it will take a congressional response to secure the borders.
“Until we have a system that provides for proper legal immigration, then it is very hard to deal with the other issues,” he said.
Collins said he believes tackling reform will require finding a balance between the need for enforcement and the need to have steady immigration to support the nation’s economy.
Collins said the federal government is only addressing symptoms of the problem rather than its causes.
He added that the DREAM Act, and other path-to-citizenship proposals, wind up cherry-picking who benefits from immigration and who loses, adding that a uniform federal policy is needed.
More than four years after the Affordable Care Act was passed, Republicans are still trying to scuttle Obama’s health care law.
“We’re still looking to repeal it,” Collins said. “Time doesn’t make it better.”
High deductibles and copays are hurting Americans, he added, and only true cost controls can fix the health care system.
Vogel also isn’t fond of the ACA, though for different reasons.
“I’m not enthusiastic about Obamacare,” he said, adding that many parts of the law were first developed by conservative leaders, such as the Heritage Foundation, and implemented first by Republicans such as Mitt Romney while he was governor of Massachusetts.
For Vogel, the health care law didn’t go far enough.
“I would like to see a public option very much,” he said.
Vogel has pegged his campaign on addressing the issue of income and wealth inequality, which is why he supports a raise in the federal minimum wage.
But Vogel said he believes increasing the minimum wage won’t solve the problem entirely. That’s why he supports requiring business to provide benefits for part-time workers so there is no incentive to limit their hours.
Vogel said tax policy must be used to address inequality, which is why he supports higher tax rates such as those espoused by Republicans in the 1950s.
Collins, meanwhile, said he opposes raising the minimum wage and long ago made reducing the nation’s debt and deficits his No. 1 priority.
He said he’s pleased by Republican-led efforts to draw down discretionary spending over the last two years, but insists a fix cannot be made overnight.
“There’s still a lot more to be done,” he said.
Vogel said improving the nation’s public education system will require lawmakers to look outside our borders. He believes Finland has established a protocol that can be copied here, which requires teachers to have a master’s degree and pays better wages.
“It doesn’t work to put a teacher in a production line,” he said.
Collins said the best way to improve public education is to get the federal government out of the way.
“The biggest thing is getting Washington out of dictating to the rest of the country,” he said, adding that he opposes tying federal funding to the adoption of Common Core standards.
Collins said he wants to let states take the reins on developing education standards and curriculum.
He said he believes it was a mistake for the George W. Bush administration to insert the federal government into education when it supported and passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.
“I think what it did was set a very bad precedent that the federal government can dictate and control what goes on,” he added.
The issue of climate change has been a demarcation line between Democrats and Republicans in recent years.
But while its skeptics are beginning to wane, Collins and Vogel still find little common ground on the issue.
Collins said any policy attempts to address climate change must be balanced with the interests of business and industry.
He said he’s concerned about job losses and increased electricity prices if emissions standards become more severe.
Collins said he opposed a recent move by the Environmental Protection Agency placing new limits on carbon emissions from power plants.
Vogel, on the other hand, said more needs to be done to address climate change, and the new emissions standards are a start.
“I think (climate change) is real and I take personal offense at the suggestion that scientists are cooking the data to get grants,” he added.