Montgomery Advertiser - "Second Congressional District Republicans"
The Advertiser posed the following questions to candidates for the Second Congressional District seat in the June 3 Republican primary. The candidates are David Grimes, Jay Love, John Martin, Harri Anne Smith, Craig Schmidtke and David Woods.
What makes you the best candidate for this office? Please be specific.
Grimes: Public service is about being accessible, listening to your constituents and addressing their needs without ever compromising their trust. My record proves that I've done just that at the State House and now I want to take these same principles to Washington. I'll stand up for our conservative Alabama values, take political risks and speak with conviction to force Congress to address the most pressing issues facing our country.
Love: I've worn several hats that have prepared me to serve in Congress. I'm a small businessman who knows how business is hurt by bureaucratic red tape and burdensome taxes. As a legislator I worked to pass Alabama's first tax cuts in over 70 years and have pushed for an expansion of these tax cuts again this year. And, as a husband and father of four, I've sought to provide my family with the moral foundation that my parents taught me.
All of these experiences have made me the person I am today. They've prepared me to enter Congress and immediately begin working on behalf of the people of the 2nd Congressional District.
Small business is the economic engine of this country and Congress needs to do more to protect it and their employees. My first order of business in Congress will be to work toward a tax cut plan for small businesses that offer health care to their employees. And, like the legislation I've sponsored in Alabama, I believe it should also give these employees at least a double deduction or generous tax credit on what they pay for their health care premiums. Having successfully passed tax cuts in the Alabama legislature, I'm fully prepared to do the same at the federal level when given the chance.
In short, my experience makes me the best candidate for this office.
Martin: I am a decorated combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War. I served 23 years in the Army in various positions, from the Nuclear Surety program with a top secret clearance, to an Apache instructor pilot in Germany at the height of the Cold War, and Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. I have been instrumental in providing leadership with operations from squad tactics all the way up to the Pentagon, as well as foreign governments. I have been in leadership positions where successful mission accomplishment is the stated objective and failure or compromise is not an option. I will not compromise my values to anyone.
Schmidtke: As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, I would attribute my education and ability to deal with challenging (even life-threatening) situations with poise and confidence. Many individuals say the mark of an excellent surgeon is not how you deal with the ordinary, but how you deal with the out-of-the-ordinary situations. I feel an exceptional amount of confidence and pride with my abilities not only as a surgeon, but as a leader for our district when facing such adversity.
Smith: I am a small businesswoman who has signed both sides of a paycheck. I have been both a city council member and mayor. I have served as a state senator for the last 10 years where my focus has been on job growth, economic development, transportation and agricultural issues. As a lifelong resident of south Alabama, I am keenly aware of the importance of protecting our military bases.
I am a conservative who believes government must be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Taxes should never be an option when eliminating waste and slowing spending would serve the same purpose. That's why I voted against every tax increase proposal in Amendment One. And when the Legislature voted itself the recent outrageous pay raise, I not only voted against it, I refused to take it.
The quality of tomorrow's workforce depends upon the educational foundation we lay today. We must direct dollars for public education into the classrooms, rather than on administrative salaries so that our students are being provided the latest and best tools for learning.
As a Republican in a Democratic Senate I know how to work with people in a bipartisan manner without compromising my conservative principles.
The Second District of Alabama has been blessed by past congressmen who served with distinction. My state legislative experience of fighting for conservative principles and standing up to special interests will make me ideally suited to serve in Congress.
Woods: I am a Christian, husband, a father and a businessman who has lived in the Second District most all of my life. I was born and raised in Dothan, and have spent the last 23 years in Montgomery. Since 1985, I have owned and operated WCOV-TV. Having spent nearly 30 years in the business world, I know what it takes to meet a payroll and how to balance a budget. I know that low taxes are what keep our economy strong.
I also know the importance of hard work and the value of a dollar. Before owning a television station, I painted houses, pumped gas, and met my wife carrying suitcases as a bellhop. Perhaps if Congress performed one of these jobs for a summer they would think twice about spending our tax dollars so recklessly.
I know what it means to live my faith. I've been fortunate enough to take part in numerous mission trips abroad over the years and in 2005 made three trips to Pascagoula, Miss., to help with the reconstruction in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Like Terry Everett and Bill Dickinson before they were elected to Congress, I am not a product of the Legislature. I am a businessman who has grown tired of the tax and spend mentality in Washington. In the business world, accountability is key. We need to restore accountability in Washington by securing our borders and saying no to amnesty. Finally, we need elected officials who understand conservative, Alabama values like protecting the unborn, marriage and our Second Amendment rights.
2. What do you see as the biggest issue facing the office that you are seeking, and how would you specifically address it if elected?
Grimes: Much of Alabama has benefited from new opportunities, however many in our district have been left out. As a congressman, I'll partner with communities to seek new industry to bring good paying jobs to our region. We'll only succeed if we foster a business-friendly environment that allows investment. Job creators shouldn't be targets of oppressive taxation and government regulation. Higher taxes strangle the economy, drive down revenue and lead to higher unemployment. I'll support making all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent and vigorously oppose any effort to increase the tax burden on American families and business.
Love: The biggest issue facing the nation at this time is our slowing economy. As energy prices increase, we'll continue to see more pressure placed on the economy and its ability to overcome its current troubles. The last thing we need at this point is to increase taxes as liberal Democrats in Congress have proposed.
Under the FY09 budget passed by Nancy Pelosi and her allies this year, Congress plans to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. The consequence of this action is that taxes will increase by $683 billion. It will reinstitute the marriage penalty, increase marginal tax rates, resurrect the death tax and also cut the child tax credit in half. That is absolutely the wrong thing to be doing.
Instead, Congress should be cutting taxes. Time and time again it's been proven that tax cuts actually stimulate the economy and increase revenues. First the Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s and later the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. By allowing these tax cuts to expire, Democrats are saying that they believe they can spend your money better than you can.
I don't agree with that and I will fight to reinstitute the Bush tax cuts to help get our economy moving in the right direction.
Martin: The biggest issue is to reduce the size of the federal government. Despite declarations to the contrary from elected officials across the political spectrum, the federal government is much bigger, not smaller, than it was 30 years ago.
A more realistic headcount begins with the 1.9 million full-time permanent civilian federal workers who get their paychecks and identification cards from Uncle Sam. Add in the 1.5 million uniformed military personnel and 850,000 U. S. Postal Service workers who were counted in the federal workforce until their department became a quasi-government corporation in 1970, and the total full-time permanent federal workforce was just under 4.3 million in 1996, the last year for which good numbers are available on both the visible and shadow federal workforce.
Add in the people who work under federal contracts and grants or mandates imposed on state and local governments and the illusion of smallness becomes clear. In 1996, the federal government's $200 billion in contracts created an estimated 5.6 million jobs, its $55 billion in grants created another 2.4 million jobs, and its array of mandates in such fields as air and water quality and health and safety regulation encumbered another 4.7 million jobs in state, county and municipal governments.
Add these 12.7 million shadow jobs to the 4.25 million civilian, military and postal jobs, and the true size of government in 1996 expands to nearly 17 million, or more than eight times larger than the standard headcount of 1.9 million used by Congress and the president to declare the era of big government over. And the count does not even include the full-time equivalent employment of the people who work on a part-time or temporary basis for Uncle Sam -- for example, the 884,000 members of the military reserves.
Schmidtke: The biggest issue facing our district is the current downturn in our economy. An excellent area to begin is with the cost of rising fuel prices and their direct impact on us all. We need to explore opportunities for new sources of oil exploration in the Gulf, Alaska, and the Atlantic Shelf. I propose we give depreciation incentives to companies that would equal the percentage of their total reserves drilled. This would impact our oil prices directly. It would also behoove us to hold the Iraqi government accountable to repay their debt to us for aiding in their liberation and reconstruction. The Iraqi government is the only country we have aided in liberation that could aid in the financial burden of this process.
Smith: John D. Rockefeller said, "I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs."
The slowing economy in the United States is the biggest issue facing us in decades, and getting it back on track will be my number one priority. The housing and mortgage crisis, weak American dollar and fuel prices have all played a large part in our sluggish economy. Energy costs have a domino effect on every facet of economics. With gasoline prices at almost $4 a gallon we must find alternative fuel sources quickly. We must ramp up producing nuclear, solar and wind power and move away from dependency on foreign oil. We must look to domestic energy sources like offshore drilling and in drilling in Alaska, while keeping our eye on environmental responsibility.
The tax cuts should be made permanent. It is a sad day when Americans are afraid to invest in the stock market, real estate and commodities. These are the things that have kept our economy humming since Ronald Reagan led us into prosperity, and we must bring it back.
Government should be compassionate toward those who have nowhere else to turn, but the recent congressional spending spree has to be curtailed. We must eliminate waste and spend taxpayer dollars on necessity rather than pork. Washington must learn that you can't shop at Tiffany's on a pawn shop budget.
Woods: There is no question our economy is softening. American families and small businesses are getting squeezed by soaring gas prices, the rising cost of groceries, and a softening housing market. Despite these clear signals, Democrats seem intent on pursuing economic policies that will harm our economy and stifle job growth by increasing government regulation and raising taxes. At a time when Alabamians are paying more than $3.50 a gallon for gas and more than $5 for a gallon of milk, that is unconscionable.
We need leaders who understand how small businesses think and know the importance of meeting a payroll. As a member of Congress I plan to fight the major tax increase that has been put in motion by congressional Democrats. I plan to fight for low taxes and less regulation so that small businesses can continue to focus on meeting payrolls and not footing the bill for lavish spending in Washington.
Small businesses were responsible for more than 60 percent of net new jobs over the past decade. As we seek to recover from the current economic downturn, we will once again look to small businesses to be at the forefront when it comes to innovation and job creation. In order for that to happen we will need strong fiscal policies that will protect the dollar, balance the budget, decrease regulation and keep taxes low.
What do you see as the second biggest issue facing the office that you are seeking, and how would you specifically address it if elected?
Grimes: Congress has failed to address America's illegal immigration crisis. I'll stand up to the liberals who've blocked illegal immigration reforms and find others to help me secure our borders by boosting immigration law enforcement and mandating an employee verification program. To assure the integrity of the immigration process, I'll oppose legislation offering amnesty, a pathway to citizenship or taxpayer benefits for anyone who has disregarded our laws. I'll fight to deliver real immigration reform that secures our borders and ensures the safety of our citizens.
Love: The second biggest issue facing the country is rising energy prices and the pressure they are putting on Alabama's families. For years Congress has refused to address our needs for energy independence and today we are seeing the results of their inaction. As a result we are at the whim of the energy market controlled by those in the Middle East and Venezuela who certainly don't have the best interests of the United States at heart. This is as much a national security issue as it is an economic issue.
Congress must address both short- and long-term solutions to the energy crisis.
In the short term, we must begin drilling off of the Continental Shelf in Florida and California and open up ANWR in Alaska. In addition, we also must begin to construct new oil refineries. Increasing the U.S. oil supply will have an impact on prices and relieve some of the pressure on our economy in the short term.
In the long term, we should provide incentives for the development and research into renewable energy sources such as hydrogen. Ethanol isn't the answer. Corn-based ethanol has led to increased food costs for both farmers and families. By incentivizing industry, I believe we can find innovative solutions that over the long haul will prove beneficial and help break foreign oil's stranglehold on the nation.
Martin: The second biggest issue is to curtail the appetite of the federal government. Some federal agencies exist to only feed themselves. The stratification of the federal departments lends them to inefficiency. Reduce the size and scope of federal agencies by moving that authority to the state level. Most of the federal funding should be at the state level where its citizens would be direct recipients. Make Congress accountable for the spending. Pass the Fair Tax bill.
Schmidtke: The second biggest issue facing our district is development of large industry. No new large industry was brought to the district per the Wachovia Industrial Studies in 2006 and 2007. I would form an Economic Development Committee within the congressional office to aid in the recruitment of big business to our district. This was a tactic utilized by former Dixiecrat Congressman George Andrews of the Second District. We should also focus on creating a north-south interstate along the 231 corridor. Creating an Interstate in that region would be the key to guaranteed economic prosperity to our entire district.
Smith: The ramifications of illegal immigration are varied and have a definite negative impact on our economy. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this growing problem.
The first order of business should be to make English the official language of the United States. This will eliminate the communication barrier that currently exists.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are guilty of letting the immigration problem get out of hand. Some Republicans see illegals as a cheap source of labor for employers who need workers. Some Democrats propose issuing driver licenses to undocumented people as a source of votes in future elections.
The Statue of Liberty stands in New York Harbor as a symbol of our country's diversity and acceptance of those seeking freedom. But liberty has its price. All who enter this country must do so legally. Crossing borders to our north and south without documentation must not be tolerated. Illegal immigrants who use our hospitals, schools, emergency rooms and public safety entities without paying their fair share put a burden on legal taxpaying citizens.
There are laws currently in place to deal with illegal immigration, but Congress has shirked its responsibility to enforce them. These laws must be enforced rather than ignored.
The idea of a wall or fence should become a reality sooner rather than later. Employers who hire undocumented illegals must be penalized. Those who have come here illegally should be sent back to their native country.
Woods: Congress has lost credibility with the American people because of its inability to address the crisis occurring on our borders. Not only has this resulted in a serious security issue, but it puts an enormous strain on our social services, health care systems and law enforcement.
The first step in earning back that credibility is to secure our borders, once and for all. This can be done through completing the border fence, increasing the number of border security agents, and equipping those border agents with the latest in technology. We are a nation of laws and our immigration system should reflect that, which means no amnesty. This problem is not a lack of solutions, but a lack of willpower to implement them.