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Dothan Eagle - "Congressional Hopefuls Battle for Recognition at Debate"

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Location: Troy, AL

Dothan Eagle - "Congressional Hopefuls Battle for Recognition at Debate"

A Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat appealed to conservatives and a Republican candidate unveiled a new initiative to secure the border during a debate Monday at Troy University.

Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright said being a Democrat was not synonymous with being a liberal, and explained to the 150 in attendance that he would not be held hostage by the Democratic majority leader or the potential Republican president.

"Nancy Pelosi is not going to tell me what to do. John McCain is not going to tell me what to do either," Bright said during the two-hour debate sponsored by Troy University, WSFA-TV, the AARP and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Dr. Craig Schmidtke of Dothan said instead of constructing a wall to secure the United States' southern border with Mexico, he would construct a "solar panel fence" that could be used for security as well as providing power for a good portion of the Southern United States and Northern Mexico.

"It's so hard to explain these things in a minute," Schmidtke said. "But something like this provides a business solution to a problem that needs solving. Do I know how much it would cost? No. But the money is there. Who knows, it could be something that would pay for itself."

Eight candidates scrambled to separate themselves from the pack during the debate. Each candidate had two-minute opening and closing statements and one minute to answer six questions, three from a previously-selected panel and three from the audience.

The debate was the second of three sponsored by the four entities, and the first one attended by State Sen. Harri Anne Smith, who missed a Friday debate at WSFA studios in Montgomery due to a previously scheduled engagement.

On the Democratic side, Bright and opponent Cheryl Sabel provided a stark contrast. While Bright was championing the conservative wing of the party, Sabel - president of the state chapter of the National Organization for Women - trumpeted several traditionally-liberal causes including reproductive rights and referred to current President George W. Bush as a "president who has gone wild with power." Sabel said the first bill she would introduce if elected to Congress would be a renewed Equal Rights Amendment, which she said would "make sure women are no longer treated as second class citizens."

The race's other Democratic candidate, Cendie Crawley, was ill and could not attend.
On the Republican side, candidates agreed on most of the issues presented. All said they would fight to repeal the estate tax, would seek new areas in the United States for drilling in hopes of breaking the dependence on foreign oil, and would resist supporting federal mandates for nursing home standards, instead allowing the states to set most standards.

"Not only do I think that is a state issue, but I think families should take more responsibility in the care of their loved ones," Smith said.

Martin appeared to be the only candidate of either party to support what is known by supporters as the Fair Tax, a proposal that would do away with all federal taxes in favor of a general consumption tax.

The next debate will be held at Sony Hall on the campus of Troy University-Dothan April 29 at 10 a.m.

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