SAVANNAH — Five of the six Republican candidates running for Congressman Jack Kingston’s 1st Congressional District seat met Wednesday at Johnny Harris Hall on Victory Drive for a Candidate Forum sponsored by the Savannah Area Republican Women.
Sheila Galbreath said the forum was held in conjunction with their chapter’s monthly luncheon meeting. She said the SARW is one of the largest chapters in Georgia.
Local conservative TV and radio personality Bill Edwards served as master of ceremonies for the forum, which included Georgia Sen. Buddy Carter, Georgia Rep. Jeff Chapman, Dr. Bob Johnson, Dr. Earl Martin and John McCallum. Candidate Darwin Carter was unable to attend.
The forum began with each candidate making a brief opening statement. Chapman said he was honored to be invited by the Republican Women, saying that men talk about voting but women actually vote. Johnson, a retired cancer surgeon, quoted from former Defense Sec. Robert Gates’s new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” then asked himself a rhetoric al question — “Why would I want to leave the most esteemed profession in America to the most reviled profession in America?”
He then answered his own question, saying the country is “going to Hell in a hand basket,” and charging America’s leaders with stealing $14 billion from our grandchildren through increases in the national debt.
The other candidates also pointed to the national debt as one reason they were running for Congress. McCallum said the nation is at a tipping point. Martin sighted the debt and the military, which he said was supposed to be for national defense and not for social experiments or political correctness.
Before he began asking each candidate one of three different questions, Edwards took a moment to point out part of their ability to agree on conservative fiscal principles was that all five men know how to run a business. When he asked Johnson how he felt about the new budget taking cost of living allowances from senior officers and noncommissioned officers, he got his expected response. Johnson, who is also a retired Army Ranger, said, “How dare they attempt to balance the budget on the backs of our military?”
Carter was asked what his first significant piece of legislation would be if he was elected. He said it would be better to repeal some recent legislation and enforce some other laws. Guests’ response was a loud applause and a few hardy “Amen’s.”
McCallum was asked about his support for farmers and the Farm Bill. He pointed out that most of the Farm bill is about welfare and food stamps now, not agriculture. He said he wanted to get some “sanity” back in the Farm Bill.
When asked about a balanced budget amendment, Johnson compared Congress to a crack addict. Being a pharmacist, Carter said he’d like work on the House committee for the Department of Health & Human Services, if he is elected.
Martin was asked what he didn’t like about Obamacare. He responded by paraphrasing a line from a poem by 19th century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
“How do I count the ways?” he said then quipped that he disagreed with Chief Justice John Roberts, saying the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
He then asked Edwards which Obamacare he was referring to, noting the president has amended the legislation several times without Congressional approval. The president’s acts only add to Obamacare being unconstitutional, he said.
Each candidate was asked why he was the best candidate. Martin said he didn’t want to rock the boat; he wants to flip it. Johnson said Congress needs some leaders with “fire in their belly,” men and women willing to do what is necessary to return to a constitutional government. An unidentified woman spoke up, saying she would vote for all six men speaking, including Edwards.
It was clear by the reaction of other guests that any one of the candidates had the “fire” necessary to represent them in Congress.