Wednesday night’s debate of Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Gig Harbor offered plenty of red meat for the crowd.
With 10 candidates invited, I wasn’t expecting much: sound bites, jabs at Sen. Patty Murray. But thanks to pretty specific and intelligent questions, and tight time control from moderator Kirby Wilbur, it was a substantive debate that allowed the seven men who showed up to explain their beliefs and even differentiate themselves a bit.
That often meant competing to be the most ready to shake the foundations of the federal government. Read the story in today’s paper.
One question asked about how to tackle the growing cost of entitlements like Medicare. From their answers:
- Craig Williams: “We have to reduce spending in order to stem the tide … Entitlements are part of the equation that must be addressed.”
- Ed Torres: “Eliminate them one by one, look at them and start eliminating entitlements.”
- Don Benton: “It’s not the federal government’s job to provide entitlements to people. We got off down the wrong road, there. We’ve got to address this somehow. We’ve got to get it back to where individuals are responsible for their lives instead of government being responsible for our lives.”
- Art Coday: “I do think that long term, constitutionally, we need to phase out these programs, but we’ve made a promise to our seniors and we can’t renege on it.”
- Clint Didier: “Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security: Sooner or later, they’re going to have to be phased out, but we do got to take care of those people that are in need of them, that have paid into them. … These entitlements are encouraging (illegal immigrants) to come to our country, and we’ve got to revisit the 14th Amendment. Anchor babies.”
- Skip Mercer: “Entitlements are really just a part of the broad liberal agenda to move this country toward socialism.”
- Chris Widener: “One man’s pork is another man’s barbecue sandwich … We all get certain things from the government. … Everybody looks and says, ‘Well you guys are getting money from the government,’ but ‘Don’t touch my stuff.’ We’ve all got to realize we’re in this together and we’re all going to have to cut back, from the oldest of us, to the youngest of us”
The debate’s first question set the tone. Q: Do you believe that any powers not clearly and specifically enumerated to the federal government are reserved to only the states, and that the states have the right of nullification, meaning that they can declare invalid laws that they do not think meet originalist interpretation of constitutional law?
Coday was among those enthusiastic about states’ rights: “I think the 17th Amendment should be repealed, because that changed the way we choose senators from the legislatures choosing them, as the original Constitution had, to the people electing them. If we did it the old way, the senators would be an interface between the federal government and the states and we wouldn’t have this kind of problem.”
Quotes from the rest of the debate:
- Mercer: “We definitely need to be in a place where we are saying ‘no’ most of the time in Washington, because every time it’s ‘yes,’ it’s spending money. … So unfortunately, there needs to be a lot of ‘no,’ and there needs to be a lot of change with respect to removing federal agencies that have no constitutional place in our government.”
- Widener: “The party of ‘no’ and the party of ‘hell no’ will not win in November. We have got to become the party of ‘yes.’ You may not like that, you may not like to hear that, you may be very angry, but … Talking about going to jail and pulling out shotguns and things like this is not going to do us any good. We’ve got to become a proactive people who talk about what we’re for, not what we’re against.”
- Didier: “I’m running as a Ronald Reagan conservative, constitutionalist Republican. I’m going to have my feet solid on that platform, and I’m not budging.”
- Benton: “The federal government should not be involved in education. That is a state’s rights issue, it’s the states’ responsibility and the local school districts’ responsibility. We need to begin to devolve the federal government’s involvement in our kids’ education.”
- Williams on politicians who go to D.C.: “They say ‘Man, this is a cesspool,’ and then, after they’ve been there for a while, they think ‘Hey, this is a really nice hot tub.’”