By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, March 31 Republican candidates for Congressional District Six held what was billed as the first debate of the hotly tested congressional race. In reality it was a typical candidate’s forum where each candidate was allowed to give an opening and closing statement while selected members of the mainstream media gave questions which each of the six forum participants were given a chance to answer. ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ was there to cover the event from start to finish.
Longtime NBC Channel 13 host Mike Royer moderated the Samford University event.
Dr. Chad Mathis told the crowd as well as the TV and radio audience that he was a doctor……a fact he repeated several times over the course of the night. Mathis thanked his wife, Said that he was the first person in his family to go to college, moved to Alabama and built the American dream, but that dream was threatened by the out of control national debt and Obamacare.
Mathis vowed to be a citizen legislator who is going to Congress a Doctor and who will leave Congress as a doctor.
Will Brooke said he has never run for office before, he grew up in Birmingham, married his high school sweetheart, Maggie. “The Lord came in and changed my life,” Brooke said. Brooke said that things are not right in America and he wants to go to Washington to make changes. Brooke vowed that he will keep a copy of the Constitution in his pocket if the people of Alabama will send him to Congress.
Gardendale State Senator Scott Beason from Gardendale told the crowd that he is here with his wife, Lori, and he is currently in the Alabama State Senate. Beason said that his children are why he ran for office in the first place. “What I have done is lead. I led on things that matter for the people of Alabama.” These issues include: immigration, the Second Amendment, and abortion. Beason said that throughout his career, “I have done the things that matter to the people of Alabama.
Gary Palmer said that he has spent 24 years making plans not sound bites as head of the Alabama Policy Institute. Palmer said that we need to replace Obamacare with a healthcare reform plan that provides a safety net. Palmer said that it is important to get the economy growing again producing jobs. Palmer said that the country should develop its energy resources more and that we have 3 trillion barrels of oil, most of it on public lands. “We aren’t broke we are stupid.” Palmer said, “We need to be using those resources to be creating jobs and putting people back to work.”
Robert Shattuck said, “The political class have been doing a big time number on the American people.” Shattuck warned that dysfunction in Congress threatening the people’s well being and that the American people may need to act.
Tom Vigneulle said. “I am a small business owner, not a professional business owner.” Vigneulle said I understand what business is about and I also have a family farm. Vigneulle warned that excessive regulations mean that people have lost excitement about owning small businesses. Vigneulle said that as the owner of Royal Bedding Manufacturing he understands how Obamacare works because he lives with it every day. “I want to be the candidate who will encourage and support small business.”
State Rep. Paul DeMarco from Homewood said that he and his wife Jacqueline are expecting their first child in a few weeks. DeMarco said that he is concerned that the baby will be born owing $60,000 in national debt. DeMarco said that voters need to elect people of courage.
DeMarco said that the Sixth District needs a Congressman who is capable of not only fighting Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi but also taking on members of our own political party. “I have done that. I look forward to representing you.”
Barnett Wright asked the candidates to each explain: “Why are you the best man for the job?”
Sen. Beason said that he has served 16 years in the state legislature and I have seen persons who sat in the state legislature on their hands.
Will Brooke said, “I am a family man of faith”…….not a politician. Brooke said that he is determined to make a difference in Washington and I want to serve you.
Dr Mathis said, “I want to go to Congress to stop Obamacare and really fight for the small businessman.”
Vigneulle said that we need to resolve the business problems we have. “Elect a small businessman who understands how to live within his means and who has a track record.”
Rep. DeMarco said that he has a track record of taking on the big issues.
Gary Palmer said that he has worked on policy for 24 years and has a national network who can drive change from the bottom up.
Talk radio host Leland Whaley asked about term limits.
Gary Palmer pledged to limit himself to five terms ten years and vowed to commute. I will have monthly meetings to train community leaders. Hopefully one day one of them will succeed him.
Tom Vigneulle said that term limits are the first bill that he would support. He is for limiting Congressional service to six terms.
Rep. DeMarco said he supported term limits in Montgomery.
Robert Shattuck said, “The primary culprit is a money monster in politics.” Shattuck warned of excessive riches in politics and that we, “Need a plan to fix the money monster and term limits may be a part of that.”
Will Brooke said that you should not go to Congress to get rich.
Sen. Beason said that the Alabama State legislature needs term limits. I have term limited myself in both the Alabama House and Senate.
Dr. Mathis said, “I am a doctor and I will be a doctor when I leave Congress.” Mathis pledged to serve no more than five terms.
Next the panelist asked, “Is global warming real.”
Shattuck said I don’t know the answer to these questions.
DeMarco said the EPA is using concerns like this to regulate and hurt citizens and businesses across the nation and vowed to fight the EPA.
Palmer said they have lowered the threshold on warming and manipulated their dates. Palmer said he has been working on this for over ten years.
Beason said, “The radical left is using this to harm our energy program,” and warned that people are being told things that are not true.
Brooke warmed that new EPA regulations will cost 20,000 Alabama families their jobs.
Vigneulle said that the Progressive left is using this to get power and control. “I do not believe in climate change or global warming.”
Dr. Mathis said that this is a tool used by the administration to expand their power.
Barnett Wright asked the panel how they would undo Obamacare.
DeMarco said that he favored a market based approach like used in auto insurance or homeowners insurance.
Beason warned that we will not be able to roll back Obamacare until we get a new president……a Republican President. We need a free market based option.
Palmer said you need a plan to put you in charge of your health insurance and that we can do it for less than half of the cost of Obamacare.
Mathis said that we need to replace it with market based reforms, including the ability to shop across state lines, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and allowing families to deduct the cost of their health insurance off their taxes.
Vigneulle said that his own health insurance policy premiums has climbed thousands of dollars. Vigneulle predicted that Obamacare, “Will implode on itself because it is so poorly done.” We need to replace it with a free market system.
Will Brooke said, “Obamacare is a train wreck.” We need a free market solution and coverage for preexisting conditions.
Leland Whaley asked about the federal budget and if the candidates would ever vote for a budget that was not balanced.
Brooke said that we can not afford and can not sustain the present level of spending but warned that slamming the brakes would be a shock on the economy.
DeMarco said, “Balancing the budget can be done but is not going to happen overnight.”
Beason said that conservatives need to embrace incrementalism, the Left understands it. It begins by electing people to Congress who will actually move the ball down the field.
Dr. Mathis said, “We are 17 trillion in debt and our debt is greatest threat to our national security. I will support a balanced budget amendment.
Shattuck said, “The staggering national debt is an outgrowth of an out of control Congress.”
Palmer said that we need to eliminate duplications in government and move government closer to the people wherever possible.
Vigneulle said that we have to balance the budget at the federal level. “The Republican leadership has let us down.”
Vigneulle said that he could support a balanced budget amendment in the future.
All the candidates supported Carly’s law but not the legalization of medical marijuana.
Barnett Wright asked about the foreign surveillance program and NSA spying domestically.
Mathis said we should look at the Constitution and there is a difference between citizens of foreign countries versus our own citizens.
Vigneulle said we have got to be Constitutional in what we do. “NSA is doing a good job overseas but we have got to have good oversight.”
Brooke said that Ben Franklin said that men who would trade freedom for security deserve neither. The fourth amendment is clear and we need to be very careful about what we do to ourselves.
Beason said that domestically the Constitution should come first and we should make sure that you have complete privacy; but on foreign spying Beason said that is just how the world works, though we should try our best not to get caught.
Palmer said that we should make sure our intelligence agencies have the resources to do their job, but warmed about the loss of our constitutional liberties.
DeMarco warned that we shouldn’t forget what happened on 9-11 and must do what we can to make sure that that never happens again.
Whaley asked if they favored the Senate immigration reform approach or the Sen. Jeff Sessions approach.
Rep. DeMarco said, “I am not for amnesty. We are a nation of laws.” I appreciate what Sen. Sessions is doing.
Palmer said that first we have got to secure our borders and after that we need to do exactly what Senator Sessions is calling for.
Dr. Mathis said that he is against any form of amnesty.
Vigneulle said, “Our president doesn’t care about protecting our borders.” “We have enough laws on the books.” “I agree with Sessions.”
Sen. Beason said, “There is not anyone in the building who does not know my position on amnesty. I absolutely positively will be with Senator Sessions on this.”
Brooke said that he is opposed to amnesty and Congress should insist that this President enforce existing immigration laws.
Shattuck said that until you deal with the dysfunctional Congress you can’t deal with the immigration issue.
Will Brooke said that our Founding Father never intended to have a governing class controlled by party elites in Washington. He said that his recent commercial. “Tearing up a copy of Obamacare in a wood chipped was a lot of fun.”
Palmer said that this is about more than public policy ideas, it is about people and families. “We still have an opportunity to get this nation on the right track but that window is closing.” Palmer said that he has a national network I know what to do.
Dr. Mathis said that he would be working with doctors in Congress on repealing and replacing Obamacare and that he had just released a 12 point plan to do just that. Mathis vowed that he will fight for them.
DeMarco said, “I am proud to say I lived here my whole life. I was married in the church I was baptized in.” DeMarco said that he, “Will take Alabama values to Washington DC. I will not take Washington values back to Alabama.” Rep. DeMarco said that he is responsive and works hard.
Sen. Beason said that everybody here wants the same things. “The country can have a renaissance.”
Beason said that he is the candidate who will do the best job for you. “I have that record.”
Vigneulle said that we can’t keep doing what we have been doing and sending the same kinds of folks to Washington.
Vigneulle asked, “Do you like the federal government looking over your shoulders? I am looking for what bills we can eliminate. I want to return power back to the people.”
On foreign policy:
DeMarco said, “We have lost our prestige under our president. We have got to regain that.
Mathis said, “This president has failed us.” He has failed us in Iran, in Libya, in Benghazi, in the Crimea.
Beason said, “We need to put our best foot forward.”
Palmer blamed Obama for putting Putin in the position to threaten Russia’s neighbors.
Brooke said that we need to be forging partnerships around the world especially in Southeast Asia.
On a Defense of Marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Beason said that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. “I would do anything I can to defend those traditional American values.”
Palmer said the definition of marriage pre-exists government and warned that the rights of every Christian in America is under assault.
Mathis said we don’t need an amendment to the Constitution on marriage.
Vigneulle said, “I am afraid we do have to pass a constitutional amendment.”
DeMarco said he would support that amendment.
Leland Whaley asked what Congress can do about an out of control executive branch.
DeMarco said that first you have to send the right people to Congress. He favored a conservative fiscal approach.
Beason said that past Congresses trusted the executive branch too much so gave regulatory authority to the President. Congress now has to begin to pull back the regulatory powers of the executive branch.
Palmer said that Congress keeps passing laws that are not laws but are delegations of authority to the executive branch. That was a mistake and needs to change.
Shattuck said that the problems is due to a dysfunctional Congress.
Will Brooke said that the Congress needs to abolish several government agencies beginning with the Department of Education, investigate overreaches of the President, and indict Lois Learner for contempt of Congress.
Mathis said that Congress needs to reign in the executive branch with the power of the purse. Mathis said that Congress should shut down the department of education. That needs to be brought back to the states.
Vignuelle said, “I will be a vote to replace Boehner as Speaker. “We have the majority we need to have Republicans who will take a stand against this President and his unconstitutional stands.
The Debate was held at Samford University and was sponsored by the Jefferson County Republican Party and the Samford University Republicans.
This was the first televised debate and was aired on NBC Channel 13 WVTM in Birmingham.
Mike Royer said that there are over 419,000 registered voters in the Sixth District as a whole
The Republican Primary is June 3rd and the General Election is November 4th.