By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, May 15 the seven candidates in Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District all participated in a forum hosted by 60-Plus and the Rainy Day Patriots at Hoover Tactical Firearms (HTF). An estimated 215 people crowded into the meeting room at the firearms store and gun range.
Gene Smith, the owner of Hoover Tactical Firearms, told the crowd before the candidates spoke that Alabama is an open carry state and so is the HTF; but if anybody touches their weapon during the forum they would be escorted out of the building.
The forum was moderated by Apryl Marie Fogel who is the state coordinator for 60-Plus (a group for conservative seniors who oppose the liberal policy positions of the AARP). The Legislative Director of the Alabama Legislative Watchdogs, Ann Eubanks, said, “I am so glad that you are here tonight this astonishes me.”
Coordinator Fogel said, “We were not prepared for this large a turnout.” “I hope we will now see your faces in Montgomery holding our legislators accountable.” Fogel said, “We need to leave our nation stronger for future generations.” “Every man up here (referring to the candidates) is a strong conservative we want to now see the differences.”
State Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale said that he has term limited myself in the Alabama House, in the Alabama Senate, and now he is asking to move up to Congress. Beason said he has been married to his wife, Lori, over 20 years. President Obama (D) promised to fundamentally transform the nation and he meant that and we need a Congress that will stand up to the President. Beason aske voters to look at his record: “I have carried the ball on many issues,” in Montgomery and will do the same if elected to Congress.
Retired attorney Rob Shattuck said that the other six candidates say very different things than I do.
“Congress is caput.” “I don’t have any expectation of Congress doing anything.” Shattuck warned that the nation faces a stark choice. Average Republicans, average Democrats, and average independents have a common enemy and that is the political class in Washington D.C. They keep the electorate divided. Their ace in the hole for preserving their positions is they think that average Republicans, average Democrats, and average independents won’t unite. Longtime Alabama Policy Institute President and co-founder Gary Palmer said, “I have worked for 24 years in public policy.” “Our enemy is not Obama. Our enemy is an ever encroaching federal government.” We can not fix the government from the top down. It has to come from the bottom up. This campaign is not so much about who will get elected to Congress as it about America’s renewal.
State Representative Paul DeMarco (R) from Homewood said I have lived here my entire life and will continue to live here if elected to Congress. I am married to my wife Jacqueline and we are the parents of a one week old, Jack. I was born here I was raised here. I have a plot in Elmwood Cemetery. The Sixth District needs a Congressman who will bring Alabama values to Washington not bring Washington values to Alabama.
DeMarco said that recent revelations about the VA hospitals refusing to see veterans who later died from their untreated illness, “Is wrong, it is disgraceful. If you are going to treat our service men and women like that, what are they going to do to the rest of us?”
Attorney and longtime Harbert executive Will Brooke said that the choice voters have is an extraordinarily important one. “The Constitution gives us the right to have a revolution every two years.” Your participation is very important. I am here with my wife, Maggie. All three of our children have full time jobs and their own houses.
We need to elect people of courage. Our rights and privileges are granted to us by the Constitution. Pick wisely the people you choose to send to Washington D.C.
Tom Vigneulle said, “I am the guy with the weird name.” “If we keep doing the same things the same way we are going to continue to get the same results.” We need to change the kind of people that we send to Washington D.C. “The House of Representatives was designed to be run by citizen legislators.” If elected, “I will do that with honor. I will do that with integrity. I will not embarrass you.”
Vigneulle announced his commitment to having town hall meetings regularly if he is elected to represent the Sixth District. My dad was pastor at Shades Mountain Independent Baptist Church and I am the President of Royal Bedding Manufacturing in Pelham.
Orthopedist Dr. Chad Mathis said that he is running, “Because I am living the American dream.” I paid for my college education working in a factory with my dad. My wife, Angie, helped me get through medical school, build a wonderful life and a successful practice. Some say that dream is not real anymore. That dream is being threatened by the national debt and by Obamacare.
Dr. Mathis said, “I have never run for office before and I am not a politician. I am just a doctor, a dad and a husband willing to give that practice up to go to Washington to represent you.”
Ms. Fogel said that all the candidates are for repealing and replacing Obamacare, but asked what about Obamacare would they keep and what would the candidates replace Obamacare with.
Scott Beason said, “We are all opposed to Obamacare.” “If there is a good thing it has to do with preexisting conditions.” Beason said that he felt that healthcare reform should be done at the state level and that parts of Obamacare are unconstitutional. One of the problems with Obamacare is that it has no regard for market forces. We need to instill market forces and incentivize consumers to shop for more affordable care. This can be done through Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
Rob Shattuck agreed with Beason on eliminating preexisting conditions and said there should be some mechanism for controlling healthcare costs. Shattuck warned, “From 2001 to 2007 Republicans were in charge and they failed to fix healthcare. Congress is caput so is not capable of doing anything.”
Gary Palmer said that the solution is to put you back in charge of your healthcare. Millions of people stay in jobs they don’t like because they have to keep their healthcare coverage. We need to make health insurance portable, provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, create a safety net and provide choices so you can get a plan you can afford.
Paul Demarco also supports eliminating pre-existing conditions. When we repeal the law and replace DeMarco favors medical malpractice reform and making health insurance portable.
Will Brooke said Obamacare is like killing a gnat with a sledge hammer. It takes control of over 20 percent of the economy. The federal government is trying to lure us into a web of dependency. Brooke supports a private market based solution, covering people with pre-existing conditions, and patient centered health care. “All those things can be done with targeted legislation. There was no need for this overarching plan.” We can’t afford it.
Tom Vigneulle said, “I have lived this bill. My coverage went up from $625 to $1485 a month,” within the last year. In this campaign I have knocked on small business door after small business door and Obamacare is making a lot of small business owners thinking about going out of business or about letting employees or employee coverage go.
Dr. Chad Mathis said, “As a physician I deal with this every day.” Mathis said he met a little girl recently who lost her coverage due to Obamacare forcing her on to Medicaid. Many doctors won’t take Medicaid patients. Dr. Mathis treated her, but there are many peoples like that little girl.
Dr. Mathis said that part of his plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare is health savings account (HSA) expansion. Mathis favors: high risk pools, making health care insurance tax deductible, and making insurance portable.
Ms. Fogel asked the candidates about what Committees they wanted to be assigned to in Congress.
Shattuck said that he hasn’t worried about committee assignments, because he has a plan to fix Congress. “I am trying to take action before Congress convenes,” to start a voter uprising to demand that Congress reform itself. “I have a single mission in mind.”
Palmer said, “The Budget Committee because Republicans are going to win the Senate and Jeff Sessions will Chair the Senate Budget Committee.” Palmer said that if a government agency is unconstitutional, unnecessary, is better handled at the state level (like Medicaid and Education), or is ineffective in its mission we are going to eliminate it.
He also likes Energy, because we need to develop America’s energy resources to get the economy moving again. There are three trillion barrels of recoverable oil out west in one formation alone. That is more oil than the world has used in the last hundred years and we need to develop those resources.
DeMarco said, Government Oversight. Look at what is going on at the VA. IRS employees who had not paid their own taxes got bonuses. He also would like to be on the Energy Committee. Some of the policies coming out of Washington will not work for the Sixth District. “We can’t put a wind mill on top of Red Mountain.”
Brooke said, budget. We have a fight to make Washington cut spending. Brooke said if elected there are three bills that he would sign immediately: Congress may pass not bill that affects it differently than the rest of America, term limits for members of Congress, and no lobbying after your time in Congress is finished. People should not be going to Congress to get rich.
Vigneulle said Agriculture and anything having to do with a regulatory agency. Regulations are killing business in this country. There is a tidal wave of regulations that are destroying small business. Congress needs to put regulations back under the Congress. Vigneulle also favors the Fair Tax.
Mathis said that as a doctor he would want to be fast tracked to a committee with responsibilities for healthcare. Mathis would also be interested in serving on Energy, Commerce, or Ways and Means. Passing HSAs with employer contributions like a 401k would be one of his first legislative priorities.
Beason said that his opponents have fantastic answers. My first choice is education workforce and labor so I can deal with this whole Common Core issue. We need to make education policy non-existent coming from the federal government.
Beason said that the Fair tax is the way to go.
Palmer said that the federal government is already forbidden by the Constitution from dictating education policy to the states. Common core is all about money. Palmer said you can stop Common Core by not incentivizing states to implement it.
Beason said, “What the law says and what the Obama Administration does are two different things.” If there is money for implementing Common Core it will be used to addict the states and you will never get rid of it.
DeMarco support a balanced budget amendment. We have got to have a balanced budget amendment.
Palmer said that 34 states have already taken up a call for a convention of states to pass a balanced budget amendment. Louisiana and Florida both passed it but have since rescinded their motion, will those count?
Shattuck said that he has made a proposal to ban private communications by congressional offices to limit outside influences.
Brooke said that we have got to break this system. Washington is using our grandchildren’s future to bribe us to do things like Common Core that are unconstitutional.
Ms. Fogel asked what the candidates would do about the Social Security crisis.
Palmer said that there are 3 trillion barrels of oil in one formation out west and 75 percent of it is owned by the federal government. Those royalties alone are worth $14 trillion. Develop those energy resources and set a portion of that money aside so that there will be money to honor our obligations to Americans over the age of 55.
DeMarco said that by 2026 Social Security won’t be solvent. It will take men and women of courage to solve this problem. DeMarco said he is not for more payroll taxes and favors addressing all the fraud that is in the Social Security Disability program. There are too many people who are gaming the system.
Brooke said that Congress has to go under Social Security. Brooke favors cutting out all the fraud and abuse. “We have to honor the promises made to our forebears.” Congress has used Social Security like a candy jar. Make the federal government pay back what they took from Social Security.
Vigneulle said that those are great answers. Congress borrowed $10 billion to be part of World War I and haven’t paid any of that principal back. Replacing the complex federal tax system with the Fair Tax is part of the solution.
Palmer said, “We have to honor the promises that we made to our seniors. For people in their 40s and younger raise the retirement age.” Palmer said that for younger Americans he favored switching to privatization models.
Beason liked all the other candidate’s answers. Gary is right to backstop Social Security from revenues from our energy resources. “You can’t cut that (Social Security) check.” Eliminate the fraud and abuse. “Why has this not happened in the past? Because we have congressmen and women who are afraid that they will run that ad,” accusing Congress of taking away Social Security.
Shattuck said, “Congress will not act.” “The bond markets will probably handle the debt problem.”
Ms. Fogel asked the candidates what federal programs would they cut.
DeMarco said the IRS giving bonuses. Lets start there. Abolish the Department of Education and send those dollars back to the states. Look at the other agencies. “We have a sunset provision in Alabama. We should have that same provision in Washington D.C.
Brooke said Obamacare, the Department of Education and start carving back on the EPA: “All they do is deny us freedom.” This Constitution is the guide that tells Congress what it needs to do.” We have got to send people who believe in this document and who will fight for it.
Vigneulle said, “Which program do you not want to cut?” Vigneulle said that federal regulatory agencies only purpose is to regulate you. “Every time they pass one regulation they take another bite of your freedom away.” “Change the kind of person we send to Washington.” “I never dreamed I would be sitting here running for Congress.”
Mathis said, “The Department of Education. Teachers and parents know what is best.” We have got to stop doing omnibus spending bills. Return to the budget process with the required 12 spending bills. We need a balanced budget. Tie members of Congress pay to spending. If they are over budget their pay gets cuts.
Beason said, “I am with you on that.” “The Department of Education. EPA needs to go or be greatly paired down.” “Make a big list of everything that Congress does and ask if that is Constitutional and if it is not then eliminate that.
Shattuck questioned if Congressman Ryan’s budget was meant to be a serious budget.
Palmer said that the Department of Education could be abolished. It did not exist prior to 1978. “Get rid of the Department of Energy. Fold it into the Department of Commerce.” Send Medicaid back to the state level where it will cost less and work better. “Foreign aid, we shouldn’t give a dime to countries that work against our interests.” Public television.
Ms. Fogel asked the candidates about their community involvement.
Brooke said, “I am a businessman.” I calculate that I am responsible for creating 600 jobs in the Sixth District alone. I am very proud of that. Brooke said that he is also involved with economic development and that he and his wife are involved with numerous charities including: the Boys and Girls Club, the McWayne Center, the United Way, the YWCA, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, etc. Brooke said that his leadership style has been to major on the majors, pick two items to focus on and accomplish those things.
Vigneulle said that his father was a pastor so growing up I had to be involved in everything. Vigneulle said, Save a Life, the Moral Majority, and counseling couples with infant children. Typically that is the area where problems start. I have coached basketball for years.
Mathis said, “I fix broken bones.” I have taught Sunday school and I have taught Financial Peace University.
Beason said he is active in his local Chambers of Commerce. Youth sports have been big, I am a member of Gardendale First Baptist Church. I have been a member there since I was a child. It was a small Church then. Recently we worked on flower beds at the local elementary school.
Shattuck said I have run a massive blog on how to combat plaintiffs lawyers. I have been working on that for ten years. Recently I have gotten more involved in corporate governance and ethics.
Palmer said, “I have worked since 1991 on United Way of Central Alabama.” Palmer said that he has advocated a school voucher bill. It took 22 years before the state legislature passed the Alabama Accountability Act last year. Palmer referenced Woodlawn High School in Birmingham where many poor children are trapped, Palmer said, “That is not a drop out factory that is an inmate factory.” “I fought against an elevated highway on 280 that would have been devastating to this community.”
DeMarco said that he lost his mom to cancer and has been involved in the local Cancer Society. DeMarco is an Eagle Scout and is involved with the Boy Scouts. Alabama has the strongest amount of boys involved in the Boy Scouts in the country. I also buy a lot of Girl Scout cookies.
Ms. Fogel asked the candidates for specific proposals on how to deal with federal regulatory overreach.
Vigneulle said, My specific proposal is that EPA, FDA, the consumer products agency etc. not be able to pass a regulation unless it has been passed by Congress. The FCC passed a new rule today that they will regulate the internet. They have one purpose and that is to regulate you. They have regulations on coal, concrete, and power that will affect you in a number of ways and which will cost you money. We have got to reign them in.
Mathis said that doctors are retiring or going to work for a hospital so they don’t have to deal with the red tape anymore. Mathis favors sun setting regulations so that they have a defined time period.
Beason said, “One thing we need to regulate is regulations.” Regulatory agencies should never have been given the power to make regulations. Congress should have to vote on any new regulations.
Shattuck said that average Democrats and average independents are also concerned with federal regulatory over reach. “Regulators are part of the political class.” Republicans alone can not stop them. It requires the temporary uniting of average Republicans, average Democrats, and average independents.
Palmer said that federal regulations cost Americans $15,000 per household. API’s Cameron Smith studied this issue and there are so many regulations that businesses have an inability to comply with all of them. “Everybody in business is a lawbreaker because no one knows all the regulations.”
DeMarco said that he opposes EPA setting limitations on CO2 emissions to regulate coal powered electricity plants. “The states should have that control.” DeMarco said that he is opposed to EPA’s one size fits all rules.
Brooke denounced the EPA’s desire to chase carbon wherever they can find it. There has been a 98 percent improvement in air quality over the last forty years. Brooke called the EPA a nightmare bureaucracy gone wild and warned that they will be coming after businesses and homeowners next with their new storm water runoff rules. Brooke said that to cut the head off of the snake Congress has to go after them with their budgets. “They will deny freedom to us,” without the oversight of any elected official.
Palmer said the new CO2 regulations are targeting red states like Alabama that are heavily dependent on coal.
Beason said that he is opposed to the new EPA regulations and supports clean coal.
Ms, Fogel asked the candidates (all of whom support term limits) how long should the terms be limited and what they hope to accomplish in the Congress.
Mathis said, “No more than ten years. I want to get back to living my life in Shelby County. Mathis hoped that he could bring, “True free market healthcare to our country,” and a balanced budget.
Beason said, I served 8 years in the Alabama House. Gave up a safe seat to run for the Senate challenging an incumbent. I served 8 years in the Senate. You realize that it is time to move on. We really do have some problems and if we don’t deal with them we will leave a mess for our kids. Beason hoped to make government smaller.
Shattuck said, “I have made clear my mission.” Shattuck hopes to see a voter uprising to make Congress address money in politics.
Palmer said, “Not more than five terms.” “My family would shoot me in the head,” if I tried to stay in Washington longer than that. I hope to help you get your country back and restore Constitutional Government.
DeMarco said “In the Boy Scouts you leave that campsite better than you found it.” DeMarco wants to tackle the tough issues and believes Republicans can do that with a majority in the House and a majority in the Senate and a new President.
Brooke said that Congress won’t have the power for substantial changes until after the 2016 election when there is Republican President. When that happens I have a skill set to move the ball down the field. I don’t need a job. I don’t need a career. I have had one. I won’t take a government pension. We have got to change the way Washington works.
Vigneulle said that term limits will be the first bill I will sign. He also supports Congress living under the same rules the normal people are under. Small businesses are being strangled by regulation I want to change that and I want to see the Fair Tax passed.
Beason said my plan is for my family to grow up in Gardendale. I will be available to the people of the Sixth District.
Ms. Fogel asked the candidates about how they would run their offices.
Shattuck said, “I would keep very much working for this global reform idea I would probably be looking to staff hiring staff that was very qualified allowing me to pursue what I believe,” is the most important issues facing the country.
Palmer joked, “Since Will said he doesn’t want to get paid I will save a lot of money by bringing him on.” Palmer said that there are benefits to this district to having a good office. “You get what you pay for in staff.”
DeMarco said that both Senators Sessions and Shelby have returned money back to the treasury and hopes to do the same. DeMarco vowed to be: available, accessible, and approachable. DeMarco said, “I am everywhere,” in my district.
DeMarco said that he doesn’t, to rely on, “Someone who knows how to provide constituent services because I have provided constituent services.”
Brooke said, “Spencer did a really good job with that. Constituent Services are extra-ordinarily important.” My campaign staff is very high quality and he expect to hire similarly high quality people in his congressional offices.
Economic development is also important. Joe Bonner is the model in that.
Vigneulle said that as a small businessman I have to deal with every race and every socioeconomic level. I understand what a representative is supposed to do. I will have town hall meeting so you can reach out and talk to your representative. I will be available.
Mathis said, “We are not moving to Washington. I will commute back and forth.” Mathis promised to hold town hall meetings, live in the district, and be active on social media posting about every single vote that he will make in Congress.
Will Brooke said that he will fight the good fight in Congress, but you are not sending me to hang out in the coffee shops here in the district.
Finally the candidates had closing statements:
Chad Mathis said that he and his lovely wife, Angie, have spent the past year knocking on doors. He wants to, “Bring back the citizen legislators that the founders anticipated.” Obamacare was a call to action. “We couldn’t stand on the sidelines anymore.” Mathis said that he and Angie campaign so that they can, “Tell our children that we did everything we could do to repeal Obamacare.” “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” “We can win this war against the progressive left.”
Tom Vigneulle said, “I believe that I bring a different perspective than what you typically see from someone running for Congress.” Small business is the economic engine that drives this country. There have been 3000 proposed regulations this year alone. “I will be an advocate for small business.” I have values not platforms. Those values are respect for the Constitution, respect for life, and limited government. Every bill that I sign on to will be constitutional.
Will Brooke said that he has experienced many things in his life and, “I believe those things have prepared me to serve you as your congressman.” Brooke said that he is running because he can’t fiddle while Rome burns. “If you send someone to Washington from the farm league it will be the best job they ever had and you will have to drag them home by their heels. I will fight tirelessly to actually make a difference in D.C.”
Paul DeMarco said, “We are on a precipice in this country.” We are $17.4 trillion in debt. It is not fair that our children are born with a $60,000 share of the national debt. It will take men and women of courage to fix things. Look at his track record. We need someone willing to take on not only the Democrats but members of your own party when they are wrong. Someone you know who understands your values. I ask for your vote and ask for your prayers.
Gary Palmer thanked the crowd for staying through the evening and for leaving their guns in the holster.
Palmer said, “I want you to understand that we really have a rendezvous with destiny. We have a limited opportunity to turn this country around and it is closing.
Scott Beason said, We all know the challenges that we face. We have a great opportunity. Each and every one of you get to pick a congressman who can go out to the other districts and speak out about what needs to be done. You can elect a Congressman who can be a warrior with a warrior spirit with the courage to fight members of both parties in Congress without fear of the liberal media and liberal press. “I am asking you who will really take those stands. I ask for your vote and I ask for your prayers.”
The Republican Primary is June 3.