The candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) after the May 20 primary were given a few minutes to give their best sales pitch to the large crowd that turned out to the event.
Gingrey is leaving the seat to run for U.S. Senate. The seat covers all of Cherokee and Bartow counties, along with parts of Atlanta and Cobb.
Former Congressman Bob Barr of Smyrna was the first up and told the audience he wanted to head back to Washington to fight the “enemies.”
“What differentiates me is I have been there on your behalf; I have fought the liberals, I have defeated them, we balanced the budget, we cut taxes,” Barr said. “It can be done.”
Allan Levene, a Kennesaw resident who is also running for congressional seats in Michigan and Hawaii, said he was the only candidate with real solutions to fix Washington.
“No other candidate talks about what they want to do and exactly how they want to do it; they have pictures of their families smiling — on their websites — with a big donation box,” said Levene, a native of Britain and naturalized citizen.
Like Barr, state Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead) also spoke of his experience and accomplishments in office.
“I am a Georgia conservative who gets the job done,” Lindsey said, citing his years of experience in the state House. In his time in the House, Lindsey said he had fought for a school choice amendment, immigration reform and stood against the Affordable Care Act.
Former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) made his appeal for the voters to choose him to fight an erosion of American values in Washington.
“This is the most critical election in the history of our nation,” he said, adding that he was running for the sake of returning his country to the one he knew as a child, for the sake of the next generation. “You’ve got a difficult decision. You will go and stand for those principles, those values that we hold dear in America.”
Col. Larry Mrozinski, U.S. Army retired, who is the only Cherokee resident in the race, said he was running as a candidate for the people, not as a career politician.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the era of the career politician is over on May 20,” said Mrozinski, a Woodstock resident. “I stand before you to make change. This is our time.”
Tricia Pridemore of Marietta, former executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, said she wanted to work for the district to protect the opportunities that make America great.
“I’m a third-generation small business owner, and I’m running for Congress so we all together can preserve this American dream,” she said, adding her successes were only possible in America.
Unfunded mandates, national debt
During the candidates’ time before the crowd, they were asked how they would attack reducing the trillions of dollars in unfunded mandates dogging the U.S. economy.
Barr said his tact would be the same as with the nearly $17 trillion in ballooning national debt.
“It’s all debt, and what we need to do is what we did when I served in the House on your behalf previously, and that’s is to stop a rouge president in his tracks by not passing a single one of his spending bills,” the former congressman said.
Levene said America needed to grow its economy and get rid of federal corporate taxes, which he said are out of line with other countries, and keeping foreign companies from investing in this country.
Lindsey agreed with Barr and Levene’s points.
“We have to do two things: No. 1, we have to return a balanced budget,” the Buckhead representative said. “No. 2, we must grow our economy. That’s the only way we’re ever going to pay off this debt.”
For Loudermilk, it’s about cutting spending and reducing regulations to stimulate the economy.
“Get government out of our lives, get government out of our pocket, get government out of our businesses,” he said.
Like the others, Loudermilk said the national debt is out of control. “If you were to go back to the birth of Christ and every 60 seconds put away $16,000 … you still wouldn’t have $18 trillion dollars,” he said.
Mrozinski told the crowd he had the answers to attacking debt.
“No more increase in the debt ceiling,” he said, adding: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have to use the fair tax. I’m telling you, that is the only way.”
Pridemore said she wanted to help revamp the government like she did with the governor’s workforce development office, by cutting costs and increasing efficiency.
“Unfunded mandates are only part of the problem,” she added. “It’s time for us to take away that never-ending checkbook we’ve given to the White House.”
The candidates were also asked if they’d accept the sometimes controversial congressional retirement plan, a topic Mrozinski had already brought up.
He said would absolutely not take the retirement plan. He said the average congressman gets $57,000 in pension, and budget cuts should start with him. He challenged his opponents to make the same gesture.
“I want to serve — I don’t want congressional pay,” Mrozinski said.
Barr said he would take the plan — which he called misunderstood — because Congress members pay into it.
“This is just political talk, political nonsense,” he said.
Loudermilk said he didn’t even know the details of the plan, because he wasn’t running for the money, but if congressmen pay into it, they should get their money back.
“The colonel here retired from military,” he said. “I’m sure he’s got a military pension that he’s living on.”
Levene said he’d take it as well.
“The answer is ‘Yes,’” he said. “I think you need to check out each candidate and see who has been already working for the federal government in one capacity or another and already has a pension.”
Lindsey said the plan needed reform.
“The problem with the pension isn’t that congressmen receive it — it’s that they get a better deal than just about anybody else,” he said.
Pridemore said she would take the plan, “but as your (congresswoman), I’ll work seven days a week, 24 hours a day to earn it.”