GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Incumbent 9th District U.S. Congressman Doug Collins faced off against four Republican challengers in a mostly civil, but occasionally heated and even emotional candidate forum hosted by the Hall County Republican Party Saturday morning.
A standing room only crowd listened as former 10th District Congressman Paul Broun, Lanier Tea Party Patriots Founder Mike Scupin, retired White County educator Roger Fitzpatrick retired U.S. Army and National Guard Brigadier General Bernie Fontaine and Collins fielded questions ranging from taxes to the budget to foreign intervention and illegal immigration.
Some Republicans and many Tea Party members have been angered by Collins’ vote for President Barack Obama’s Omnibus bill, which they point out funds Planned Parenthood, amnesty and the Syrian refugee replacement program. Saturday, he stood alone in defending that vote.
“There were things in it I didn’t like.” he said. “But it was preferable to a continuing resolution. The difference is the continuing resolution maintains spending from the prior year with no changes allowed. The Omnibus bill actually allows for some cuts.”
Broun said, “I have never voted for an Omnibus bill and I never will. There was no reason to vote for that bill.”
Scupin said, “I would never vote for an Omnibus bill either. They are ill-conceived. They allow everyone to put something in there and invariable they are unconstitutional.”
Fitzpatrick said he would not vote for an Omnibus bill. “There is too much in there and they don’t let you vote on the merits of the bill,” he said.
“Get rid of the Omnibus spending bill and get back to reality,” Fontaine added.
Broun drew loud applause from the audience when he said he wants to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “The EPA has been a tremendous threat to jobs and industry in this country,” he said. “I was disappointed when I read in the Gainesville Times that the EPA would not fund Glades Reservoir, a multi million dollar
capital improvement project in Hall County.
A question about sending American troops into harm’s way, drew an emotional response from Fontaine, a Viet Nam veteran with 30 years of military experience. The Suches resident was moved to tears in saying he could not support an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) in Syria.
“Not under the current Commander in Chief,” he said, his voice breaking. “We need a Commander in Chief that will listen to our military leaders. We need to take this a lot more seriously and if we’re going to go to war, we need to go all out. I said that in 1961 in Viet Nam when I went up for my first promotion and I haven’t changed my mind.”
Moderator Joe Shubert spent more than five minutes grilling Broun on the conduct of his former Chief of Staff David G. Bowser, who this week was named in a federal indictment charging him with misappropriation of taxpayer funds during Broun’s 2008 campaign.
“To make any allegation that I misused taxpayer money is absolutely false,” Broun said. “If I was deficient in my budget then I would have had to pay it out of my own pocket which I never did. I actually returned money back to the federal government every single year.”
After the forum, Broun’s campaign manager Ryan Neel said he felt Shubert was badgering his client by asking question after question, something he did not do with any other candidate.
Despite that, he was pleased with his candidate’s performance.
“I thought he did really well,” he said. “We were able to shine a light on things that have been overlooked, especially Collins’ vote for the Omnibus bill.”
Collins said he thought the forum went well. “I’m never afraid to get in front of the people and tell the truth.” He also said he gave a good accounting of his vote for the Omnibus bill saying, “11 of 12 Georgians voted for the bill.”
Hank Sullivan, Scupin’s campaign manager declared victory for his candidate. “Mike killed them,” he said. “Look at the applause he got from people that really don’t know him. He did a great job of telling people the truth and being honest with the people.”