By Brittini Ray and Kyla Ross
More than a thousand people, a mixture of officials, students, and residents, convened at Kennesaw State University’s Bailey Performance Center to watch the GAGOP’s U.S. Senate debate Feb. 1.
“I want to welcome you all,” John Padgett, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said.
“Were excited about the quality and diversity of candidates vying to replace Sen. Saxby Chambliss. This debate provides voters with a wonderful opportunity to interact with the candidates.”
Candidates for the Republican nomination included Rep. Paul Broun, Art Gardner, Rep. Phil Gingrey, Derrick Grayson, former secretary of state Karen Handel, Rep. Jack Kingston, David Perdue and Eugene Yu.
Zpolitics editor in chief Martha Zoller moderated the debate and introduced panelists Dr. Kerwin Stint, a KSU political science professor, and AJC columnist Kyle Wingfield.
Each candidate introduced themselves in opening statements followed by questions from panelists, Dr. Kerwin Swint of KSU and Kyle Wingfield of the AJC.
“I am living the American Dream. Here I am running for U.S. senator. This is what I call the American dream,” Yu said.
The debate questions covered a wide variety of issues, ranging from foreign policy to the recent snowstorm that crippled Georgia and the surrounding states.
“It takes more than tough talk and a loud voice to make the right choices on foreign policy,” Gardner said. “Just yelling out slogans is not the answer. I’m pro-defense. But that doesn’t mean we have to be pro-war all the time. Not every war is one that should be fought. And having the wisdom to know which is the one to fight, and which is one to avoid, calls for careful thought.”
In the eye of tonight’s political hurricane stood Obamacare and the support for repealing the law.
“My concern is we need to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a market-driven mechanism that is patient centered; one that makes healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone,” Kingston said.
The tone of the debate was tougher and closer to defining each of those running.
Candidates also addressed initiatives and promises made during President Obama’s annual state of the union address, including the president’s “myRa” plan.
“Are you going to trust this guy especially when he calls it myRA?”Gingrey said. “Do we not already have an IRA? Do we not already have a Roth IRA? Do we not already have a 401K?”
Considering recent inclement weather, debate candidates discussed Rep. Tom Grave’s proposal to delegate the federal gas tax to states to address transportation concerns.
“Anything that takes power away from the government and returns it the states, of course I’ll support that,” Grayson said.
Candidates delivered closing statements as a final campaign effort.
“We have three congressmen up here that want a promotion to the Senate,” Handel said. “Do any of them deserve a promotion? No.”
In closing, Zoller told the crowd, “One of these people on this stage will be your nominee for the United States Senate. After the runoff, they will be bruised, battered and broke. We need to unite behind that nominee in Georgia and Republican nominees around the country.”