HASBAT Congressional Forum

The Huntsville Association of Small Businesses in Advanced Technology (HASBAT) hosted a Congressional Forum today featuring Republican Mo Brooks and Democrat Steve Raby.   The Forum was attended by more than 80 local business people and covered by the news media including Dale Jackson of WVNN,  Challen Stephens of The Huntsville Times, and Trang Do of  WAFF.  In addition, I had the pleasure of meeting ‘mooncat’ of Left in Alabama – she got the forum on video and I hope she posts it – I can’t wait to see their comments…

The following is a summary of the forum which I hope gives you, our dear readers, insight into the candidate’s position on issues.

OPENING STATEMENTS:
Brooks (R) = “facing a grave set of challenges”; “socialism versus free enterprise”; “balanced budget Constitutional Amendment”
Raby (D) = “don’t like the direction of our country… or what is going on in Washington”; “problem-solving standpoint”; “I believe in capitalism”; “reduce budget deficits”; “independent-minded”

QUESTION 1 = Jobs: what can the federal government do to create jobs in the private sector?
Brooks (R) = private sector funds government; extend Bush tax cuts; get Feds “out of the way”; “fewer taxes, less regulation”; “fair trade, not free trade” example China currency manipulation; “free the entrepreneur”
Raby (D) = we have “economic instability”; businesses are sitting on cash waiting on tax policy; Constitutional requirement for defense so “no one in this town should have to apologize for working for the government”; coordinate State / Federal economic development efforts

QUESTION 2 = Taxes: do you favor extending the Bush tax cuts and regulatory relief?
Raby (D) = most regulations are drafted with good intentions but twisted by administrators; “stabilize tax policy”
Brooks (R) = “this is a defining difference between me and my opponent”;  for extending Bush tax cuts; “you know what you’re going to get” if you vote for me

QUESTION 3 = Economy: unsustainable national debt?
Brooks (R) = “two years ago, Steve contributed $2,000 to my campaign” [each candidate praised the other - they're old friends];  “46% of operating expenses is borrowed money”;  can’t keep borrowing from children;  balanced budget except for crisis or war
Raby (D) = “I agree with Mo”; “greatest threat to our economy is continued deficit spending”; “for balanced budget amendment… except for capital projects like highways…”;  the $2000 contribution to Mo ”wasn’t the first time”; bipartisan; “I’ve given $48,000 to Republicans”; “going to take a centrist approach”

QUESTION 4 = Do you support Obamacare? 
Raby (D) = “No, I do not”; “wasn’t done in a transparent way”; hospitals say it will increase costs; Doctors won’t accept patients; “pre-existing conditions should be dealt with”; Medicare Part D doughnut hole should be dealt with; individual mandate “will not work”
Brooks (R) = “the issue is cost”; “socialized medicine is the end game for these people [Democrats]; “interstate competition”; “tort reform”; eliminate hospital Certificate of Need requirements; take legal bills out of health care costs; illegal aliens add costs; “a strong economy empowers us to pay for the health care we need”

QUESTION 5 = Defense: do you favor a “phased adaptive approach” to missile defense? [the guy who wrote the question later said he wished the question had been clearer]
Brooks (R) = overall the economy allows us to pay for defense;  “fed is taking $2.7 trillion out of capital markets, denying it to business”
Raby (D) = Constitutional requirement for defense; ”move money to R&D”; “prepare for the next war”

QUESTION 6 = Illegal immigration?
Raby (D) = “gather information”; “federal responsibility”; secure Southwest border and ports of entry;  focus on employers e-verify
Brooks (R) = “Thank Arizona”; secure borders; e-verify; make it expensive for employers to hire illegals

CLOSING STATEMENTS:
Raby (D) = “I’m on team Tennessee Valley”; “I don’t want to be grouped with these folks” [specifically trial lawyers but in the context of the Democratic team]; “the other team” pledged not to accept earmarks so Redstone Arsenal got $0 for Military Construction while Bobby Bright (D – AL02) got money for military bases in his district; “I’m not part of a political team”
Brooks (R) = politicans choose ideology (team); first vote in the House is for the Speaker of the House, it’s for a team; “bipartisan when it comes to mutual agreement”

***

Politics is a ‘team’ effort.  This is displayed by the very first vote each Representative casts for Speaker of the House.  Do you want two more years of Nancy Pelosi?

I thought that Mo Brooks did a great job.  Brooks was passionate and noted (often) that he has a record of fiscal leadership.  The only question he didn’t directly address was the missile defense question (it was too much inside baseball), but he gave a good answer.  Disclosure – Mo was a contributor here until the contested GOP primary and I have a ‘Brooks for Congress’ bumper sticker and yard sign.

I’m trying to figure out Steve Raby – I know many people who like him and I can see that.  Raby seems to be running away from the national Democratic Party (can’t fault him for that) – he said the word “independent” several times.  Raby dodged the Bush tax cut extension question, which was obvious to the crowd of small business people who will see their taxes rise on January 1.  I don’t doubt his concern for the Tennessee Valley.

I made the offer to Raby’s Finance Director that if they send us press releases, campaign event notices, or opinion pieces that we will post it.

***

Lisa Williams attended the forum with her husband State Representative Phil Williams (R – 6).   Lisa is one of my 10 year old niece’s favorite people – they met at a GOP breakfast – Lisa was very sweet and patient with her.

Thanks to HASBAT for a nice lunch and a great event!

Huntsville Tea Party AL05 surveys

The Huntsville Tea Party posted questionnaire responses from Mo Brooks, Parker Griffith, and Les Phillip.  The questions include:

1. Why are you running for office?
2. Is it better to have individual or collective rights?  Why?
3. What is the role of our federal government?
4. Does Congress have few and defined powers, or numerous and indefinite?  What powers will you have as a lawmaker in Washington DC, if you are elected? 
5. Will you vote for or support any bills that are not derived from a specific power granted in the US Constitution?
6.  Will you champion an effort to repeal passed legislation that is unconstitutional (i.e., federal bailouts, legislation that gives the federal government more control over our health care)?  Do you have a specific plan of action for repealing this type of legislation, and, if so, what is it?
7. Do you agree with the following quote?  “With respect to the two words ‘general welfare’, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them.  To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators”.  How do you interpret the general welfare clause (Article 1, section 8.1)?
8.  How do you interpret the commerce clause (Article 1, section 8.3)?
9.  What are your solutions for job growth in Alabama?
10.  What do you see as the proper balance between what the Federal government should do and what should be left to the states?
11. What will you do to balance the United States’ budget?
12.  What will you do to protect our borders and eliminate illegal immigration into our country?
13. What will you do to help America become energy-independent?
14. Will you commit to meeting with the Huntsville Tea Party for a town hall with your constituents during your first year, if elected?
15.  Candidate-specific questions…

Great questions with informative responses!  The Tea Party interjects comments after some of the responses – the whole set makes for interesting reading.

Madison County GOP Breakfast – 1/16/2010

Congressman Parker Griffith (R) attended the Madison County Republican breakfast this morning, creating quite a buzz.  Griffith’s welcome ranged from warm hugs and handshakes to curiosity to silent disapproval.  The leadership didn’t exactly embrace Griffith – they didn’t seat him at the head table as might be expected for a sitting Congressman of your party.

I introduced myself to Griffith, telling him that I wasn’t sure if he’d show up to one of our meetings and that I respected him for attending.  Griffith said that he’d heard of Flashpoint (unsurprising since we covered the Huntsville Hospital documents pretty extensively during the last campaign).  I made Griffith the same offer that I made to the Artur Davis (D) campaign; we’ll post event notifications or issue papers sent to us from his campaign.  I hope Griffith takes us up on the offer.

The GOP breakfast was packed with more than 300 people.  You can really tell that the campaign season has started - lots of officials and candidates. In addition to Griffith, AL05 Congressional candidates Mo Brooks and Les Phillip attended (Les is probably so looking forward to reading “The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire” – he and I – and Mo – share a love of history).  Attendees included: State Representatives Phil Williams (6), Mike Ball (10) and Howard Sanderford (20); House 20 candidate David Pinkleton; Senate 9 candidates Tony Cochran, Clay Scofield, Don Spurlin, and John Wilson; State Board of Education candidate Mary Scott Hunter; Sheriff Blake Dorning; Judges Dick Richardson and Dennis O’Dell; DA Rob Broussard; Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong; HSV Councilman Mark Russell; HSV Board of Education member Jennie Robinson; Madison Councilman Tim Cowles; and Madison County Board of Education candidate David Vess.  Forgive me if I left anyone off the list.

Talk radio superstar Dale Jackson of WVNN attended the breakfast. 

John McMillan, candidate for Agriculture and Industries Commissioner, deserves a special mention.  McMillan was endorsed by 26 Republican legislators – which is unusual for a primary and speaks to the respect McMillan has gained through years of public service.

***

The meeting featured speeches by the candidates for State Senate 9 (South Huntsville, Marshall County, and part of Blount County).  We are blessed to have such fine people running to replace incumbent Senator Hinton Mitchem (D).  Here are excerpts from their speeches (keep in mind it’s tough for me to eat and write at the same time):

Tony Cochran – if elected, he will be the only CPA in the legislature, which he says will benefit the budget process. “Democrats are bankrupting the State of Alabama”.  Supports Charter Schools.  Prevent AEA executives from participating in State retirement plan.  Rolling reserve budget system (Canfield).  Pro-life.  Pro-gun.  Illegal immigration – TN trains 10% of its troopers to be ICE officers.

Clay Scofield – this is “the year of the conservative”.  Pro-life. Pro-Second Amendment. Ethics – “we have to create an environment where being a legislator is unprofitable”. Tell Hubbard NO; “40% of the eductaion budget is spent in the boardroon and not in the classroom”. “Take care of home-grown businesses”.  Note that Clay is a young man, someone at my table who didn’t know him said he was “pretty impressive”.

Don Spurlin – “Small Government, low taxes, Constitution, pro-family, pro-life”.  Education – “focus on the classroon”, math and reading initiative.  “I believe in the ABC’s, not the AEA’s”.  Economy – “Provide what employer’s need: trained workforce, industry-ready worksites, infrastructure”.  Marshall County is impacted more by illegal immigration than any other County in the State.  Don noted that Governor Riley praised the Alabama DHR for a record number of adoptions in the State of the State address. Spurlin praised the Marshall County DHR who also had a record number of adoptions.

John Wilson – “Lifelong conservative Republican”. Wilson noted that Sen. Hinton Mitchem was a “no-show” at the Madison County Legislative Delegation’s forum.  PACT – the State has a “moral obligation to honor the contract”.  Support gas tax pledge. Illegal immigration – supports E-Verify and suspending business licenses of employers who don’t make a good faith effort to comply.  “John Wilson reporting for duty”.