GAINESVILLE — In a crowded field, five men with varying backgrounds are vying for the right to continue the Republican hold on the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The district includes north Forsyth and some or all of 19 other counties. South Forsyth is in District 7.
Personalities may be different, but the positions of the District 9 candidates fall along similar lines on several key issues.
Still, incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and challengers Paul Broun, Roger Fitzpatrick, Bernie Fontaine and Mike Scupin hope to carve out their niche among voters in the May 24 primary. Early voting began May 2.
And there are many issues to chew on, as the candidates did in an April 9 debate at the Hall County GOP headquarters and are set to do in a town hall meeting Monday at the Brenau Downtown Center.
Here’s how they stand on a few key issues.
All the candidates agree the current tax system needs serious work.
Broun describes himself as an ardent supporter of a national retail sales tax, or FairTax, and that he co-sponsored legislation while in Congress previously serving Georgia’s 10th District.
“The federal government does not have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem,” Broun said. “We have to stop out-of-control spending that both political parties have been engaged in.”
Collins likewise supports the FairTax, saying he also has co-sponsored legislation and that the issue is in the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to address tax reform and look at different structures,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a new administration that will be open to looking at a complete tax package reform.
Fitzpatrick said the country’s tax system must be fixed.
“The fair tax is a very viable system and it does not penalize your work ethic,” he said. “The taxes you choose to pay are because you choose to consume something.
“There’s something built into the system to help those [with lower incomes], taking into account the poverty level.”
Fontaine said talk about getting rid of the IRS “is an easy political slogan, but we need to have something ready to take its place that’s doable.”
The FairTax concept “is great, but doing it is another thing,” he said. “What about the states that don’t have a sales tax? ... There’s not a simple solution.”
Scupin said he believes the nation “really has got to get away from the Internal Revenue Service and the way it functions.”
“They simply have too much power over the citizens and that was something never intended by our founders,” he said.
“We need a different system where a man can’t be penalized for the tax burden.”
All agree change is needed to enforce immigration.
“Until we [secure U.S. borders], nothing else matters,” Broun said. “It’s a national security issue. We have four presidents — two Republicans and two Democrats — who have refused to uphold the laws on the books.
“I want to put troops on the northern and southern borders, and we have to start enforcing laws that are on the books.”
Collins said “we need a safe, legal means of immigration. Right now that system is broken.”
He has sponsored a bill that would “cut off tax [income credits] for those here illegally.”
Also, “we’ve sponsored and co-sponsored legislation that redoes our entire [Syrian] refugee situation and puts Congress back in control of that.”
Fitzpatrick said the U.S. needs to follow laws it has set on immigration.
Also, “how many people favoring open borders would leave the doors to their home unlocked at night? Right now, with our southern border being so porous, anyone can come through Mexico into the U.S. and we wouldn’t be able to stop them.”
Fontaine said he would like to see more enforcement of immigration laws “at the employer level and on people crossing the border.”
“I feel like the border patrol would do their job if they were allowed to do it,” he said.
Also, “an adequate system of vetting” Syrian refugees needs to be in place.
Scupin said he believes whatever is done to stem the flow of illegal immigrants “has to be a permanent situation.
“If it’s not, you’re going to end up with one president saying, ‘We’re not going to enforce [laws] now,’” he said. “So, I don’t see how you get around something like a wall to make every president enforce it.”
Much of the candidates’ concerns centered around the Islamic State’s military roll through the Middle East.
“We should not put boots on the ground,” Broun said. “We just need to help support our allies in the Middle East to make sure [the Islamic State] exists no longer.
“We have to kill this threat to America. The Obama Administration is not doing so. They’re dropping leaflets on them instead of bombs.”
Collins said that while some U.S. troops are in the region, “we need to increase that, but not by ourselves.”
“We need to be arming the Kurds. They are there wanting to fight and protect their lands. We also need other countries in that region to step up and fight as well.”
Fitzpatrick said he believes the U.S. should examine whether “we have the capability to go into every county where there is a hot-button issue.”
“I don’t believe America is supposed to be the police force for the world,” he said. “I think we need to seriously look at where we send our armed forces.”
Fontaine said he believes the country should “turn the military back over to the military and let them do their job.”
He said he would ask the next president to offer generals “forced out by Obama the opportunity to return. I think those officers know the problems ... and they would take care of the problems.”
Scupin said the U.S. “is helping to fund” the Islamic State.
“We’ve been supplying these people with arms, trying to unseat legitimate governments, and that’s not a function of our government under our Constitution. We don’t have any business doing that.
“We’ve got a real problem with this current administration and the direction [it’s] going with this foreign policy.”