A Forsyth County gathering heard Thursday night from the candidates for the District 7 and 9 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The roundtable discussion featured District 9 hopefuls Republican Doug Collins and Democrat Jody Cooley, both of Hall County, as well as District 7 incumbent Rob Woodall, a Republican, and challenger Steve Reilly, a Democrat.
The men fielded questions from the Forsyth County Tea Party Patriot Alliance, which organized the event at the county administration building, and audience members.
District 7 includes north Forsyth and parts or all of many other northeast Georgia counties, including Hall. The southern half of Forsyth is in District 7.
The candidates differed on several topics, including the federal health care law, but also found some common ground, such as foreign aid and that there would be no benefit to cutting congressional salaries.
The Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, was a big focus of the questions.
Collins said the law essentially would add the cost of a congressional district to the Medicaid rolls in Georgia.
“If you’re not sure how many that is, it’s close to 700,000 people,” he said. “Most estimates are somewhere around 25 percent of the total budget. We’ve got to continue to look at this. There are costs to this. You will pay for it and it does take away rights.”
Cooley said the measure is an effort to provide uncompensated care to counties and hospital authorities struggling “to change the mix between private pay and indigent care to control costs in a way that’s responsible.”
“It’s not perfect and it is problematic, but I’ll tell you one thing, repeal is the simple answer, but it’s not the best answer for the American people,” he said.
Woodall talked about the health care law as the result of “too much compromise.”
If we passed it 10 pages at a time instead of 1,000 pages at a time, I think that congress would have passed 80 percent of it and America would have embraced 80 percent of it,” he said. “I still would have voted no.”
Reilly, who like Woodall lives in Gwinnett, said he supports the measure.
“The process by which the [act] came together was not the prettiest in the world,” he said. “Nonetheless, I support the act. And you know the funny thing is, despite all the mischaracterizations of it, the fact of the matter is the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate were actually Republican ideas to begin with.”
Asked about military cuts, Collins, a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, said the troops need to come home, but not because of spending cuts.
“To simply say that we can continue to cut is really not a good understanding of really where I believe the military is at and where our projection of power that we have to be in this world,” he said. “Because we are still the freest light of liberty to this world and we’re the people that they turn to.”
Cooley said there’s “a lot of fat in the military budget.”
“Our future security is based upon the surgical expertise we have rather than forces on the ground,” Cooley said. “I think we’re fighting a political war in Afghanistan … as opposed to a national security issue.
“I think there is an awful lot of money to be cut from the military budget.”
Mike Koss, who lives in District 7, said the forum was informative and “the questions were very good.”
“I think that they were pertinent to what’s going on right now in the world,” he said. “It reinforced what I’ve already determined is the correct way for me to [vote].”