Wednesday's Forsyth County Republican Party debate features state insurance and safety fire commission candidates Ralph Hudgens and Maria Sheffield, as well as District 2 public service commission hopefuls John Douglas and Tim Echols. Doors open at 6 p.m., debates begin at 6:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room in the Forsyth County Administration Building, 110 East Main St. in Cumming.
Tom Graves and Lee Hawkins, candidates to represent the 9th District in the U.S. House, gave their views on a variety of topics — including illegal immigration, the Patriot Act and education — during a debate Monday night in Cumming.
On immigration, Hawkins and Graves shared slightly different views, with Hawkins saying America’s borders need to be secured.
“The federal government does not have any right to go in, in my opinion, and tell states like Arizona that they cannot protect their citizens,” he said. “I think when the federal government falls short, then it is the states’ responsibility to protect the citizens.”
Graves, a former state representative from Ranger, said he co-authored illegal immigration legislation in 2006 and visited Cochese County, Ariz., which he said is the top entry point for illegal immigrants in the state.
“I believe it’s the federal government’s responsibility to enable and equip the border patrol to do their job,” Graves said. “If it requires the National Guard, then send the National Guard. If it requires building a fence, then let’s build a fence.
“But it’s time to defend the border and protect Americans, and we’ve got to be firm about that and in no way make this a political issue that we see coming out of the administration.”
Graves said he is against amnesty for illegal immigrants.
A former state senator from Gainesville, Hawkins said he had sponsored legislation that requires proof of citizenship for voting and obtaining vehicle registration.
He also noted Hall County’s 287(g) program, which allows for the deportation of illegal immigrants if arrested.
The Aug. 10 runoff election between Graves and Hawkins is their fourth meeting this year.
The two faced off in a June runoff from the May special election for the seat vacated by Nathan Deal, who is running for governor.
Graves won the runoff and is serving the remainder of the term, which ends this year. He was also the top vote-getter in the July 20 primary.
No Democrats are running, so the winner of the Aug. 10 runoff will go on to serve a full term beginning January.
On education, both candidates said Monday that the federal government should get out of local school systems.
“We have got to get the tentacles of the federal government out of the states and empower the states and the parents and local school systems to be those who are equipping and educating our school children here in the state of Georgia,” Graves said.
Hawkins said he thinks the higher education process has dwindled because of the decisions taken away from local schools.
“Local schools are told and given mandates of what they will do, testing they will perform and how well the students must achieve and the grades they must achieve on that test,” Hawkins said.
“They’re not really testing the learning ability of the child and that’s what’s more important — what is learning ability — and that varies from child to child. That teacher knows that.”
The candidates’ disagreed on the Patriot Act.
Hawkins said he thought the act was “well-intentioned,” but if reauthorized, enforcement of the act needs to include accountability, and information gathered through it should be handled carefully.
“I think the rules of engagement should be clear and that is if these people are insurgents or if we do believe they are planning something that would cause harm to American citizens, then our law enforcement should track them, should pick up their information and the information they’re transmitting to each other,” Hawkins said.
Graves said he doesn’t support reauthorizing the act and said it infringes upon the rights of law-abiding Americans.
“In the name of terrorism and in the name of war, the Patriot Act is far too overreaching.” Graves said. “And as we’ve seen just this past week ... how do we know and how can we have confidence that the American government and the central government with the Patriot Act gathering
information on individuals here in this room and all across America, every day individuals would protect that data and use it in a proper way?”