Light turnout Thursday night didn’t quell the District 9 U.S. House candidates from delivering their messages.
Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick and Martha Zoller introduced themselves and fielded questions from a moderator during the Forsyth County Tea Party Patriots Alliance forum.
The conservative, Republican candidates covered a variety of issues, many of which they agree on, during the session at the Forsyth County Administration Building.
The three will vie for their party’s nomination in the July 31 primary. The district, which was recently redrawn, includes north Forsyth, as well as all of Hall, Dawson and Lumpkin and parts of many other counties.
Current Republican District 9 Rep. Tom Graves is shifting into District 14.
The winner of this summer’s primary will face Democrat Jody Cooley, a Gainesville attorney who qualified Friday, in the November election.
Thursday night, each of the Republican hopefuls told the gathering of about 10 that they would support a bill making English the official language of America and would reduce unemployment benefits.
They all also said the Guantanamo Bay detention camp should be kept open and would like to see improvements in the way wounded veterans are cared for.
Candidates were also asked about China, citing a recent tour the nation was allowed to take of U.S. military operations and asked if it would have been allowed if they were in office.
Zoller, who has a corporate business background, said the U.S. should not cater to China, while Fitzpatrick agreed that he would not have allowed access for the communist nation.
Collins, a state representative who like Zoller is from Hall County, criticized the current administration for allowing it.
“We have an executive branch right now that believes that if you just make nice with people who don’t like you, eventually they’re going to come around,” Collins said.
“This world is far too dangerous a place for a president to go around and [do that]. … I don’t care if they like us if there’s a threat to freedom and they want to destroy us.”
Asked if they would support a U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations, Collins said yes, as did Zoller, who described the organization as anti-Semitic and having just one goal — to destroy Israel.
But Fitzpatrick, a retired educator from White County, said he struggles with a possible withdrawal.
While he pointed to flaws with the United Nations, he said if the U.S. wasn’t a member, he didn’t think Israel would have even been created.
“Because the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council and therefore has veto power, the United States can protect Israel in the United Nations,” he said.
“I am vehemently opposed to any attempt to undermine our sovereignty, but if we are not in the United Nations and we do not have that veto power on the Security Council, then I fear there are many things the United Nations can do that could be detrimental to the United States.”
Candidates, none of whom support amnesty, were asked for potential solutions to illegal immigration.
Collins said there wouldn’t be a problem if existing laws were enforced.
To Fitzpatrick, the country would no longer be a nation of laws if so many illegal immigrants were allowed to break them.
Zoller said the first priority needs to be securing the border.
“People say to me, ‘Martha, well that’s so simple.’ Well if it’s so simple, why haven’t we done it,” she said. “And now it’s a perfect time to do it because the number of people that are crossing back and forth across the border is at the lowest number it’s been in years because there aren’t as many jobs.
“The second thing is we have to fix the visa problem. We have the same problems with the visa system that we did on Sept. 10, 2001.”
Ernie Housner, vice chairman of the Forsyth County Tea Party Patriots Alliance, thanked the candidates for their time during introductions.
“We’d like to have somebody that will speak the truth,” he told the candidates. “They’ll look at us and, more importantly, that whatever they do talk about tonight and two years down the road, that the person that does get elected [will] hold to those values.
“That’s important to all of us as voters.”