Republican congressional candidates collide over immigration, Iraq

Republican candidates for Georgia’s 1oth and 11th Congressional districts tore into each other Sunday during Georgia Public Broadcasting debates sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club. Topics ranged from illegal immigration to Iraq to women running for office. The candidates face each other in the July 22 runoff.

11th district

Republican congressional candidates Bob Barr and Barry Loudermilk clashed over immigration and the plight of Iraq, adding fire to an already-heated race .

Barr, the former Smyrna congressman, referred to the thousands of immigrant children illegally crossing the Southwest border as “very violent teenagers who are known members of gangs.”

He suggested sending them, regardless of their home country, back to Mexico.

“Mexico is not only failing to present this mass illegal border crossing from its country into ours, but it is actually encouraging it,” Barr said.

Loudermilk instead blamed a failed immigration policy that he said encouraged children to flee difficult situations in their home countries.

“It’s a very complex problem, but let’s first thing remember that these are children,” Loudermilk said. “It’s not their fault they were brought here.”

Barr said the recent insurgency in Iraq presents a clear and present danger to the United States.

“We need to be using selected air strikes and drones,” Barr said. “We should be providing security on the ground for our embassy and our contractors.”

Loudermilk was more hesitant. He said the response must be measured by how it affects the nation’s safety and security.

“We don’t need to continue in this idea of nation building,” Loudermilk said, “or involving ourselves in someone else’s civil war where American lives and American blood continues to be shed.”

10th district

Congressional candidate Jody Hice once again had to defend his views toward women in politics. Those concerns arose from a decade-old newspaper article that quoted Hice as saying that supports women running for office as long as a woman does so “within the authority of her husband.”

The former pastor and radio show host answered that concern early in Sunday’s debate, after he was asked about the 2004 Athens Banner Herald article.

Then he turned the question on his opponent, businessman Mike Collins.

“I have personally helped and encouraged a number of women to run,” argued Hice, saying he helped Linda Blechinger, mayor of Auburn, and Tammy Brown, a probate judge in Cullman County. “I would question Mike: What women have you helped run for office?”

Collins said that he has encouraged private sector co-workers in their pursuits, regardless of age or gender. The pair continued to spar, quibbling over the definition of the debt ceiling and whether it was necessary to try and avoid causing a government shutdown in the vein of last November. Those arguments ballooned into personal attacks in the closing statements.

“Now we are seeing an attempt to steal this campaign by liberal Democrats who are rallying around their candidate of choice,” said Hice, referring to a mailer sent this week which urged Democrats to cross party lines and vote for Collins in the runoff.

Collins shot back, questioning Hice’s motives for running.

“He just wants to be a celebrity, the face of something,” Collins said. “He’s never operated a business, never created jobs and doesn’t understand what taxes and regulations do to business in this country.”