Clyde, Gurtler square off in 9th District debate

Andrew Clyde (left) and Matt Gurtler (right) debate virtually.

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Andrew Clyde (left) and Matt Gurtler (right) debate virtually.

The two Republicans competing in Georgia’s 9th Congressional District focused on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during a Sunday online debate.

Gun store owner Andrew Clyde and state Rep. Matt Gurtler, who are squaring off in an Aug. 11 runoff, clashed during an Atlanta Press Club debate over who should be held responsible for containing the COVID-19 outbreak.

Gurtler, who opposed granting Gov. Brian Kemp unprecedented powers to combat the pandemic, said he’s concerned about government overreach and wants to promote “personal responsibility” to fight the virus.

“The ultimate goal is to protect life, liberty, and property,” he said, adding that “the constitution should not get shredded because of the pandemic.”

Clyde countered that elected officials should set the policy about coronavirus protections rather than healthcare experts.

“People elected the representatives and the senators and the governor, so they should be making decisions,” he said.

Gurtler, who has a long record of voting “no” in the state Legislature, touted his streak as a sign that he has “never compromised and I never will.”

Both Clyde and Gurtler are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump’s efforts to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. But they differed over the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides legal protections for nearly 700,000 young immigrants brought to the country before they turned 16.

“When it comes to DACA, you need to come here legally,” Clyde said, adding that he supports Trump’s efforts to weaken the program.

Gurtler was more hesitant to criticize the program.

“It is a complex issue,” he said, “but I don’t think we should be blaming the children for the sins of their parents.”

The north Georgia district is one of the most conservative in the nation, and was left open when U.S. Rep. Doug Collins decided to challenge U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in November.

The winner of the GOP runoff will face one of two Democrats in an August runoff: U.S. Army veteran Devin Pandy or business owner Brooke Siskin.

Pandy touted his military background, which he said “led me to have liaisons with foreign governments.”

Siskin came under scrutiny after she was booked in jail earlier this month on charges that she didn’t turn over weapons following a court order.

She said it was a “personal issue” between her and her ex-husband and that she didn’t own the gun she was asked to surrender.

“I was not responsible,” she said. “I was protecting myself with a gun for a domestic violence situation.”