The candidates – Maria Sheffield, Wright McLeod and Rick Allen – voiced their positions in a debate at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library.
The fourth Republican candidate, Lee Anderson, did not appear, citing “family tragedy” in a statement that did not further elaborate.
Moderator Liz Hill, a local TV anchorwoman, asked the candidates about the government’s role in issues including juvenile crime and incarceration, funding for foster children and victims of child abuse, childhood obesity and the need for food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The hopefuls said they believe Washington has no role in dealing with such issues.
“The federal government really doesn’t know how to solve problems,” Allen said. “The best way I know to help these kids is through community organizations. Those kind of programs are working, and they are working on a local level. We have the responsibility for the future of our children.”
Sheffield agreed that the needs of children should be met locally. Those responsibilities, she said, fall on families, churches and community organizations.
“We can’t legislate morality, and we can’t legislate responsibility in this country, but that’s what we need so much of when it comes to our children,” Sheffield said.
McLeod also said smaller government and community involvement were the solutions to the issues brought up during the debate.
“What we’ve done has not worked,” McLeod said. “Get the federal government out of the process. You’ll never convince me that adding another layer of bureaucracy to our educational system makes one bit of sense.”
The congressional hopefuls were asked what, then, they believe the federal government’s scope should be.
Allen said it should oversee national security, the defense department, interstate roads and the monetary system.
Sheffield called for federal preservation of liberty and a balanced budget. The nation’s $16 trillion debt, Sheffield said, is becoming an issue of national security.
McLeod said people need look no further than the Constitution to determine the role of the federal government.
“It’s right there. It’s basically raise an army, protection and defense, interstate commerce,” he said.
All three candidates opposed mandated federal health care and amnesty paths for illegal immigrants or their children.
In her closing remarks, Sheffield described her struggles in childhood and the way they shaped her political views. She said both her parents died before her college years, but she put herself through school, earned four degrees by age 25 and graduated debt-free. All that, she said, made her want to ensure that others could have the same opportunities.
Allen said that his three biggest priorities were his faith, his family and community, and that those factors would guide him in his decisions.
McLeod spoke of his three daughters, two in college and one in middle school. He said he is running for Congress because he wants to make sure his girls and others like them have the same opportunities to live and learn that he had.