Broun comes under fire at debate

ATHENS --- U.S. Rep. Paul Broun's sometimes-unusual views and votes are an embarrassment to his constituents, challenger Barry Fleming said Saturday at a debate between the two Republican congressional candidates.

"I'll go to Washington and I won't embarrass you," said Mr. Fleming, a state representative from Harlem. "I'll do a good job as a conservative."

Mr. Fleming attacked Mr. Broun on issues ranging from drugs to immigration to earmarks, while Mr. Broun said he stands on his principles and accused Mr. Fleming of distorting his record during the debate at the University of Georgia's Dean Rusk Center.

Mr. Fleming made an issue of Mr. Broun's vote to stop federal agents from arresting medical marijuana users in states where doctors can legally prescribe it.

States, not the federal government, should regulate doctors, Mr. Broun said.

"This has nothing to do with marijuana," he said. "It has to do with states' rights."

Mr. Fleming predicted that if medical marijuana is widely legalized, irresponsible doctors will over-prescribe it, patients will become addicted and hard drug use will rise.

"The idea that it's unconstitutional ... for the government to stop drugs is ludicrous," Mr. Fleming said.

Mr. Fleming also criticized Mr. Broun's vote against an amendment to a public housing construction bill that barred illegal immigrants from moving into housing projects.

"He actually voted to allow illegal aliens to have public housing in this country," Mr. Fleming said.

The amendment also contained a provision requiring new housing to be built to expensive environmental standards; that's the reason he opposed the bill, Mr. Broun said in an interview.

Both candidates said they won't ask for or accept earmarks for pet federal projects, but Mr. Fleming accused Mr. Broun of not doing enough to save a U.S. Department of Agriculture research station that's scheduled for closure this year. Mr. Broun should have worked behind the scenes to ensure funding for the center didn't fall out of the federal budget, Mr. Fleming said.

The Phil Campbell Research Center will not close, Mr. Broun promised. He said he has spoken to President Bush about the Oconee County facility.

Both men agreed Saturday that abortion and gay marriage should be outlawed, but they disagreed on how best to do it.