Candidates for 2 Congress seats debate issues

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ATLANTA -- The Democratic candidates for the 12th Congressional District sparred tonight over who was the most true to party principles, while the Republicans in the race disagreed over how to solve energy needs.

The comments came during separate, debates hosted by the Atlanta Press Club and televised statewide by Georgia Public Broadcasting. The July 15 primary will determine which candidates will represent their parties in the November general election.

State Sen. Regina Thomas of Savannah accused incumbent John Barrow in the Democratic debate of doing little during his four years in office to help military veterans, lower gas prices or generally pull the country out of its current mess. And she blamed him for siding too often with Republicans on tax issues, foreign-intelligence matters and prolonging the war in Iraq.

“I can say to you categorically that this country is in a mess,” Ms. Thomas said. “... The incumbent has always voted with (President) Bush and the Republicans.”

Mr. Barrow countered by listing initiatives he led against Mr. Bush when Democrats were in the minority in the U.S. House, such as the president’s proposal to privatize a portion of Social Security payments. When asked if he was in sync with his party’s likely presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, Mr. Barrow said it wasn’t necessary for them to agree on everything despite endorsing each other.

“What it does mean is that we agree on more things than we disagree on,” Mr. Barrow said.

In the GOP debate between former radio host Ben Crystal, former energy engineer Ray McKinney and former congressional aide John Stone, each offered a prescription for lower gas prices.

Mr. Stone advocating taking government subsidies away from oil companies to fund a six-month moratorium on gasoline taxes for consumers. He urged that Republicans must stop being perceived as too close to big corporations.

“If we have to chose, we have to chose to be for consumers,” Mr. Stone said. “... We have to show people we’re a different party.”

Mr. Crystal said increased drilling -- even off Georgia’s coast -- would boost supply and lower prices.

“I am proud to say I support the exploitation of natural resources,” he said.

And Mr. McKinney said lowering taxes on oil companies by replacing income taxes with a national sales tax would allow companies to lower their prices.

Mr. McKinney is such an advocate of smaller government that he supports dramatically cutting federal spending for medical research despite the Medical College of Georgia’s impact on the northern portion of the district.

Government funding didn’t lead to Viagra, he said.

“It doesn’t need to be coming from tax dollars,” he said.


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