Published 12:00 am Monday, May 7, 2012
This story has been corrected to show that Vernon Robinson served on Winston-Salem City Council, rather than John Whitley.
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Five Republican candidates want to unseat U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell — or defeat his Democratic challenger — in November.
But to get a chance at the general election, one of them must stand out enough to win the May 8 primary.
The 8th District Republican candidates generally agree on what needs to be done, but they differ on how to do it.
Dr. Scott Keadle, Richard Hudson and N.C. Rep. Fred Steen say Congress isn’t working as well as it should because its members need to fix their priorities.
Keadle works as a dentist in Salisbury. The Mooresville resident is also president of Keadle Professional Properties.
“The problem is not partisan disagreement,” he said. “The problem is disagreement between Congress and the American people.”
Hudson, of Concord, former Congressional aide and the owner of Cabarrus Marketing Group.
He said elected officials should be more concerned about what’s best for their country than what will score them political points.
Steen, a Landis small business owner, said he’ll focus on the people over special interests, and he’ll compromise when needed but won’t back down on his principles.
Dr. John Whitley and Vernon Robinson say the problem lies with the opposing major party.
Whitley is a physician, neurosurgeon and farmer who lives in Fairmont.
“It’s very difficult for those of us who are true Constitutionalists.. to have any type of working relationship with any of the Democrats who truly believe in a socialist agenda,” he said.
Vernon Robinson, of Concord, is self-employed in new media marketing and sales.
Robinson said he can compromise on shared goals and bipartisan struggles with the White House, but not on a vision for the future of this country.
“Unfortunately, the vision of the Democrats — and some weak Republicans — is to fundamentally change the character of this nation and make it a European socialist nation,” Robinson said.
Three of the candidates have held political office in the past. Keadle was an Iredell County Commissioner from 2008 to 2010, and Robinson served on the Winston-Salem City Council from 1997 to 2005.
Steen is currently in his fourth term representing the 76h District in the state House. He previously served as mayor of the town of Landis.
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On energy policy, the candidates largely agree that the country should be taking advantage of its own fuel reserves, including oil and natural gas.
“You don’t have to be a dentist to say, ‘Drill, baby, drill,’” Keadle said. “Congress can help bring down gas prices by reducing regulations that are choking America’s ability to find and use domestic energy.”
There should be offshore drilling in North Carolina, Hudson said.
Steen said the problem lies less with Congress and more with the White House, because it’s not giving enough permits for domestic drilling and exploration. Legislators can make sure the federal government moves forward with permitting.
Robinson said the Environmental Protection Agency needs to be reined in, because it’s gone “hog wild” in restricting industries like coal mining.
He and Whitley both said gasoline taxes should be reduced.
Robinson and Keadle support an extension to the Keystone Pipeline, which helps transport oil from Canada.
“We don’t necessarily have to go up into Canada,” Whitley said. “We can, but we have plenty of resources here in the U.S.”
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The Republican candidates also agree that America’s border should be closed, in order to stop people from entering the country illegally. Most suggested using a combination of a fence, electronic monitoring or military guards. Keadle said he’d rely on expert advice.
“I think Americans have the capability to secure the border, and now we need leaders who have the intention,” Keadle said.
Hudson said troops could go to the border with Mexico — a desert environment — for their training.
Hudson, Steen and Whitley also talked about reforming the legal immigration system and making it easier to document non-citizen residents.
Steen said it’s important for the country to know who is here, why they’re here and where they are.
“I am not for people coming in by breaking the law and then expecting to be granted citizenship,” Whitley said. “But I have no problem with the guest worker program that President Bush tried to implement.”
Whitley, Keadle and Robinson all stressed “no amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Hudson and Steen said they don’t want people who are here illegally to “get in line” ahead of people using the legal process.
“There are people here that came here as minors, and they’re contributing to society,” Hudson said. “We should find a way to create a legal process for them, but citizenship shouldn’t be a part of that.”
Robinson said he wants to make English the country’s official language and make sure every employer verifies their workers’ legal status.
“People should not be able to come to the country without a sponsor who signs a surety bond, to make sure you’re not a burden to either the health care system or the government,” Robinson said.
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Finally, the candidates have different ideas for how to deal with balancing the budget and dealing with the national debt.
“I’ve signed on to the Tea Party Debt Reduction Budget, which achieves the goals of a balanced budget in four years and paying off the national debt in 20,” Robinson said.
Keadle said the budget should balance “immediately and permanently.”
Hudson, Whitley and Steen agree with Keadle on the need for a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
But it might take a few years to cut spending and generate revenue, while still paying the country’s bills, said both Steen and Whitley.
Steen suggested using zero-based budgeting instead of a continuation budget.
“We need to find out what is actually needed and what is actually waste — what is not getting to the end consumer,” Steen said.
Hudson also suggested making every federal department come up for review and reauthorization every 10 years.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
The Rowan County precincts included in Congressional District 8 are:
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