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Contenders jockey for position with June 8 primary coming up

South Boston News
TAKING CENTER STAGE — The seven hopefuls for the Republican nomination to face Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello in the fall gathered for a candidates forum Saturday in Chase City. At left, forum moderator Joe Thomas of WCHV radio in Charlottesville speaks to the audience at the Robert E. Lee Center. The GOP primary will be held June 8. (Alta LeCompte photo) / May 19, 2010
Addressing questions at a candidates forum Saturday in Chase City, seven hopefuls for the Fifth District Republican congressional nomination rolled out a series of answers that illustrated how they would apply conservative principles if elected to the seat held by Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello.

The contenders, who spoke at the Robert E. Lee Auditorium in Chase City, were taking part in the latest of a series of public forums being held in advance of the June 8 GOP primary.

The Mecklenburg, Lunenburg, and Brunswick units of the Republican Party of Virginia sponsored the forum.

Although they frequently agreed with one another in advocating strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution, downsizing government, cutting taxes, and promoting conservative social values, the candidates drew examples from their varied professional experiences to demonstrate differences in how they would approach the task of legislating.

Biology teacher and 9-year school board veteran Feda Kidd Morton of Fluvanna County drew the first applause of the day taking a pro-state’s right stance.

“I am so happy about what Arizona is doing standing up to illegal aliens coming into our country,” she said.

The audience later applauded Robert Hurt of Pittsylvania, a Virginia state senator, for expressing outrage that suspected terrorists would be tried just blocks from the World Trade Center.

“What outrages me is that enemy combatants are treated like American citizens, given American liberties,” Hurt said.

Tossing out an open-ended question to start the session, moderator Joe Thomas of WCHV radio in the Charlottesville area stated that deals are often made in Congress and he asked the candidates to say what things are negotiable in their minds.

All the candidates seized the opportunity to make a general statement symbolizing where they stand on the conservative continuum.

Moneta County real estate developer Jim McKelvey led off with a brief response: “The Constitution is not negotiable. Period.”

He added: “I don’t see myself doing much negotiating. I see myself leading.”

Another businessman, Ron Ferrin of Campbell County, declared himself a Constitutional, social, and fiscal conservative and said he has led his entire life following a set of values – the Ten Commandments.

Real estate investor Laurence Verga of Ivy echoed McElvey’s pledge and said he would not compromise on the Constitution and core conservative values.

What he would compromise on, Verga said, is how much to cut taxes. He advocated cutting corporate taxes from 35 percent to 8 percent but expressed willingness to negotiate on the exact size of the cut.

Verga also used the first question as an opening to fire the first of many volleys at the incumbent, Rep. Periello.

“The current Congressman jumped all over you when he voted for Obamacare,” he said.

The GOP hopefuls had been promised an opportunity to debate Perriello in absentia, but as time passed and the heat mounted in the Robert E. Lee auditorium, Mecklenburg County party chairman Tim Boyle decided to cut out that part of the program.

Albermarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd, whose career has involved building computer systems for banks, answered the first question by positioning himself as one of only two candidates on the stage who has had legislative experience.

Boyd said that in his 10 years of public service, it often would have been easier to make a deal than fight for a principle.

Describing himself as a fiscal conservative and advocate of smaller government, Boyd said:

“What we need in Congress is people who have the courage to get up and say ‘No.’”

Virginia state senator Hurt also set himself apart from the pack by touting his legislative experience.

“There is no question what is going on in Washington is destroying this country,” he said. “Look to my record when you judge, ‘Can you trust this person to go to Washington and stand up...’”

Morton commented, “Life is not negotiable. I would not negotiate on our Constitutional freedoms.”

Airline pilot Michael McPadden of North Garden responded to the first question on what issues he considers negotiable as an invitation to call for drastic across-the-board tax cuts. What’s negotiable, he said is the exact percentage to cut.

Thomas asked the candidates to explain how a fair tax might reduce the size of government, and what other measures might be employed.

Hurt said he was “interested in the concept” of the fair tax.

The present tax system punishes success and discourages investment, he said. With a fair tax, people would pay on the basis of what they consume. Business would not have to hire staff to deal with the IRS.

Verga said both the fair and the flat tax are great ideas. The current progressive tax system costs us, he said.

McKelvey said the fair tax is “a must.” It would get rid of embedded corporate taxes, he claimed.

The IRS would disappear, he suggested.

He added that Congress must do its part in reducing the size of government by cutting spending.

Ferrin also supported the fair tax.

“Any nation that rewards achievers will end up with more achievers,” he said.”Any nation that rewards the needy will end up with more needy.”

The federal government must stop spending and borrowing, he said.

Boyd commented that the fair tax would put the U.S. in a better position to compete internationally.

Morton said she has some concerns about how intrusive the fair tax would be and whether it would actually lead to smaller government.

She did, however, ask to amend the Constitution, repealing the 16th amendment and implementing the fair tax.

She urged abolition of the IRS.

McPadden claimed that 6 months ago he was “the only one talking about the fair tax.”

The tax does not address the budget problem, but it does take politics out of tax policy, he said.

As they answered other questions, the candidates offered other positions:

Hurt – protecting second amendment rights; adopting a balanced budget amendment; instituting tort reform and other measures to reduce the cost litigation, which is “driving up the cost of doing business and killing jobs.”

Morton – eliminating the federal Department of Education; eliminating unfunded mandates; de-funding “Obamacare;” funding veterans hospitals and getting benefits to veterans in a timely manner.

Verga – abolishing capital gains and estate taxes to get the country moving and people back to work.

McKelvey – cutting the federal government in half, in part by eliminating waste and fraud; instituting the “fair tax;” keeping Guantanamo open; enforcing laws already on the books to deal with immigration.

Ferrin – de-funding and intimately repealing “Obamacare;” serving on Ways and Means Committee to bring the fair tax out of committee for a fair hearing.

McPadden – privatizing some military functions; achieving a balanced budget; attaining energy independence.

Boyd – cutting VA administrative costs and making care for veterans available close to home.

When asked if they would support the party’s nominee, McKelvey said he was the only candidate not to sign a pledge of support. He said he would vote only for a true conservative.

Hurt pledged to use all his influence of his legislative position and resources of his grassroots organization to work for the election of the Republican nominee.

“We face … an incumbent with $1.6 million in the bank ready to go battle in the 5th District. “Anybody on this stage who would say anything less ... is Nancy Pelosi’s dream,” he said.

“The crowd up there now is destroying this country.”

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