COVINGTON - Rick Goddard, the Republican candidate for Georgia's 8th Congressional District, made a campaign stop in Covington on Thursday.
Goddard was in town to shake hands and win votes, and to speak at the Newton County Republican Party meeting Thursday night. Prior to his speech, he sat down for a private interview at the law office of Charles Strickland.
Goddard has been traveling the 21-county district, which stretches from southern Newton County all the way to Colquitt County near the Florida line, as he attempts to oust Democratic incumbent Jim Marshall.
"Newton is a very important county to us, population-wise, so we will spend a lot of time here," Goddard said.
On the subject of working with local governments, Goddard said it's important to realize that with so many counties represented in the district, the best course is to focus on issues relevant to all, such as environmental matters like air quality and transportation.
On a bigger scale, the country must find ways to better power vehicles, whether by hydrogen or electric power or some other means, Goddard said.
He said more transportation choices also need to be made available.
"We have built this country around cars. It's not built around trains or buses," he said.
When he started his campaign a year ago, Goddard said illegal immigration was the issue on everyone's mind, but now, it's taken a back seat to worries over the economy.
But the issue of illegal immigration is still important, Goddard said, adding that the first line of defense should be a physical barrier such as a wall or fence to stop the flow across the border. The wall erected between San Diego and Tijuana stopped 95 percent of the flow of immigrants and drugs, he said.
Goddard said the U.S. government needs to approach the Mexican government about ways to stop immigration from their side.
A work program is needed to allow people to work in America with the understanding they will return home and the requirement that they pay taxes while here, he said, and added that the government should make sure that "no path to citizenship comes illegally."
"If you want to be a U.S. citizen, come here and we'll embrace you, but we're not giving you credit for breaking our laws," he said.
A Vietnam veteran and retired Air Force major general, Goddard supports the war in Iraq, though he admits the U.S. strategy may not have always been effective.
"Now that we're there, we've got to figure out a way to accommodate the situation we're in," he said.
The Persian Gulf is vital part of economy and America is the only nation capable of ensuring it's stability, he said.
"The surge has clearly worked, which means we didn't have enough troops there to begin with," he said, adding that violence in Iraq has significantly decreased.
Goddard pointed out that America has had a presence in Korea for more than 50 years and in Germany since World War II, adding that he wants "to see the war through to its conclusion," when Iraqis have a stable government.
A main focus of Goddard's campaign is wasteful spending in government.
"It's not that we don't have enough revenue. We're just spending too much," he said, citing as an example $300 million in federal money to boost thoroughbred racing in Kentucky.
While Goddard said the unexpected and rapid rise in energy costs are changing the economy, he believes that if Democrats succeed in eliminating the president's tax cuts, the economy will take an even worse turn.
Small businesses, in particular, will likely have more lay-offs and won't be able to stay viable in the market, he said.
"Canceling the Bush tax cuts is a tax increase no matter how you look at it," he said.
Goddard's solution is to keep taxes low and decrease government spending.
"This country is in a deficit generated by people not willing to show restraint in the way they're spending," he said.
The Goddard campaign has been accused of contributing to wasteful government spending after President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney flew in on the taxpayer's dime for private campaign fund-raisers.
But Goddard said his campaign reimbursed the cost of the flights as much as allowed by federal law; and he said such trips were common in the Clinton administration but "nobody seemed to worry about it."
Goddard said he's not running for Congress because he needs the money or prestige, but because he's worried about the state of the country and couldn't sit back and do nothing.
"This country is going to go broke. Ten percent of taxpayers pay 70 percent of the taxes. You can't rob Peter to pay Paul," he said.
"It's too important to have people running for public office for a reason. Too many people need a job or a title. We need people who want to work. There's more subpoenas in Congress than there are ideas," he added.
Goddard retired in 2000 from the Air Force after nearly 34 years of active duty. From 1997 to 2000, he was commander of the Warner Robbins Air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base.
A Vietnam veteran, he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and extraordinary achievement in combat and 12 Air Medals.
Goddard served on Gov. Sonny Perdue's transition team, responsible for establishing the office of Georgia's Inspector General, and was appointed by Perdue in 2003 to serve on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Military Coordinating Committee.
He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Utah, a master's degree in business administration from Central Michigan University, and is a graduate of the National Defense University, Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Goddard and is wife Judy have three sons.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.