CONYERS -- Sparks that flew between Republican congressional candidates Liz Carter and Larry Gause at the end of Saturday's Republican Party forum in Conyers punctuated what was otherwise a cordial discussion of election issues.
The gathering had the four announced Republican candidates, running for the 4th Congressional District seat held by incumbent Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, in one place. Cory Ruth and Victor Armendariz joined Carter and Gause for the forum that was held in a packed conference room at the Holiday Inn Express on Dogwood Drive.
Carter told the audience in her closing remarks that part of the problem in Congress was that "no one was willing to call each other out" on the issues. She said she was the only one among the group who had read federal election laws and understood them before entering the race. She then accused her fellow candidates of being in violation of election laws "at one point or another."
"We are in for the fight of our lives, and I am the only one who is willing to put forth all of my efforts to win in November," Carter said.
Gause was seated next to Carter and was the last to give closing remarks. He stood up and said, "Well, since we're calling each other out," and then accused Carter of supporting gay marriage. He said Carter's Web site had a position on the issue, but had since been removed.
Gause used the chance to say everything he stood for was on his campaign Web site and accused Carter of shifting on the issues.
The two candidates had a discussion as the forum was breaking up. Afterward, Carter said the item was never removed from her campaign's Web site and can be found under "Equal Rights" link on the sites' "Key Issues" page.
Carter said the statement previously identified a homosexual family member and had not expressed support for gay marriage, but actually "every individual deserves and should have the same rights, regardless of race, religion, sex or sexual orientation."
The information about the family member was removed because the person was physically assaulted based on being identified as being homosexual, Carter said.
Before Carter and Gause's exchange, the forum had touched upon immigration, health care, the environment, job creation and electability in November. There were few disagreements among the four candidates on most of the topics, and each offered their own unique approach across the board.
All supported Ruth's comments on illegal immigration that a fence should be constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border, followed by strengthening documentation of legal noncitizens living in the United States. Armendariz, who is of Hispanic descent, said a complete overhaul of the immigration system was needed first.
"When you fix a leak in your basement, you can't do the job without slopping up the water on the floor," he said.
Carter called for more local law enforcement to participate in the federal 287(g) enforcement program that allows local agencies a mechanism to deport noncitizens after arrest. Gause, a Persian Gulf War veteran, said the military should be used to help the U.S. Border Patrol with logistics.
All pretty much agreed that the recent health care reform law passed by Congress was bad. Carter said it "kills and hurts individuals" due to reductions in Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Gause said the Republican rally cry "re-elect and repeal" was a false promise given the party would not have a super majority in the Senate even if Republican candidates won all 14 Senate races this year. He said Republicans should think more of "unfunded and amend."
On a question concerning the proposed cap and trade proposal for industries to buy and sell credits to emit carbon dioxide, Armendariz said, "Let's call it what it really is -- it's cap and tax."
Carter said she supported protecting the environment through some regulation, but she described cap and trade as another example of big government "who picks the winners and the losers" through awarding the credits to the highest bidders.
Gause said he believed the United States would be "the cleanest third-world country in the world" if current green policy proposals are enacted. Ruth said he did not think it was fair if the United States implemented stronger environmental policies while competing economies -- such as China and India -- did not.