A debate between the three GOP candidates in the 4th District Congressional race didn’t disappoint as the main course at the Jefferson County Republican Committee’s annual Lincoln Dinner here Thursday night.
Hopefuls Tom Cotton, John Cowart and Beth Anne Rankin, each hoping to replace exiting Democratic Congressman Mike Ross, didn’t add much spice to the meal with personal differences. But their verbal assaults on President Barrack Obama’s administration and other current topics drew attention from among the estimated 200 attendees.
The debate was moderated by Larry Fugate of White Hall, a retired Commercial editor.
Rankin, who lost in a 2010 bid against Ross, described herself as “a real redhead” in touting her “fiery” political style.
In response to a question on Obama-led health care reforms, Rankin called the passage of “Obama Care,” an “American tragedy” and said it must be repealed and replaced with free market, state-to-state competition. She also would like Congress to approve a “dollar-for-dollar tax credit on insurance.”
Cowart called Obama Care a “socialist approach” that “expands government power” over individuals. “It doesn’t fix the problem and threatens other freedoms as well,” he said.
He added that the Obama package will give a team of “bureaucrats” authority to “make decisions” ultimately “ending people’s lives.”
“Whenever you see socialized medicine, you see human misery,” said Cowart.
Cotton called the matter “a health care disaster.” He called for tort reform and figures health care enhancements should include “tax parity” for employers and individuals. He said another reason he opposes Obama Care is that the package is supportive of abortion.
Each of the candidates declared themselves as “pro-life” and indicated they would oppose federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
Cotton said Planned Parenthood’s “first objective” is abortion, a procedure which he considers “abhorrent.”
Cowart bemoaned Planned Parenthood as an example of “the pro-choice industry,” and added, “Make no mistake about it. It is an industry.”
Rankin said she would take the fight a step further by working to disallow U.S. support of abortion worldwide.
On the issue of illegal immigration, Cowart figures “enforcing current laws” and giving local authorities “more power and resources to do their jobs” is the first step in correcting the problem.
He said that although he’s opposed to a “growing government,” he believes additional spending on better securing the nation’s borders “is necessary.”
Cotton is opposed to granting either full or partial immunity to illegal aliens and thinks they should receive “no government social services.” He sees a need to provide employers a fast “identification service” that would quickly verify a potential worker’s U.S. citizenship.
Rankin said that although “America is a nation of immigrants,” the controversy is on “legal versus illegal.” She said “defense of the country is a constitutional mandate” of the government, and that charge is inclusive of border security.
Keynote speaker Fourth District Congressman Rick Crawford said the current congressional “logjam” isn’t defined as much by “partisan lines” as it is “geographical lines,” a reality that he feels pits rural states such as Arkansas against more powerful urban districts elsewhere.
He said the alignment puts Arkansas at a “competitive disadvantage,” but the solution to the unbalance is a dedication by federal lawmakers to “work for the good of the entire country.”
“I’m determined to leave this country better than I found it for my kids and your kids,” said Crawford.