GOP congressional candidates answer hard questions at debate

The seven Republican candidates vying for retiring U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus' Sixth Congressional District seat discussed hard issues at a March 31 debate at Samford University. Pictured, from left to right, Gary Palmer, Will Brooke, Chad Mathis, Scott Beason, Tom Vignuelle and Paul DeMarco. Not pictured is Robert Shattuck. (Reporter Photo/Cassandra Mickens)

The seven Republican candidates vying for retiring U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus’ Sixth Congressional District seat discussed hard issues at a March 31 debate at Samford University. Pictured, from left to right, Gary Palmer, Will Brooke, Chad Mathis, Scott Beason, Tom Vignuelle and Paul DeMarco. Not pictured is Robert Shattuck. (Reporter Photo/Cassandra Mickens)

By GINNY COOPER/ Staff Writer

Over 300 constituents gathered in Samford University’s Wright Center to hear Republican primary candidates vying for retiring U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus’ 6th Congressional District seat discuss hard issues.

Robert Shattuck, Paul DeMarco, Gary Palmer, Scott Beason, Will Brooke, Tom Vigneulle and Chad Mathis all appeared at the debate sponsored by NBC 13,

Superstation 101, The Jefferson County Republican Party and the Samford College Republicans.

Mike Royer, evening anchor for NBC 13, served as moderator for the debate and Leland Whaley, Superstation 101 talk show host; Barnett Wright, Jefferson County reporter for the Alabama Media Group; and Linda White, reporter for NBC 13, asked candidates questions.

The candidates share similar stances on many of the issues discussed, but each presented nuanced views during the debate.

Candidates also shared similar views on global warming, repealing Obamacare, achieving a balanced budget, tightening borders and protecting the rights of American citizens.

In response to a question about medical marijuana, all of the candidates agreed that Carly’s Law was good for Alabama, and supported the bill, which was unanimously approved by the Alabama Legislature.

Candidates solidified their position during the closing statements, and emphasized the different benefits they bring to the table.

Brooke, Harbert Management Corporation executive, said voters need to send independent people to Washington, D.C.

“There is serious work to do,” he said.

Robert Shattuck, an attorney, encouraged voters to give Congress a grade based on its performance.

“Why is Congress performing so horribly?” he asked, and said fixing Congress should be the first priority.

Palmer, chief development officer for the Alabama Policy Institute, said families should be the priority.

“It’s about people and families,” he said. “We need to create jobs and get people back to work.”

Mathis, an orthopedic surgeon, emphasized how being a doctor will help him repeal Obamacare.

“As a doctor I’ve seen the ill effects,” he said. “As a doctor I will be fast-tracked to the doctor’s caucus.”

DeMarco, a state representative from Homewood, emphasized his Alabama values.

“This is my home. I’m going to take these Alabama conservative values to Washington D.C.,” he said.

Beason, a state senator from Hartselle, said that change is possible.

“The country can have a renaissance. We can do better. Choose the person you think will do the best job for you,” he told the audience.

Vigneulle, a small business owner and farmer, emphasized change.

“If we keep doing the same thing, we keep getting the same results. It’s time to return the federal government back to the constitution.”

The Republican primary is set for June 3. There is no Democratic candidate for the seat. A runoff, if necessary, is set for July 15.