By William C. Singleton III
Over the Mountain voters will join others across the Birmingham metro area today to cast their ballots in the primary runoff election. Polls are open until 7 p.m. Residents can check their polling places at AlabamaVotes.gov or by calling 1-800-274-8683.
Alabama Sixth Congressional District candidates Paul DeMarco and Gary Palmer took their messages to a group of Republicans at a recent political forum, hoping to convince voters to vote for them in the July 15 primary runoff election to replace U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, who is retiring.
The political forum sponsored by the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans at Regions Field June 19 drew about 300 people. Both candidates touched on a range of topics such as immigration, term limits and impeachment of President Obama.
DeMarco, an attorney and current state representative, spoke of his newly-born son, Jack, and securing a future for him unsaddled with an astronomical national debt.
“I worry about what’s going on in Washington, D.C., and whether Jack and other children around this country will have the same opportunities that we have,” he said.
Palmer, founder of the conservative think-tank Alabama Policy Institute, said low voter turnout reflects how disillusioned Americans are with the future of the United States, including conservatives as part of the problem.
“As conservatives and Republicans, we’ve become experts at depressing people,” Palmer said. “What we need to focus on is solutions, how we’re going to get the country back on the right track.”
DeMarco and Palmer alternated answering questions from a three-member panel and from moderator Matt Murphy, a conservative talk radio host.
On the issue of impeachment, both candidates said they would impeach President Obama if the issue came up for a vote. Palmer added Attorney General Eric Holder should be impeached, too.
Term limits represented the first divide between the candidates. DeMarco said he would support a bill to establish term limits, saying he backed such a bill in the Alabama Legislature. But DeMarco added he wouldn’t place term limits on himself sans legislation.
“Why as Alabamians would we limit ourselves when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid could stay for the next 30 years?” he said. “Why would we want 49 other states to have more power than Alabama?”
Pelosi, D-Calif., is House Minority Leader; Reid, D-Nevada, is Senate Majority Leader.
Palmer said he would not serve more than 10 years and would commute to D.C. instead of living there.
Palmer provided one of the more humorous moments when Murphy asked if he thought DeMarco was a career politician.
“Not yet,” he replied.
Both candidates were asked if they would pass an unbalanced budget and approve a tax increase to balance the budget. Palmer said it would depend on the situation.
“If a nation goes to war, I don’t think we put a balanced budget over our national defense,” he said.
Palmer said he wouldn’t support a tax increase to balance the budget.
DeMarco said he would support a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and would never vote for a tax increase.
“There’s too much money going to Washington, D.C., that is being wasted,” he said.
Both said they owned guns. DeMarco wouldn’t say how many weapons he owns; Palmer listed his, including deer rifles and a shotgun and one he wouldn’t mention.
Both said illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. borders need to be returned to their countries, with Palmer calling illegal immigration a humanitarian crisis. He also said it would be unrealistic and would have devastating consequences on American’s future to deport nearly 12 million illegal immigrants currently in America.
DeMarco said he supports immigrants entering the United States by legal means–noting his mother who immigrated legally to America–and rejects amnesty.
When Murphy asked whether he supports deporting millions of illegal immigrants already here, DeMarco didn’t answer the question directly but said if the U.S. does not secure its borders, it wouldn’t matter because they’d return anyway. Both Murphy and Palmer noted he didn’t answer the question directly.
The two are expected to make other appearances before the Republican runoff July 15. The winner will face Democrat Avery Vise and Libertarian Aimee Love in the November general election.
Other candidates for state office attended the Young Republican forum even if they weren’t scheduled to participate in a debate.
Republicans Arnold Mooney and Amie Beth Shaver, who are vying for the District 43 seat, attended the meeting.
Mooney, a commercial real estate broker and the top vote getter in the primary, said he’s spent the time since the runoff contacting voters and running advertisements trying to get his message to the people in his district.
“We’re giving them information and trusting that the people will make a good decision,” he said.
Mooney said as a state lawmaker he would focus on conditions at Alabama prisons, Medicaid and the economy.
“We could be overtaken by the federal government because of our overcrowding and abuse in prisons,” he said. “We could reach a point with Medicaid expansion that it breaks our state budget, and if we don’t grow our economy, people are not going to get jobs.”
He also said the right to life and protecting the elderly are important issues.
Shaver, a conservative commentator, said her approach has been to reach out to her supporters and identify new ones.
“We’re just doing our best grass-root level efforts. We’ll see, but we’re very excited,” she said.
Shaver said she would focus on economic development by rewarding existing small businesses and encouraging new business growth.
“We want to make sure that Shelby County continues to be the growth area that it is,” she said.
Shaver also said she wants to focus on health care, education and prison reform.
“I want to deal with education and ensure the highest quality standards for our kids,” she said. “My kids are in school, so that’s a top issue for me.”
Republicans David Faulkner and Steve French were headed for a runoff for the District 46 seat, but French announced he was withdrawing from the race. Faulkner will face Libertarian Steve Tucker in the November general election.