Senate candidates spar over federal spending, top issues

The three candidates vying for U.S. Senate sparred Sunday over federal spending and whether incumbent Johnny Isakson is a true conservative.

“Your record of votes rings up to about $19 to $20 trillion extra spending that you’ve said yes to – you said yes to ‘No Child Left Behind,’ you said the ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’” Chuck Donovan, a libertarian, said in confronting Isakson, a Republican. “…I’d like to know where in the Constitution it authorizes us to step in and do that kind of spending.”

In response, Isakson said he has “a long history of conservative votes fiscally.”

“I think I’ve got a long, successful history of voting conservative,” the senator said. “I ran a small business. I understand what it’s like to meet a payroll. I understand what it’s like to have to borrow a payroll on Thursday to make it on Friday. I don’t want to be borrowing from our children’s future any more than you do, Chuck.”

Throughout the debate, Donovan repeatedly said that the government is a roadblock and not a solution. “Jobs do not come from government,” Donovan said at one point, adding that the government is an “expensive roadblock” to the creation of jobs.

Meanwhile, Michael Thurmond, a Democrat, said “we have to get control of our deficit and out of control spending.”

“It’s often been said that our representatives in Washington and our senators spend our money like drunken sailors,” Thurmond said. “The truth is some of those sailors have been Democrats, but a whole lot of them have been Republicans.”

Regarding healthcare reform, Isakson said to repeal the legislation and “start over,” while Thurmond said to “improve it” and Donovan said he would remove government intervention into healthcare.

Regarding federal support of public broadcasting, Donovan said “it is inappropriate” to spend tax dollars on public broadcasting, while Thurmond said it was an “appropriate” federal expense and Isakson didn’t give a firm answer.

Regarding deficit reduction, Isakson said he opposes a federal shutdown, but said federal spending needs to be reduced. Thurmond said “Washington is broken” and said elected officials need to move beyond partisan politics to work together to find solutions and take control of the deficit. Donovan said “we need to stop seeing the government as our savior.”

Regarding the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country, Donovan said he does not support amnesty, but that the country needs to enforce the laws on the books and the long-term solution is to help support “rich neighbors.” Isakson said securing the border with Mexico is an important first step. Thurmond said Georgia needs an elected official who can build a coalition.

On grading President Obama, Thurmond gave Obama a C plus “because he works so hard” and Congress a D. Isakson declined a give a grade and Donovan gave an F based on Obama’s support of stimulus spending and the war.

The debate, sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club, was filmed at GPB. At the end of the debate, Donovan invited Isakson and Thurmond to another debate on Friday or Saturday, as he works Monday through Thursday.

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