While the Atlanta Braves baseball team was battling it out in the National League Division Series on October 10th, the Atlanta Press Club held a series of political debates between candidates for judgeships and Congress. The debates were held at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Midtown and were carried live on a warm Atlanta autumn evening.
The debate for the 7th congressional district of Georgia featured a spirited discussion between Republican Rob Woodall and Colonel Doug Heckman. These candidates are seeking to fill Representative John Linder’s seat. Linder has been in Congress for 18 years and is retiring to Mississippi at the end of this session.
Rob Woodall served as Linder’s chief of staff and co-authored Fair Tax: The Truth with his boss and Libertarian talk show host Neal Boortz.
Colonel Doug Heckman served three tours of duty overseas including two stints in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
As expected, the two sparred over the issue of taxation. Woodall pressed his case for the FAIR Tax, a system that would replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax. The idea receives support in this district which includes the metropolitan counties of Forsyth, Gwinnett, Barrow, Newton, and Walton. With time limitations, Woodall couldn’t get bogged down in the FAIR Tax’s details, but he pointed out that U.S. manufacturing would increase under such a system. Heckman defended the expiration of the Bush era tax cuts while preserving lower tax rates for those in the middle class saying that the more affluent ought to assist in paying down the debt. Woodall said that all income levels should still receive the Bush era tax cuts including those making over $250,000 because they “do the lion’s share of consuming in the country.”
According to candidate Woodall, the area’s water supply is the number one issue in the 7th district which has seen severe drought as recently as 2007. Also, a federal judge ruled that Georgia, Florida and Alabama need to work out a water sharing agreement by 2012. Woodall believes that a compromise can be handled on the federal level. Heckman questioned the strength of Woodall’s argument and later said he was surprised that his opponent picked water as the number one issue when jobs, the economy and the two wars he served in are on the nation’s mind.
Immigration is a hot button issue in Georgia where many legislators and citizens would like to see an Arizona-style law passed in the Peach State. The discussion came down along party lines with Heckman against it and Woodall for it.
Woodall asked Heckman if he would be for the repeal of Obamacare. Heckman replied that it’s unlikely and defended the national health care program with, “Is it bad that 30 million more people have health care? I don’t think so. I think it’s good that we have this health care and we can make it better around the edges.”
Heckman questioned Woodall if he was comfortable representing the 800,000 people in the district when he spent nearly the last two decades in Washington. In his question, Heckman compared Woodall to Hillary Clinton’s situation when she ran for the U.S. Senate in New York saying that many were calling Mrs. Clinton a carpetbagger. Woodall replied that the differences between him and Secretary Clinton are vast and that he in fact grew up in the district, but the lines have been changed many times over the years. Woodall is a native of Athens, Georgia.
Support for embryonic stem cell research is something that candidate Heckman fully supports. Woodall stated that he is for federal funding of research, just not embryonic. Heckman echoed former first lady Nancy Reagan’s defense of the benefits of embryonic stem cell research. “The benefits outweigh the risks,” Heckman said.
Both candidates have sharp resumes. Heckman is a solid veteran with excellent education and business credentials while Woodall is a polished aspiring politician who articulates his points in a simple direct manner. Both men have a passion to become elected public officials. Heckman is well-versed in the Democratic Party’s agenda, but it seems that he has yet to find his identity. Woodall maintains a dynamic Southern “Reaganesque” appeal.
This is Heckman’s second run at this congressional seat when he challenged Representative Linder in the 2008 elections. Woodall emerged out of a crowded field of candidates in this summer GOP primary.