Six Republicans running for Congress in Central Kentucky agreed during a live televised forum Monday that government needs to shrink and get out of the way so entrepreneurs can create jobs.
Candidates for the 6th Congressional District seat talked amiably on Kentucky Tonight on Kentucky Educational Television. The GOP primary is May 18; the winner will face U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, on Nov. 2.
The men criticized President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress for expanding government's reach and cost through bailouts of failed corporations and the recent health-care reform law.
Garland Hale "Andy" Barr IV, 36, a Lexington lawyer, said Congress could enact market-based health-care improvements, such as promoting high-deductible health-savings accounts.
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Mike Templeman, 63, a retired coal executive in Frankfort, said the federal government shouldn't play any role in health care, given the poor record of Medicare and Medicaid. The states can decide how to provide better access to health care for their residents, he said.
"We have turned so many things over to our government, and they have sent so many unfunded mandates back to us," Templeman said.
Matt Lockett, 35, a funeral services salesman in Nicholasville, said the health-care reform law is illegal because the Constitution does not give the federal government the power to force citizens to buy health insurance. Also, Lockett said, studies indicate the law is not expected to reduce rising health care costs, which is the chief problem.
Regarding federal spending, the candidates said Congress is mortgaging future generations of Americans by burning through trillions of dollars the country doesn't have, leaving it indebted to China and other foreign lenders.
They said they would boycott earmarked spending that congressional incumbents kick back to their districts and then campaign on in election years — what Lockett called "a power grab by career politicians."
"I don't like earmarks," Lockett said. "Earmarks are part of the problem with our bloated government and our budget deficit."
However, Templeman said earmarks are a tiny part of overall federal spending, and painful, widespread cuts are needed across all levels of government to reduce the deficit.
"We have got to cut this federal government. We have got to cut it back to the bone," Templeman said.
George Pendergrass, 49, an emergency-medical pilot in Georgetown, said Americans need to overcome their dependence on government handouts. Years ago, people turned to their family, friends and churches for assistance during hard times, not the government, he said.
"The country I grew up in is going away," Pendergrass said.
John Kemper III, 46, a builder and developer in Lexington, blamed high taxes and burdensome regulations in part on a Congress roughly half of which is lawyers, with relatively few business owners in its ranks.
The candidates also agreed on immigration, calling for stricter border security and no amnesty for illegal immigrants. They praised Arizona's new law that requires police to stop and question people about their status — including asking for identification cards — if they suspect people might be in the country illegally.
Legal immigrants and U.S. citizens in Arizona complain that police could hassle them simply for their looks. But Kemper and Lockett said police should be able to stop people and ask for ID. Templeman said the federal government's failure to deal with immigration led to Arizona's law.
Only once during the broadcast was there discord: when Barr, introducing himself, said he was "the true conservative in this race."
"I think all six of us here are probably true conservatives, not just one person," responded Perry Wilson Barnes, 73, owner of a mail-order record business in Nicholasville.