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Senate candidates Garner, Chambliss face off in debate

Published 7:22pm Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ROCKFORD – With three weeks remaining until the July 15 runoff for Alabama Senate District 30, Coosa County residents got a chance to have their questions answered from the last two remaining candidates.

The Coosa County Republican Party hosted a debate Tuesday at the Coosa County Courthouse between Republican candidates Clyde Chambliss Jr. and Harris Garner, the two remaining candidates for the Alabama Senate District 30 seat.

Both will compete in the July 15 runoff election after neither received the necessary 50 percent of votes to win the Republican primary on June 3. Chambliss received 9,144 votes, or about 49.9 percent, and Garner received 5,862 votes, or about 31.99 percent.

During the debate, candidates were asked 11 questions gathered by the Coosa County Republican Party from constituents. Each candidate was given a chance to answer and in some cases a chance to follow up.

Suzelle Josey and Bill Harris, who had both been eliminated in the primary, served as the debate’s moderators.

One question posed to candidates was would they support or oppose the expansion of Medicaid in Alabama and why they would or would not.

Garner said he would oppose the expansion of Medicaid because the people should not be on the hook for long-term expenses of expanding it.

“I believe I’m going to have to take a stance in agreement with Gov. Bentley to not expand Medicaid. The reason being because once again we have the federal government coming in and intruding into our lives,” Garner said. “They’re trying to dangle the golden carrot out there of our tax dollars and trying to make us do certain things. If we expand Medicaid, we’re going to be signed on for the long term.”

Chambliss said the focus should be on fixing Medicaid instead of spending money that is not currently available.

“When I was on the county commission, we had a program very similar to what’s being offered now – they give you money for a certain period of time then it tails off,” Chambliss said. “That is a good situation if you have the money to do it with up front. You don’t need to spend the money before you have it. That’s what gets us into problems personally, in business and as a state. If we don’t have the money to do it now, then we should not expand Medicaid. Medicaid is a system that has problems. We need to resolve those problems before we expand.”

Candidates were also asked what their position is on Common Core Curriculum and would they commit to endorsing any bill that would repeal the measure.

Chambliss said he is opposed to common core, and rebuffed Garner’s claim that Chambliss being endorsed by the Business Council of America means he supports common core, adding that Garner also sought BCA’s endorsement.

Chambliss also said he would not commit to endorsing any hypothetical bill before actually reading it.

“I am opposed to common core. I said that in a little school house over there back in February or March and have said that at about seven or eight public forums since then. To say anything otherwise is dishonest and deceptive,” Chambliss said. “The simple fact of the matter is this – all candidates up here tonight are opposed to common core. The Business Council of Alabama, do you think that’s the only issue they’re worried about? No. They’re interested in the business of the state, business climate of the states and how attract jobs. That’s why they endorsed me.”

Garner said he would support any bill that aims to repeal common core, and argued that voters should be wary of BCA and its endorsement of Chambliss because they are a key endorser of the curriculum.

“They are the No. 1 people pushing common core. That’s the main association trying to cram the liberal common core stuff from Washington. Once again the federal government is trying to control us with our own tax dollars,” Garner said.