Daily Journal - GOP candidates Davis, McCullough face off in debate - Republican congressional candidates Greg Davis and Glenn McCullough Jr. debated for more than an hour at the Elkin Theater here Thursday night in front of a crowd of roughly 50 people. The candidates, who are vying for the party's nomination in the April 1 runoff election, each answered nine questions posed by the event's three panelists: Craig Ford of WTVA, Steve Rodgers of WCBI, and Chris Brown of the Monroe County Republican Committee. Phil Hardwick with the Stennis Institute of Government moderated the debate, which it co-sponsored with the county's GOP committee.
Both candidates shared similar views on issues like abortion, the war in Iraq, gun ownership and Republican presidential candidate John McCain - they're anti-abortion, in support of the war, pro-gun ownership and favor McCain for president. But Davis, the mayor of Southaven, and McCullough, former mayor of Tupelo, differed on other matters. And the panelists grilled each of them on some hot-button topics in the campaign.
What follows are excerpts from the debate.
Q: Why did property taxes and the mayor's salary increase during Davis' time as mayor of Southaven?
A:Davis - The tax increase went up by a vote of 72 percent of the voters, who decided to eliminate the city's sanitation fee from the utility bill and shift it to property taxes. As for the salary, the board of aldermen determined the pay raise.
Q:What specifically would you cut from the federal budget to better control spending?
A:McCullough - Those decisions are never easy. But I would look at how a social program affects the family ... or a small or large business owner. I think you've got to take the budget line item by line item and make hard decisions. One of the shortcomings of our Republican party is that we've been fiscally, financially irresponsible these past few years.
A:Davis - How about the $2 million to study yoga that was put in the defense bill? Or the $2 million to study paint shields to prevent microbiological organisms from getting in paint? Or the $278,000 for a Lincoln Airport Commission that has no airport? Enough is enough. Quit wasting our tax dollars and let the federal government be what it's supposed to be.
Q:Former Sen. Trent Lott supported McCullough's appointment to the Tennessee Valley Authority board and later criticized his performance. Why?
A:- McCullough - I voted to bring online the first nuclear reactor in this country during my tenure. TVA invested $1.7 billion on my watch to make sure we had affordable, reliable electricity in the air and make sure the air was cleaner, removing emissions up to 70 percent while I was there. I helped bring careers to the people of the 1st Congressional district, helped implement the first-in-the-world megasite certification process ... . For almost six years at TVA, there was only one rate change while other utilities around us were raising rates every year. I'm proud of my performance.
A:Davis - I wouldn't begin to speculate why Sen. Lott does what he does, but I do appreciate his support. I don't think the fact that I ran as an independent the last time made any difference in Lott's support. (The McCullough camp in the past has accused Davis of not being a true Republican because he ran as an independent when he first ran for the legislature in the early '90s). Both of us (Davis and McCullough) have signed a form to run as independents in this special election, just as I did when I ran as an independent for the first time for the Legislature.
Q:How would you have voted for the bill against earmarks?
A:Davis - All earmarks should be stopped until we get control of spending. Before earmarks came back, we'd need to make sure there would be an economic return on investment.
A:McCullough - I'm firmly against wasteful government spending. I'm not in Congress or the Senate, and I'm not sure how Cochran or Wicker voted.