Former U.S. Congressman Bob Barr of Smyrna and former State Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, each took a round of questions in front of about 300 people during the forum, which was sponsored by the 11th District Republican Party.
While each took plenty of shots at President Barack Obama and his policies, they also took shots at each other.
Questions were asked of the candidates by Randy Evans, Republican Party national committeeman, and Marietta Daily Journal columnist Joe Kirby.
Kirby’s first question mentioned the loss by U.S. Rep Eric Cantor, R-Va., earlier in the week to professor Dave Brat in the Virginia primary. He asked if the shake-up in the U.S. House of Representatives meant a freshman or a veteran was better prepared to lead in the future.
Loudermilk began by alluding to Barr’s years in Congress from 1995 to 2003.
“My worthy opponent doesn’t hesitate to let everyone know that he’s been to Congress and I haven’t. And that’s true. I’m not a Washington insider,” Loudermilk said. “There is an adage in the House of Representatives — and in the State Senate — that if you want to get anything done, give it to a freshman.”
Loudermilk continued by saying freshmen in Congress have not been taught what they can’t do and haven’t been “corrupted by the system.”
Barr responded in kind.
“I’ve been called a lot of things, but I’ve never been called a Washington insider,” said the 2008 Libertarian Party presidential candidate. “Maybe I misheard what Barry just said. If you face a very serious problem in Washington, one that goes to the heart of our nation’s defense, which involves a very complex process ... that the adage in Washington is ‘Give it to somebody that doesn’t have any idea what they’re doing and has just gotten here,’ that’s a new one on me. I hate to tell y’all, but that ain’t going to work.”
Barr said the Obama administration “hides” unwanted cuts deep in legislation and it takes experience to know where to look. He said as an eight-year veteran of Congress he is running on his track record.
In another exchange, Loudermilk said only one candidate hasn’t wavered on his conservative principles, possibly alluding to Barr’s time in the Libertarian Party. Barr later said, “This isn’t about who’s the most conservative, who can talk the talk. ... I’ve been there. I’ve done it.”
Evans asked the candidates what they thought the single biggest issue facing the 11th District is.
Barr answered, saying the biggest issue is saving Lockheed-Martin’s Marietta plant and preventing the closure of Dobbins Air Reserve Base through the base realignment and closure program. He said his experience is crucial toward doing so.
“We cannot afford a rookie in that seat in the next two years,” Barr said.
Loudermilk agreed about Lockheed’s importance, citing his experience in the Air Force and in the Georgia General Assembly.
“Lockheed is of extreme importance,” Loudermilk said. “We must keep Dobbins operating and open.”
Mentioning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kirby said Obama could be on the verge of becoming the first president to ever lose two wars. He asked the candidates how they would advise Obama about the wars.
Loudermilk said his son is in the military right now, so the conflicts are close to his heart.
“This is a tough call,” Loudermilk said. “I feel like what we’ve done is for naught [in Iraq].”
He said he’d be in favor of the U.S. intervening in Iraq “if there is a clear and present danger.”
Loudermilk’s answer on Afghanistan was different.
“We should have learned our lesson from the Soviets,” he said.
Barr had a different form of advice for Obama.
“What I’d tell Obama is, ‘Resign now,’” he said, to laughter from the crowd.
He said Obama’s decision to pull troops out of Iraq was “setting the example of cutting and running” and encouraged him to “use the air strike capability that we have.”
The two also differed slightly when asked if they would seek impeachment of Obama.
Barr gave an unequivocal yes and referenced his role in the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.
Loudermilk agreed Obama deserved impeachment, but felt it might not be worth trying, if it wouldn’t succeed.
“If we can’t finish the job, we probably shouldn’t start the drill,” Loudermilk said.
Barr later reiterated the need to impeach Obama “despite Barry worrying about whether the Senate would go along with an impeachment.”
The final question of the debate came from Kirby and was about the legalization of gay marriage.
Loudermilk made clear he is against gay marriage, and said he feels an “overwhelming majority” of people agree.
Barr did not carve out a hard stance on the issue, saying it is not something on most people’s minds.
Loudermilk came in first during the May 20 primary, beating five other candidates and winning three of the district’s four counties. He took Cobb, Bartow and Cherokee counties, losing only in Fulton. Barr took 26 percent of the vote, while Loudermilk took 37 percent.
Because no Democrat is running, the winner of the July 22 runoff will win the seat for the next two years.
The seat came open when U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, launched an unsuccessful run at the U.S. Senate.
Those knocked out of the race May 20 were Marietta resident Tricia Pridemore, Georgia State Rep. Ed Lindsay, businessman Allan Levene and retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Mrozinski.