Covington forum exposes differences between conservative candidates for Congress

COVINGTON, Ga. – A forum of 10 Republican congressional candidates was able to expose some differences to voters despite the government’s display of ultra-conservative views needed to appeal to voters in the Eastern Georgia District.

The candidates differed wildly in private sector and government experience — which all agreed would be an advantage in one form or another for Republicans in the 10th District and Georgia.

They also differed on issues such as term lengths, their top priorities if elected, and their top choices for committee assignments.

The event was hosted by the Republican Party Organizations of the 10th Congressional District and Newton County at the Canaan Baptist Church on Salem Road in Covington.

Candidates included Habitat for Humanity employee Andrew Alvey of Athens; State Representative Timothy Barr of Lawrenceville, whom US Representative Jody Hice endorsed; former US Representative Paul Broun of Athens, who was a congressman from the district from 2007 to 2015; and Jackson trucking company owner Mike Collins, who lost a GOP runoff to Hice in 2014 and is the son of the late U.S. Representative Mac Collins.

Others included former State Revenue Commissioner David Curry of Henry County; former state legislator and DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump; Monroe businessman Marc McMain, who was endorsed by Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman; retired police officer and security specialist Charles Rupert of Monroe; former Air Force Colonel Alan Sims of Winder; and former Navy Col. Mitchell Swan of Good Hope.

The candidates ranged in age from Alvey, who is 25, to Broun and Rupert, who were each 70 or older.

Moderator Ken Harrell asked the candidates about their positions on issues such as the effect of federal deficit spending, presidential use of executive orders, top priorities once they arrive in Congress, and more.

There were few fireworks at the mostly cordial two-hour event after 10th District organizers warned contestants not to attack each other.

However, there were some indirect potshots.

Collins said in his closing statement that he was ‘born, raised and, yes, I can vote in the 10th District’ – a slap in the face to fellow candidate Vernon Jones who recently entered the race with Trump’s endorsement .

Jones is a DeKalb County resident and longtime Democrat who switched parties in late 2020 in response to Trump’s loss in Georgia. Trump endorsed him after Jones ended a gubernatorial race and endorsed former U.S. Senator David Perdue in his bid to unseat Governor Brian Kemp.

Some of the top priorities for candidates included:

• Alvey, Collins, Curry and Swan — a balanced budget and secure borders;

• Barr — anti-abortion legislation and moderation of the federal budget;

• Broun — a balanced budget and the dissolution of the Ministry of Education.

• Jones — Republican control of Congress and term limits;

• McMain — more assistance for law enforcement;

• Rupert — enforcement of existing immigration laws and completion of the Keystone pipeline;

• Sims — national defense and energy independence;

The one committee everyone wanted to sit on:

• Alvey—House Agriculture Committee;

• Barr — House Government Oversight, to better control public spending.

• Broun—House Science Committee, to investigate and tell the public the “truth” about the origins of COVID;

• Collins — transportation committee, due to his experience in the industry;

• Curry — House Veterans Affairs, to help veterans have better access to health care;

• Jones – House Intelligence Committee, for more on investigations into Trump and others;

• McMain — House Budget Committee, to tackle the federal debt.

• Rupert — House Homeland Security, due to his experience in the security industry.

• Sims — Energy and Commerce Committee.

• Swan — House Armed Services Committee, to help improve the “fighting spirit” of the army.

Regarding term limits, Collins and Jones specified that they would only serve six years in Congress.

“The longer you stay, the more drunk you get,” Jones said.

However, Swan noted that it would take at least 15 years to learn how to pass meaningful legislation due to the current system in Congress.

Broun said he would have seniority if elected because of the four terms he has already served.

Members of Congress and Senators generally gain more powerful positions and committee assignments the longer they are in Congress.

The 10th District was redrawn in response to population changes seen in the 2020 census. It includes most of Newton County and some or all of the other 18 counties in northern and eastern Georgia.

The congressional seat was opened in 2021 after Hice announced he would challenge incumbent Brad Raffensperger for secretary of state.

The district is heavily Republican and voted about 70% for Trump in the 2020 presidential election, although Democrat Joe Biden narrowly won the statewide vote.

Candidate Matt Richards, a Barrow County businessman, was present at the event but chose not to attend. He announced Monday that he was dropping out of the race and endorsed Collins.

Another candidate, Patrick Witt, former deputy chief of staff of the US Office of Personnel Management in the Trump administration, was not present.

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