Coble, Blake Take Their Cases to Audience
Incumbent Congressman Howard Coble, a Greensboro Republican, and Rory Blake, his Democratic challenger, woke everybody up as the final part of the candidates' forum Tuesday night in Seven Lakes.
The two men agreed to abandon the red, white and blue-decked candidates' table and moved their chairs to the front of the room to be closer to their audience. At times, they even took their mobile microphones down the aisle into the gathering, almost like a television evangelist.
Both men drew frequent bursts of laughter from the audience.
Asked about stopping the "ludicrous pork barrel" spending habits of Congress, Coble reminded members of the audience that the definition of pork depends on who is getting the money.
"When it goes to California, it's pork, but when it comes into my district, it's important and needed," Coble said.
More seriously, Coble said that obviously heavy spending on special projects is a drain on the budget. He pointed to special needs, such as recovery from Hurricane Katrina and financing the war in Iraq.
"There is much waste, but both parties do it," Coble said.
Blake said the war has not only hurt the economy but has led to the death and injury of thousands of Americans in Iraq. Although this may not be technically defined as pork barrel spending, he questioned the wisdom behind the allocations, which, for example, have failed to address such military needs as armored transport.
"Pork barrel, like Howard Coble said, is spending that you don't like that somebody else likes a lot," Blake said.
Asked about term limits, both candidates said they oppose term limits through legislation.
"I think we have term limits now," Coble said in reference to the polling place.
Coble went on to say that he is one of the few members of Congress who has consistently turned down a federal pension.
"When I leave Congress, either voluntarily or involuntarily, I will not receive one brown penny," Coble said.
Coble added that he does not submit mass mailings to his constituents, as do many of his fellow congress persons. He responds to communications from individuals but does not mail thousands of communications at government expense, he said.
Blake was brief in expressing opposition to term limits, the concept of which he called "a hokey plan."
The two congressional candidates agreed on the subject of English as the language of the country but did not fully agree on treatment of illegal immigrants.
Coble said both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of casting "blind eyes" at the problem of immigration over a period of years. He voted in favor of erecting a fence along 700 miles of the United States border with Mexico.
However, Coble said the United States should take a two-pronged approach to the problem. In addition to the fence, he said the country should find an accommodation for guest workers. He said the agricultural producers of the country have told him that guest workers are needed.
"I'm not in favor of extending amnesty to anyone here illegally. We should secure our borders and address guest workers," Coble said.
Blake said many American companies go to Mexico and actively recruit people to work in their plants and on their farms. He told of many workers from other countries who are paying taxes and other fees while working and living in this country.
"I don't think building a wall will work," Blake said.
Blake suggested that the country could help the problem by developing an identification card that cannot be counterfeited.
As for English as the official language, Blake said it makes sense to keep English.
Coble said he voted in favor of English as the official language both in the House Judiciary Committee and on the House floor, although the bill did not make it through the House.
"I think English should be our number one language," he said. "If I go to Mexico, I think I should learn Spanish, and when they come here, they should respond accordingly."
One question referred to the "obnoxiously" complex tax code and asked if the candidates have a plan to address the issue.
Blake said everyone must pay taxes but taxes should be fair with the wealthy paying their share.
Of two tax measures under consideration, Coble said both have merit. He said he would probably support a flat tax if it were possible to retain two types of deduction, including charitable contributions. As for the fair tax, he said this concept has appeal because it taxes people on what they spend, not what they earn.
He admitted that it does disproportionately affect people with lower incomes but would apply to everyone. This tax would do away with the Internal Revenue Service and replace the income tax with excise/sales taxes.
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