George Allen Plays it Safe in Republican Primary Debate

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Warren, Allen, Jackson, Marshall, Radtke.
Warren, Allen, Jackson, Marshall, Radtke.

by Valerie Garner

Former governor and U.S. senator George Allen had the most to lose with a gaff at Saturday’s primary debate. His challengers for the nomination are Bishop E. W. Jackson, Delegate Bob Marshall and former President of the Richmond Tea Party Jamie Radtke.

Jay Warren, WSLS channel 10 anchor, moderated the debate at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center. The room was not at capacity but enthusiasm was high. Chip Tarbutton and Greg Aldridge, who are spearheading the Jackson campaign, had their nose in a laptop checking the conservative blog “Bearing Drift“ for reaction. Aldridge gave a quiet animated cheer when Jackson hit the right talking points.

Jackson, as a minister demonstrated the oratory skills that set him apart from the other candidates. Though he’d “take an ax” to the nation’s budget, he left his red, white and blue ax prop out of sight. Jackson would eliminate the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

America’s comeback is based on “more fair, simple and competitive taxes – reasonable regulations, productive energy development and empowering educational opportunity,” said George Allen. He used the word “free” or “freedom” 14 times in his closing statement alone.

Bob Marshall, a 21-year Virginia delegate, said he has never voted for either a tax increase or for deficit spending. He is known for introducing bills in the general assembly that would make abortions difficult if not impossible. Most recently his “personhood” bill, that defines an embryo as a person, brought Virginia into the national spotlight. It was postponed until 2013 under intense media scrutiny and capital protests.

Marshall is responsible for the bill that formed the legal basis for Virginia’s challenge to Obamacare. The governor has recently signed Marshall’s Anti-Detention Act that prevents any Virginia agency from aiding the military in detaining U.S. citizens without trial.

In a humorous moment Warren asked if the Department of Homeland Security was a good idea. To that Jackson responded, “I do have a problem with TSA and the groping that goes on at the airports.” Marshall added that he thought the TSA “was a job’s program for out of work urologists,” which brought a big round of laughter.

Allen dismissed Ronald Reagan’s 18 debt ceiling increases saying, “those were those days and now it’s different.” He advocated for a balanced budget amendment and line item veto ignoring the question regarding his four votes to raise the debt ceiling during his previous reign as a U.S. Senator.

 Radtke called Allen out on his votes for earmarks and raising the debt ceiling. She said she would balance the budget in five years by freezing federal spending at current levels.

Tim Kaine held a roundtable on social security in Roanoke on the same day. His solution to keeping social security solvent past 2033 is to raise the social security payroll tax cap.

Jackson said that he “would never want to destroy social security, but if Chile can come up with a system of allowing people to invest their own money and build wealth over the course of their lives … the United States of America can handle it, too.”

All the candidates at the debate favored raising the retirement age for those born after the 1960s. Radtke said the government “has stolen it from all of us.” Retirees live in fear she said. “We can incentivize people to work beyond their retirement age … They can keep their payroll taxes.”

George Allen blamed the social security crisis on the economy.  Besides raising the retirement age he suggested income adjustment. “There are a variety of things that can be done … one thing I will not be for is raising taxes.” He blamed Tim Kaine for the increase in spending and said he “expected Tim Kaine to demagogue this issue.”

All candidates support the Defense of Marriage Act. All candidates were noncommittal on endorsing Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for president but said they would support the eventual nominee. Jackson admitted that Romney was not his first choice.

Allen said later that he’d like to see “states have flexibility in managing Medicaid.” There are many aspects of Paul Ryan’s budget proposal “that are identical or close to the one I’m advocating,” he said.

Both Virginia Senator Ralph Smith and Delegate Greg Habeeb have endorsed George Allen. Senator Smith said he envied Jackson’s speaking ability. He also thought Marshall would contribute positively to the debate.

There are two more Republican primary debates – one is scheduled for May 11 in Virginia Beach and another on May 25 in Falls Church.