GOP contenders state their cases in Long Beach forum

LONG BEACH — The Republican challengers for U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo’s 4th District congressional seat took about as many shots at the federal government as they did at the incumbent during a forum Thursday at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus.

Palazzo’s office said he couldn’t attend because Congress is in session.

The other four candidates — former Rep. Gene Taylor, Tavish Kelly, Ron Vincent and Tom Carter — answered questions about the speaker of the House election, American exceptionalism, foreign aid, the greatest threat to the country and other subjects posed by Coast Young Professionals, one of the organizations that put the forum on along with the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, USM and the Young Americans for Liberty.

Most agree the government is the biggest threat.

“No one’s going to attack us — no country,” said Kelly, adding the real threat was the attitude that government is the solution. “We’re giving up rights to someone 1,000 miles away.”

Taylor quoted Navy Adm. Mike Mullen who said the greatest threat to the country is the debt.

“The solution is a balanced-budget amendment,” Taylor said.

Carter agreed.

“We’re broke, we’re broke,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to change our tax code.”…

…For speaker, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina got the most votes. Current Speaker John Boehner got the thumbs down. Justin Amash of Michigan was Kelly’s first choice, followed by Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Dana Rohrabacher of California. Vincent favored Gowdy and no one else. Carter listed Gowdy first, followed by Sanford.

Taylor, ever the maverick, said he’d be his first choice, though he admitted that probably wouldn’t happen. He also would like to see Walter Jones of North Carolina get it, conceding that also wasn’t likely.