Hunter assailed during congressional debate
North County Times (2010-10-15) Mark Walker
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REGION: Hunter assailed during congressional debate
FRESHMAN LAWMAKER ARGUES HIS VALUES ARE IN KEEPING WITH 52ND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
By MARK WALKER - firstname.lastname@example.org
| Posted: Friday, October 15, 2010 10:26 pm |
Freshman Rep. Duncan Hunter spent much of Friday evening deflecting attacks from two challengers during an occasionally raucous and rollicking debate.
While Democrat Ray Lutz and Libertarian Michael Benoit repeatedly accused him of being out of touch, Hunter, a Republican, said his conservatism is in keeping with the 52nd Congressional District that includes portions of Poway and Ramona.
Government, Hunter repeatedly said, is not the answer to solving the nation's woes.
"The liberals and activist judges have hijacked America," Hunter told more than 250 people gathered inside a Cuyamaca College theater.
When asked how they would bring more jobs to the region, Hunter said the best way is to cut taxes and regulations.
"It's how do you get government out of the way so the American people can create jobs," the 33-year-old said. "I'm not going to come to you with a 20-page plan. If it works in the American market, let entrepreneurs do it."
Benoit said the federal government is a mess and lawmakers in Washington are seemingly oblivious.
"Duncan Hunter just voted for $53 billion for NASA," Benoit said, adding that, meanwhile, "we're close to meltdown here."
Lutz said Hunter was part of a "broken machine" in Washington and that he was elected to replace his father two years ago because his name was the same.
"He's a part of the favors his father set up," Lutz said. "He inherited the seat."
Hunter, whose father was a 14-term lawmaker who stepped down in 2008, painted Lutz as a liberal who favors more government programs.
"We're going to get this country going again," Hunter said. "We're going to get rid of Obama care and the overburdening regulations and let America be great again."
The nearly two-hour debate was the only time the three candidates have appeared together at the same forum. Lutz and Benoit made national news this summer when they went on an 11-day hunger strike to try to force Hunter to agree to more than one debate.
The friction between Lutz and Hunter was obvious. Supporters of each loudly chided the other's answers to questions during the debate sponsored by the East County Chamber of Commerce. At one point, Hunter was loudly booed when he said the war in Iraq had nothing to do with oil.
Benoit, 59, said the biggest problem confronting the country is a broken political system that is rigged to keep the major parties in power.
"Elections in this country are rigged," he said. "The districts are gerrymandered for one party or the other."
Lutz, 53, claimed he was the "people's candidate," refusing to accept any political action committee contributions, and that he was against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"I believe we have to turn away from unending war," Lutz said.
Lutz also called for a large-scale solar construction project to spur job growth.
"Solar energy is a people energy ---- everybody can own their own," Lutz said.
When the topic turned to immigration, Lutz called for crackdowns on employers and more people to guard the border.
Hunter, who has spent the last two years focusing on many of the same defense issues that his father concentrated on, said terrorism is the real concern. The border has to be locked down before any immigration reform can proceed, he said.
"Border security is a national security issue," said the Marine Corps reservist, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan before winning the seat his father held for nearly 30 years. "Border security first, then we'll talk."
While Lutz said building a fence isn't the answer; Hunter said it works.
"Thank God we have the fence in San Diego," he said. "We've cut down on crime and drugs just because of that fence."
Asked about repealing a ban on gays serving openly in the military, Hunter said he supports current policy.
"I am going to fight to keep it the way it is," Hunter said.
Lutz took the opposite stance.
"You don't have to be straight to shoot straight," Lutz said. "This is just something that people have to get over."
Benoit stuck with his party's basic tenet.
"Get government out of the way and legalize liberty," Benoit said, adding he would legalize marijuana. "Vices are not crimes."
Call staff writer Mark Walker at 760-740-3529.