Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Grand Rapids US Senate Debate

Today was the 2nd formal debate between the three senate candidates. Being political junkies, Keith Richards and I drove out to Grand Rapids to see how the three would debate over in the West side of the state. Matthew Dowd was the moderate and did a good job keeping control.

ON EDIT - Grand Rapids Press article on debate

I took notes as quickly as I could on this and have a general summary of what was said.

All three candidates significantly improved over their first debate in Oakland County. Bouchard was more polished than he was in the first debate. He also spoke about more than just security issues which he concentrated on in the first debate. Butler mentioned the economy more than he did previously and was much more assertive. Zandstra continued his campaigning on his detailed knowledge of the economy, and he also mentioned social issues more than he previously did. Based on the detailed answers, I give Zandstra the edge, although I could vote for any candidate over Stabenow.

The format outside of opening/closing statement was 90 seconds (I think) for the question, with 30 second rebuttals for the two other candidates. As such, the first answer is almost always longer than the second and third answers.

Opening Statement:

Mike Bouchard - Michigan is in "tough straits" with the jobs, people moving out of state. He mentioned his small business experience as well as his elected office as a state senator and sheriff. He said he was a fiscal conservative. He mentioned that we need to control the borders. He said that Debbie was controlled by special interests and needs to be replaced.

Keith Butler - He mentione being the only Detroit Republican to win in the last 50 years. He said he was a reformer on the city council who didn't take the pay raises or city cars. He's not a lifetime pol and understands people. He said he was a compassionate conservative and that "Do nothing Debbie has got to go."

Jerry Zandstra - Principles matter on both social and economic issues. He emphised his Acton Institute background and his international experience on economic issues with Acton. He said he is prolife, and said that his primary opponents were also prolife. Jerry is pro-2nd amendment. He is also the only candidate to support MCRI - the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative He said that his economic background will make the difference in defeating Stabenow since national unemployment is dropping while Michigan's is up.

Question 1 - What makes you beat Stabenow?

Bouchard - His experience in the state senate background. He's cut taxes and regulations and wrote the sex offenders register act. He's won 14 elections.

Butler - Crossover appeal and that the GOP has only one one senate election in 30 years - 1994.

Zandstra - Economic background. He's running on jobs pension costs, tort and tax reform, and tax structure reform.

Q2 – What is the candidate’s plan to stop the outflow of jobs from Michigan.

Butler – Business costs are too high, and there is too much regulation. Health Care costs are the number one expense. 18% of the GDP is on Health care. There is no competition in health care. Butler wants all health care computerized.

Zandstra – Significant tort reform is needed as it adds 2-5% to all manufacturing costs. Michigan’s economy is 76% manufacturing. Tax reform is needed as ½ trillion dollars is spent each year just compiling with taxes, let alone paying taxes.

Bouchard – He worked on what they were talking by cutting taxes, regulations, and tort reforms.

Q3 – What is judiciary roles? Would you support or oppose a pro-choice nominee?

Zandstra – Strict constructionalist. Concerned about activist judges redefining marriage and the second amendment. He would vote no on a judge which openly supports abortion.

Bouchard – Concerned about activist judges and cited the Massachusetts court and California Circuit Court (although I think he meant 9th Circuit federal) as examples. He did not specifically say yes or no on a pro-abortion judge which disapointed me.

Butler – Originalist. Will support up and down vote on all nominees, but would vote no on pro-choice judge.

Q4 – What would the candidate do to stop partisan bickering.

Bouchard – Gets the job done. He was originally a minority member in the senate. Looks for common ground as opposed to Debbie’s obstructionalism. He sited getting 75% of the legislature to agree on a casino gambling issue as an example.

Zandstra – Believes in principles and thinks through issues based on those principles. Principles matter.

Butler – Play fair with them, and they may play fair with you, but republicans are republicans and democrats are democrats.

Q5 – MCRI stance.

Butler – Opposes, and mentioned the GR Chamber and DeVos’ opposition. Said that only Zandstra opposed it. He said that MCRI goes too far and does not address legacy discrimination and bans all girl or all boy schools.

Zandstra – Supports – The other reasons given are smoke screen and that MCRI only covers public schools. 80% of GOP supports this. 65% of all voters supports this. He read the part of the GOP platform that covers this – opposing quotas and set asides.

Bouchard – Opposes quotes, but this goes in the constitution. His kids are in Catholic schools, and is worried that MCRI would stop all boy or all girls school.

Q6 – What tax policy changes would candidate support and do you support Bush’s tax cuts.

Zandstra – Goes back to MCRI and said it covers public schools only. He would vote to make tax cuts permanent. He states that ½ trillion is spent on tax preparation. To compete internationally, tax changes are needed. He supports replacing the income tax with a national sales tax – Fairtax.

Butler – 18% GDP is spent on tax compliance. He supports a flat tax.

Bouchard – Supports tax cuts. Cut taxes in the senate.

Q7 – Spending and defecit.

Butler – Outlaw earmarks. Saves 27 Billion. Cut health care costs. Medicare, Medicaid, and eventually Social Security needs to be fixed.

Bouchard – Cut spending aggregate. The pie goes to appropriations and the pie needs to be cut in the first place.

Zandstra – When an area is cut, those dependent on the program start screaming. Across the board 5% spending cut. All feel the pain.

Q8 - Health Care Costs, Prescription drug costs.

Bouchard - Bring costs down, make it affordable. The cause needs to be addressed, not the symptom. Tort reform is needed in Washington. There is too much paperwork in the medical field.

Butler - 34 Billion is spent on illegal aliens. Close Borders, and add competition. Mentioned that we all pay for the uninsured currently.

Matthew Dowd jumps in with the next question on Illegal Immigration, then gives extra time to Zandstra to answer both questions.

Q9 - Illegal Immigration

Zandstra - Health Care - Competition drives down price. 31% of costs are administrative overhead which must end. 5% of the cases are 50% of the cost - Diabetes, Obesity, and Heart Disease. Stabenow wants to nationalize health care with Hillary Rodham Clinton - and the costs will go up if that's the case. Health care needs to be tied to the wallet. Illegals - We don't know how many there are. People come here for economic interest since salaries are higher here. Those who hire illegals need to face a $10,000 fine.

Butler - Control borders by all means possible. Fine harborers.

Bouchard - Must secure the border. Illegals need to go. National security issue - some illegals are coming to blow up our buildings.

Q10 - Social Security.

Bouchard - We're running in a brick wall. Democrates refuse to deal with it. He supports Bush's call for a bipartisan commission and compares the issue to Michigan's property tax issue of the early 90's.

Butler - Cited Galveston TX decision to opt out.

Zandstra - Privatize part of it - We own it. The return of SSI is abysmal, and it should be on the market. 6% return is much better than 1.5%

Q11 - Disagree with any part of GOP platform? Why?

Zandstra - No specific issue, but he's afraid of the rhetoric on immigration. Protect the borders, but do not isolate ourselves.

Butler - Agrees with Zandstra - we all came from somewhere. Supports Legal immigration, and immigration is needed for science skills.

Bouchard - Some demonize the GOP over this. Not against legal immigration. Immigrants need to speak English and become Americans. Does not want a Quebec here.

Q12 - President's wiretaps of terrorist calls.

Butler - Cites Article 2, Section 1 as commander in chief. Supreme court has upheld this in the past, and that the president needs to have the power to defeat the enemy, no matter where he is. Congress can not override the constitution.

Bouchard - Agreed.

Zandstra - The democrats are engaging in political theatre and were briefed with the president. He said this was not a case of him calling his wife, but are known terrorsts.

Q13 - Candidate's influences.

Bouchard - Parents. Political influence - Reagan

Butler - Parents, education. Political - Reagan and Jack Kemp.

Zandstra - Grandfather.

Closing statement:

Zandstra - Principles matter. He's educated and has strong leadership. He's the best candidate to defeat Stabenow based on the economy. He grew up between Gary and Chicago and saw what happened to the steel mills. Michigan needs federal help. He has the business and education background needed.

Butler - Read his book to know where he stands on all of the issues (That disapointed me - it should be on his website). Forums are not a good way to find out where candidates stand. Moral issues matter as well as economics. Abortion has economic consequences, and reduced the work force. He is a well rounded candidate.

Bouchard - There needs to be a change in Washington and the governor's mansion. Economic and security issues are key. John Kerry won Oakland, but he received 61% there.

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Overall, I think all candidates improved.

On immigration, I think Bouchard hit a home run. Butler hit a homer on Social Security with Galveston.

That said, I still give Zandstra the win here, as I did in Oakland(before I endorsed him). I did not see political answers from him, but straight answers with as much detail as possible - particulary on tax issues, budget issues and health care issues. Those are the major keys in the election IMO, and why Zandstra gets the slight edge. He took a stand on MCRI that was the least PC, and that may pay dividends as well.

All three are quality candidates. All three are head and shoulders above Stabenow. This was mostly a positive issues based debate, and did not go into personal attacks. Kudos to all three candidates, and may the best man win in August. Whoever wins, it's time to send Debbie to the private sector.

Keith Butler's website

Mike Bouchard's website

Jerry Zandstra's website

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