The Hall County Republican Party hosted a debate between the five candidates for the 9th District Congressional nomination on Saturday. Candidates Paul Broun, Roger Fitzpatrick, Bernie Fontaine and Mike Scupin took on incumbent Doug Collins in the two hour debate, which covered topics as diverse as foreign policy and national security, taxes, the federal budget, funding Planned Parenthood and more. But it wasn’t until the last portion of the debate, optimistically labeled “Ethics and Integrity” in the event agenda that the discussion between the two leading candidates, Broun and Collins, got really heated.
Moderator Joe Schuebert brought up the recent indictment of Broun’s former Chief of Staff David Bowser, and the guilty plea by Broun’s former staffer and communications consultant Brett O’Donnell. Broun insisted he was unaware of all of this, and told me after the debate, “I’m not sure of what [Bowser] did at this point because that’s not clear. But if he as broken the law, I want him punished. He needs to be held accountable and responsible.” Broun told me he had full confidence in Bowser, who was the office ethics adviser, tasked with ensuring anything done didn’t get close to an ethics violation.
Dr. Broun accused Rep. Collins of being an establishment politician who does not do a good job of representing the needs of his constituents, while Collins said the Broun improperly managed his office when he was the 10th District congressman.
After the debate, Collins told me, “Here’s the man who has been in Congress longer than I have, who undoubtedly doesn’t know the rules, who undoubtedly doesn’t know how to run his own office. And yet, the very things he is accused of, he doesn’t know the answer for.” After pointing out that Dr. Broun offered no good solutions for issues brought up in the debate including water resources and defunding Planned Parenthood, Rep. Collins summed it up with, “He’s good at talking points. I just think he’s a very bad candidate for Congress.”
Dr. Broun had a different opinion. “Mr. Collins wants to twist facts. He wants to make accusations that are totally unfounded, or to make distortions of facts to try to promote his own candidacy and to cover up all the bad votes that he’s made. It’s a diversion by Mr. Collins to try to keep people from looking at him and how he is an establishment leadership pandering congressman. He’ll do whatever the leadership wants him to do.”
I hope to have a more detailed report about what happened at the debate on Monday You can get the blow-by-blow by checking my Twitter feed.