As interesting as all the personalities and "grilling" are, what do the five Republican candidates for 3rd District Congressman stand for? Here are a few of the ideas they proposed at Tuesday's debate in Westborough.
This being the Republican primary, take it as read that all five candidates dislike President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Jim McGovern (natch), amnesty for illegal immigrants, the concept of health care as a right, and "cap-and-trade legislation"; and are generally well disposed toward a broad reading of the Second Amendment, small government, tax cuts (including the "Bush tax cuts" set to expire in January), family, God, honesty and hard work. Their opinions of motherhood and applie pie were not solicited.
Robert Chipman (R-Plainville): First priority would be passing a Balanced Budget Amendment. Also supports the line-item veto (as a constitutional amendment; it was found unconstitutional when passed as a law in the 1990s). Is against the recent extension of unemployment benefits to 99 months.
Robert Delle (R-Paxton): Main economic plank is creating more enterprise zones for small businesses. All Defense Department spending should be done in the United States. Implement tax havens within U.S. territorial borders, to recapture the banking business that has fled to Caribbean islands and other low-tax or low-regulation countries. As a "free-market absolutist," believes illegal immigration is best curtailed by cutting off "free money" programs (welfare, public housing, etc.) to anyone who isn't a legal resident.
Brian Herr (R-Hopkinton): Touted potential dividends from improving local digital infrastructure, such as increased attractiveness to business, and easier sharing of medical records (to reduce the administrative costs of health care). Would send military troops to patrol the Mexican border.
Marty Lamb (R-Holliston): Has a seven-point plan to end illegal immigration. Advocates having troops on the border to defend against what he calls an "invasion." Would ask Supreme Court to interpret (not rewrite) the 14th Amendment as not applying to so-called "anchor babies" because the parents, illegal immigrants, were not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. Instead of government health plans, he proposed giving tax credits for individuals to purchase insurance.
Michael Stopa (R-Holliston): Use unspent stimulus money to extend the Bush tax cuts two more years. Wants Washington out of the business of "social engineering and political payback" that drives most spending plans; would rather see partnerships with business. "These people [Democratic leadership] basically view profit with hostility. ... We're going down there not to fix the economy, but to fight with the people who are trying to destroy the economy."
Every candidate specifically mentioned wanting to repeal "Obamacare," though only a couple went into great detail. Herr said he'd like to see the health care system defined on a state-by-state basis, and said the real problem -- high costs -- can be tamed through better technology and tort reform. Stopa said he wants to follow "the Massachusetts model for dismantling Obamacare" -- he said he's the only candidate campaigning on this platform, which could have the recent health care law nullified "in 2012, with Michele Bachmann in the White House."
On Social Security, which the moderator called a "Ponzi scheme," Stopa said he'd like to raise the retirement age and perhaps privatize 1/3 of each account. Chipman agreed and added that he'd index benefits to prices, not wages. Delle called the program "Democrats at their best, free money for everyone." He would give people the option to "buy out" of the program. Herr stood against raising the retirement age, but would like to incorporate modern investment techniques into Social Security. Lamb called the existing accounts "sacred" but said he'd like to let new workers contribute to individual retirement plans instead of Social Security.
And who are these guys? Based on their own (often repeated) statements, Chipman's "the man of 'no'" on his School Committee and speaks for the "silent majority" awakened during the health care debate; Delle is a lawyer, true conservative and the only one who really understands Central Massachusetts; Herr is a small-government advocate who touts his local government experience (selectman and Planning Board) and his role helping craft a 0% increase town budget this year; Lamb is a Tea Party member (it means "Taxed Enough Already," he noted) and small business owner; Stopa is a Ph.D. physicist, "Reagan conservative" and founder of the Harvard University Tea Party ("I fight with liberals every day.").
Other takes on the Westborough debate (and I feel sorry for the two headline writers who inadvertently used the exact same phrase in this morning's newspapers):
MetroWest Daily News: Candidates Grill Each Other at 3rd District Debate in Westborough
Telegram & Gazette: GOP Candidates Grill Each Other; Victor to Face McGovern in 3rd