Two Republicans played up their conservative views in a spirited debate last night to kick off the 2010 election contest for the 9th District House seat held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).
About 250 people crowded the Fraternal Order of Eagles hall in Maumee to hear from Jack Smith, a retired Toledo police chief, and Rich Iott, former owner of the Seaway Food Town. Their names will be on the May 4 GOP primary ballot, with the winner taking on Miss Kaptur in November.
Both stressed their belief in limited government, which they said was prescribed by the Constitution. They said they would support replacing the income tax with either a flat tax or a value-added tax and eliminating the federal role in public education.
Both paid tribute to the Tea Party movement.
"Sometimes it takes a sharp rap with a ball-peen hammer right in the middle of your forehead to get your attention," Mr. Smith said of the effect of the Tea Parties on the Republican Party. "The Tea Party folks are going to be the fulcrum that pushes the conservative Republican Party back into power."
Mr. Iott, 57, of Monclova Township, said the Republican Party is returning to conservative principles. "We're seeing that come back together, and that's the result of the Tea Party movement."
Mr. Smith, 61, of Springfield Township, was asked to explain whether his temper would be a problem. Mr. Smith resigned as police chief in 2002, only a few months after his appointment, following an argument with then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.
"Jack Smith has a controlled temper. If I didn't have a controlled temper, I would have dribbled him like a $2 basketball," Mr. Smith said. "If you don't have a fire in the belly to know what's right and wrong, you shouldn't be up here."
Both candidates expressed opposition to abortion, and Mr. Iott became choked up, saying he had been adopted.
"In 1951, a scared single mother made a decision that allowed me to be here tonight, and I would do anything and everything in my power to uphold the sanctity of life," Mr. Iott said.
Both were applauded loudly, with several questioners wanting to know which of the two candidates could raise enough money and tailor their message the right way to beat Miss Kaptur, who has been re-elected regularly since her first victory in 1982.
Joyce Coffey, 60, of Holland, said after the forum that, "I like both of the candidates, and I certainly hope one of them can beat Marcy. She betrayed her constituents."
Mr. Iott said he has a political strategy team and has begun airing commercials he said will continue through May 4. Mr. Smith said he doesn't have a lot of money but plans to campaign aggressively, speaking to voters one on one.
Both candidates said the federal government has usurped power from the states. Mr. Smith said that has led to bad laws.
"We've created a lot of harm with some of the laws we've passed, some of the progressive laws we've passed, civil rights bill, the affirmative action bill, some of those things. We have created an atmosphere of entitlement that we as legislators need to get away from," Mr. Smith said. In a follow-up interview, he said he was not advocating for repeal of civil rights laws.
Steve Fought, a spokesman for Miss Kaptur, said, "may the best man win," but he questioned some of the language.
"I just think talk about knees to the crotch, ball-peen hammers - let's just hope that they ratchet that rhetoric down a little bit, because those are unfortunate allusions, given this climate," Mr. Fought said.
The joint appearance was sponsored by the group Children of Liberty, a conservative-libertarian group that advocates limited government and free markets, and the Toledo Free Press.
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