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Three U.S. House District 12 hopefuls meet at OTC Friday
071108 CANDIDATE FORUM 1
Ray McKinney, right, Ben Crystal, center, and John Stone introduce themselves to the audience during Friday night's candidate forum at Ogeechee Technical College featuring Republican primary election candidates for the 12th Georgia District seat in the United States House of Representatives. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Nuclear energy, trade with China and illegal immigration were the hot topics Friday night at Ogeechee Technical College as three candidates faced off in a bid for votes in the United States House Republican Primary. Voting in the primary is Tuesday.
    Ben Crystal, Ray McKinney and John Stone addressed questions from the audience of about 50 at the debate sponsored by OTC and the Statesboro Herald.
    Eddie Ledbetter, Herald assistant editor, was moderator for the debate, which began at 7 p.m. and was streamed to the newspaper's Web site, www.statesboroherald.com.
    In his introductory comments, Stone introduced staff members and family in the audience and said he is "looking forward to getting the country back on track."
    Crystal said this is his first time as a politician and praised America for the freedom it offers. "There aren't a lot of places you can get together and do this,"  he said, referring to the election process.
    McKinney said the current government is not what it was meant to be.
    "I think this is not the system our fathers believed in," he said. "The power ... and the greed ... we need somebody who can come up with some real solutions."
    The first question Ledbetter asked was how each candidate felt about amnesty for illegal aliens.
    "I am absolutely opposed," Stone said. "We absolutely have to secure the border ... there absolutely cannot be amnesty... if we're to remain under the rule of law in this nation."
    Crystal agreed. "I am absolutely opposed to amnesty in any shape or form," he said. "The burden they (illegal aliens) put on our country is not just that of aggravation — they demand things and think they should be granted."
    He said amnesty for illegals would be an insult to those who immigrated to this country legally. "We are not prepared for a country that in 25 years will be speaking Spanish.'
    "We have to be realistic. A lot of things aren't black and white," McKinney said. He talked about farmers who need migrant labor, but how when the job is finished some migrant workers "cash in their bus ticket" back home and head for the offices where they can receive assistance.
    "We have so many incentives in this country we need to take away," he said.

Foreign oil and tobacco subsidies
    Crystal defended big oil companies, saying they have a right to make a profit and that punishing them will not decrease the cost or increase supply of oil.
    "We need to exploit domestic resources," he said. "We have oil that is ours. Drill for it. We need to stand up to Washington ... politics be darned."
    "The problem is the U.S. government," McKinney said. Regulations and red tape drive costs higher. "It is cheaper for an oil company to put in a brand new well than to repair a broken one." Oil wells damaged during Hurricane Katrina are still held up for repairs because of permits not being granted.
    "The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the federal government are choking"the public and progress, he said, calling for more refineries, more pipelines and a focus using hydrogen and oxygen for energy.
    Stone said the solution to end foreign oil dependency is "throw John Barrow  and the Democrats out of office."
    "The $4 a gallon gas we're paying now, there's no excuse for it," he said. "We need a 10-year plan ... to be energy independent by the end of a decade."
    He said the country needs to explore wind energy, cellulosic ethanol and other alternatives to oil.  That's the key to winning the war on terror, he said — "stop buying oil."
    When asked how he feels about subsidizing tobacco farmers while paying billions for cancer research, McKinney said he plans to have farmers on staff if elected to help form a better option for farmers.
    Crystal said "I can't think of another industry that has to pay for its own demise,"referring to tobacco companies having to advertise warnings on its products. He said tobacco is "not illegal because it provides too many tax dollars."
    Stone said a revision is needed for agricultural programs. "We don't need to pull the rug out from under our farmers."
    
Fair tax, China and nuclear waste
    When asked his opinion of the fair tax plan, Stone said " I love the idea about a national retail sales tax. We take away the embedded cost of income tax."
    Crystal said citizens would be better managers of their money, and the fair tax is the way to go because "each one pays for what he can, and that's fair."
    McKinney said Washington has a problem with the tax because it takes away power. "If somebody can bring me a better tax plan, I'll support it."
    Crystal was adamantly against free trade with China. He spoke of "knock-offs" — ideas the Chinese take from the United States and because of no regulations and poor, cheap work conditions, make cheaper and of less quality, competing with a better and more expensive (due to labor costs) product made in the U.S.
    "Without the U.S., China would absolutely collapse," he said. "These guys are going to cheat us every chance they get to make a profit off our backs."
    "China is a monster of our own creation," McKinney said. "We don't even make our own coat  hangers."
    Trade with China is  "neither free or fair," Stone said. "It's dumb trade."
    McKinney appeared very much in for of nuclear energy, downplaying its danger and promoting its efficiency. Nuclear waste is not as big a problem as people fear, he said. "Radioactive decay is a natural process."
    "Scare tactics from the far left"push people away from nuclear energy, Crystal said. Referring to the few nuclear meltdowns, specifically Chernobyl, he said "The Russians built it. Did we really expect it to work for very long?"
    He said nuclear waste sites could be safe is security was done correctly.
    Stone said  the Democrats have stalled efforts to use "a mountain out west" for a nuclear waste dump site. He said burying the waste there would be safe for "40,000 years."
    All three candidates supported doing a better job serving the country's veterans.
    "We need to look at every promise we ever made to veterans, catalog them and fulfill them," Stone said.
    "It is very hard for me to imagine how (government officials) can look at a room filled with heroes ... and say, 'by the way, we're stop lossing you,'" Crystal said.
    "We haven't done a good job with our veterans," McKinney said. If elected, he said "I'm going to fight for the veterans."

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