“Doggart is coming!”
That was the rallying cry of 4th District Congressional candidate Dr. Robert Doggart (I) at Monday night’s political forum sponsored by the Southern Standard and WCPI.
Fellow candidate Lenda Sherrell (D) responded with a smile, “Sherrell is coming as well.”
Republican incumbent Dr. Scott DesJarlais was not in attendance.
Both candidates expressed concern for the country’s struggling political system.
Said Sherrell, “This is not the America that I know and it’s not the Tennessee I grew up in. Washington is broken. It’s paralyzed by partisanship. And it’s time this district sends someone to Congress who is going to put Tennesseans first. Not party politics.”
Doggart expressed a similar view, saying, “Our country is broken. The last poll said Congress has a 17 percent approval rate. That is unacceptable. They said that the president had a 40 percent approval rate. That means people are unhappy. It’s important to have an independent candidate stand for the people.”
Sherrell stressed the battle of workers today, noting people are working more with less to show for it.
“People are ready for change,” she said. “Today’s families are struggling to pay for rent and groceries, with almost nothing left over for a rainy day. Or for a college fund for their children. Or for retirement for themselves. Right here in our district we have families who are working full time making less than $15,000 per year.”
Doggart focused on representation of the people, saying, “I would be beholden to no party. I will represent you, and only you. We will return every phone call and respond to every concern."
Questions presented by the mediators gave both candidates a chance to express their opinions on a variety of issues. Some of the highlights of the question and answer session were:
Doggart on the bill present to tie congressional pay to time on the job: “Some people think that representatives and senators get paid too much money. I think some of them do. Those would be the ones that don’t work hard enough. To be a congressman requires 70-80 hours a week and that’s what I’ll give you. The pay for a senator or congressman is $174,000 a year which is not a bad payday. But if you’re working 80 hours a week you’ve got to cut that in half. I think it depends upon who you’re talking about.”
Sherrell on supporting increased ground forces against militant terrorist groups in the Middle East: “ISIS are the bad guys. Generally I am opposed to putting more combat troops on the ground. However, I do recognize the need for targeted military action to protect our U.S. interests and our U.S. personnel. I am in favor of building a coalition with our allies in that region. I believe working in conjunction with our allies in that region that we can build a force that is effective in controlling the role of ISIS and ultimately defeating them.”
Doggart on political funding of basic scientific and medical research: “I think if you take a look at the polls, they are telling us we are not as good as we used to be. They’re telling us that Japan, Germany, even Russia in many cases, are gaining. I believe we have to put more money back in to the higher levels of education. Everybody has a job and it’s at varying levels of education, training and experience.”
Sherrell on whether she would support legislation to curtail tax dodges of major corporations: “What I want is a government that doesn’t really pick winners and losers. I would like for our big corporations to play by the same rules as our small businesses. Right now the situation is that big corporations are taking an advantage of tax situations that are not available to small businesses. All businesses need to have the same set of rules and the same advantages as our big corporations.”
Doggart on the government’s reluctance to reform immigration laws: “I’ve been down to the border. I went there twice. The reason I did it was because I didn’t want to have to talk about it and not know about it. I’ll tell you what’s going on down there. It’s not the border stations, I’ve been to the border stations. It’s along the Rio Grande River. They walk across there. I saw them. I saw people packed up in a building. I saw unmarked white transport buses taking people all over the country. And they’re going to be coming here. We’ve got to stop that. The president’s performance is unacceptable. He needs to issue a unilateral command, it has to stop. It’s not the border control that is the problem.”
Sherrell on the disparity between the upper and middle class income gap: “When I was growing up, my parents, who were not wealthy, were able to save enough money to put my brother and me through college, to buy a house, to save for their own retirement. Today families do not have enough money left over to put their children through college, many times pay rent or mortgage. What I want at the end of the day is a tax system that is fair. I want our wealthy and well connected to contribute just as much as the schoolteachers and the farmer and the rural letter carrier. At the end of the day, what I want is a government that will open the doors of opportunity so that every one of us has the opportunity to realize that American dream.”
In their closing remarks, each candidate addressed what they felt were their key issues.
“We have so many things wrong in America, where do you start?” said Doggart. “I’ll tell you where we start, this is the most important thing right now of everything that’s been said, everything that we’re saying, and everything that will be said in the future. And that is the integrity of the constitution of this country. It is the basis of law. It is the form of law that we go by. The constitution is to protect the people.”
Sherrell’s closing addressed a different view. “Today, people are working harder than ever and have less to show for it. This is what happens when politicians aren’t fighting for us. Unlike our incumbent, Rep. DesJarlais, I would have voted to give soldiers in Afghanistan a basic 1.6 percent pay raise. Not retroactive pay for myself after failing to pass a budget on time. I would have voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. I would have voted to increase the minimum wage to help families in our district. And I would never have even considered the Ryan budget proposal, which seeks to turn Medicare into a voucher system and raise the retirement age to 70.”
To hear a rebroadcast of the political forum, tune in to WCPI 91.3 FM on Monday and Tuesday at 1 p.m.