The five candidates participating were former Winston-Salem councilman Vernon Robinson, Iredell County Commissioner Dr. Scott Keadle, Neurosurgeon Dr. John Whitley, North Carolina State Assemblyman Fred Steen, and veteran politico and owner of the Cabarrus Marketing Group, Richard Hudson.
On the issues, I was fairly surprised by how uniform all five candidates were on their opinions. For the most part, they all seemed to take the same positions, although with some differing degree. One that stood out was how to handle the nuclear situation in Iran. Both Hudson and Steen seemed much more hawkish on Iran than the other three, very much putting military action on the table, perhaps sooner than later. The other three candidates took more of a “let’s take a step back and see how things shake out first” approach, one that I happen to agree with. Robinson, Keadle, and Whitley all acknowledged the dangers of Iran, but weren’t as convinced the current threat is yet at a flashpoint of blowing up as others are making it out to be.
This led into a question about Pakistan and how we should handle them going down the road given they are a nuclear state and concealed the presence of bin Laden. Hudson said we should tie their foreign aid to their level of cooperation and that we need to maintain our strength in Afghanistan to show solidarity in our support. Steen didn’t believe for a second that the Pakistani government did not know bin Laden was there. Whitley went the opposite direction and flat out stated that we need to begin withdrawing our operations in Afghanistan and come home. He feels that our continued presence in the Middle East is ultimately going to cause more problems for us, not less.
It was the answer I didn’t hear from any of the candidates that surprised me the most. When asked about continuing foreign aid to Pakistan I was waiting for one of them to say no, we should be cutting off foreign aid to them and all nations because we’re broke!
The subject of full recognition for the Lumbee Indian tribe came up since Robeson County, where they largely live, will now be part of the new 8th District. All of the candidates except Robinson supported federal recognition of the Lumbee tribe. Robinson opposed it on the grounds that with this recognition will come costly federal benefits that the country cannot afford. Keadle said that we can do both, give them recognition and the financial benefits that come along with it, but rather than increase the size of the pie, simply split it up to now include the Lumbees. Hudson jumped in and said that what Keadle proposed is already law of the land.
When asked who they would vote for president were the primary held today, both Hudson and Steen were firmly dedicated to Rick Santorum. They both said he best reflects their conservative values. Whitley was hesitant to name anyone specific, saying he hasn’t made up his mind yet, but could live with Santorum if that was the option. Keadle said if forced to make a choice today he’d rather poke himself in the eye with a sharp stick. I understand his sentiment entirely. Robinson was hoping to see Cain become the nominee prior to his implosion so that the general election could be Cain vs. “unAbel.”