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Republican candidates for Third District criticize federal debt, entitlements

DEBATE SITE: The two Mississippi history museums provided the site for Wednesday's debate for six Republican challengers in the Third District. Photo by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

There were no haymakers and only a few light jabs landed Wednesday at a debate for Republican candidates for the Third Congressional District.

The six candidates — state Sen. Sally Doty (R-Brookhaven), Rankin and Madison District Attorney Michael Guest, former Mississippi Development Authority associate director Whit Hughes, business leaders Morgan Dunn and Perry Parker and educational consultant Katherine Tate — answered questions about spending, the national debt and entitlements in the two-hour debate at the Mississippi History Museum and hosted by Americans for Prosperity.

U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Pearl)

The six are vying to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Pearl), who's retiring after 10 years representing Mississippi's Third District, which cuts a swath from Starkville to the Mississippi River in the southwest.

The primary will be held on June 5, a runoff if needed on June 26 and the general election will be held on November 6.

Doty, a two-term state senator, touted her experience as a legislator and said she knew how to get legislation passed, which she said is the most important part of being a legislator. She also said government shouldn't pick winners and losers with questionable technology, like clean coal. She also gave specifics on what needs to be done to reform Medicaid, which she says is consuming more and more of state budgets.

Guest referred to his experience repeatedly as a successful prosecutor and said that he wants to help President Donald Trump build a border wall because illegal immigration was not only a immigration problem, but a criminal one as well. He also said he believes lobbying should be curbed in D.C. and wants to see the practice of baseline budgeting, where spending increases every year, ended.

Hughes said that he wanted to bring conservative leadership to Washington and said that the Dodd-Frank law created 28,000 pages of regulation that is strangling local banks.

Parker said he wanted to use the office as a means to lure businesses to the state and said he's a strong believer in term limits because getting into office shouldn't be about getting rich.

Dunn, who is a healthcare consultant, said Obamacare crippled the healthcare industry and that more government interference in markets leads to more corruption. She also supplied the funniest moment of the debate when she was in the middle of a point about building the border wall and yelled "oh crap!" when caught by the event's buzzer.

Tate also gave the debate some levity when she joked that she hoped that when she was in a nursing home, that cannabis (marijuana) was legal for nursing homes.

Two issues all six agreed upon was a proposal to raise the federal gasoline tax by 25 cents — which all said they'd oppose — and right to try legislation, which allows terminal patients to try experimental medications that haven't passed Federal Drug Administration approval.

When asked about Trump's recent imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum, Parker, Hughes and Guest were against any tariffs, with Guest and Hughes adding an exception for unfair trade practices. Doty said she trusted Trump's negotiating strategy since China was a bad actor, but would prefer tariff levying power to be with Congress. She also said she wouldn't have voted for the tariffs.

Tate said she'd vote in favor of tariffs and that it was a temporary discomfort.

Dunn said she trusted Trump to negotiate trade deals, but she said tariffs could be devastating to the state's agricultural industry.

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