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Republican Congressional Candidates Square Off

Regan McCarthy WFSU News

Immigration, debt and national security are the top concerns for three Republican Candidates vying for Florida’s Second Congressional District.

A small crowd is gathered in the American Legion Hall next to Tallahassee’s Lake Ella. They’re here for a debate among three Republican candidates for the state’s second congressional seat—Mary Thomas, Neal Dunn and Ken Sukhia. CD2 is the district that stretches along the coast from Panama City to Levy County. It’s largely rural and conservative.

There’s a lot the three agree on. For example each candidate says they support Donald Trump and took strong stances against President Barack Obama’s immigration reforms. But each candidate’s focus during the Tallahassee debate did differ.

Ken Sukhia, a former U.S. Attorney, centered on what he calls the country’s changing character.

“On so many levels, if you look at it from a moral standpoint—from what our country used to stand for and what it stands for now. Not long ago, even the Democrat running—Hillary—when asked do you believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, there was no question,” Sukhia says.

Sukhia says he is also concerned that the country is becoming more socialist. He says Obama care is an example of that.

Meanwhile Mary Thomas, who serves as general counsel for the state’s Department of Elder Affairs, says her biggest concern is protecting and strengthening the United States’ borders.

“I have a son who is two years old. He’ll actually be 3 on September 26th. And I think one of the major problems that not only I’m thinking of, but also the people all over our district is the rise of radical Islamic terrorism. It’s threatening our country. We’ve seen from what’s happened in Orlando and many other areas in our country that has to be our primary concern. We have to be focused on our national security and protecting ourselves as Americans,” Thomas says.

Thomas says she also supports Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.

Neal Dunn, a surgeon, says he’s most concerned about the country’s debt and says he’d like to start chipping away at it.

“Now that’s going to require two things. It’s going to require a growing economy, but it’s also going to require some spending discipline. We have plenty of revenue. We have more revenue than any government has had ever in the world. But we have a spending problem and we need to recognize that,” Dunn says.

And Dunn says he has a few suggestions for reducing that spending—like getting rid of the Department of Education.

There’s no excuse for a federal department of education. That is very clearly the business of the states and the local community—not the federal government,” Dunn says.

The three Republicans will face off in on the primary ballot coming up in August.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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