Joel Gill and Gregg Harper sounded a lot alike as they addressed some 70 people in a town hall meeting at the Starkville Sportsplex on Saturday — both stressed the need for a change in Congress.
Gill, a Democrat, and Harper, the Republican incumbent, each spent about 30 minutes taking questions from audience members during Saturday’s event, which was sponsored by the Starkville TEA Party.
“You’ve brought that spirit from 200 years ago to the forefront once again,” said Gill directly to TEA Party members. “You are trying to send a message to Congress. We need to vote them out and start fresh.”
Harper said much of the nation is unhappy with the policies of President Barack Obama’s administration and that of congressional leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
“You can get comfortable up there if you are not careful,” Harper said. “We must not let the encroachment of personal rights by the federal government that is occurring to continue. The health care bill is a prime example. It is a disaster for our country.”
A key issue raised by audience members at Saturday’s meeting was enforcement of illegal immigration laws. Both Gill and Harper agreed that amnesty for illegal immigrants should not be allowed and what has been viewed as a controversial move by Arizona officials to guard that state’s borders.
“I am opposed to grant illegal immigrants any amnesty that grants them a pathway to citizenship. I believe government is wrong in opposing Arizona when that state is trying to enforce the federal laws already on books,” Gill said.
“It is clear that the administration has been dragged kicking and screaming to secure the borders of this nation. It is a matter of national security,” Harper said.
The health care bill
The oft-debated health care bill is one where Gill and Harper do have some differences.
“Some provisions of that bill are good, while some need to be repealed,” Gill said. “It does concern me that legislation is being passed that has not been explained to the people.”
Harper said he supports a repeal of the health care bill, but knows it will not happen unless voters elect a Republican president and Republican majority in both houses of Congress.
“I signed off on some repeal legislation that will never see the light of day under Nancy Pelosi,” Harper said. “We’re talking about a bill that will keep people from getting health insurance and keep doctors from taking on new Medicare patients.”
The stimulus bill
The federal stimulus legislation is another area where Gill and Harper lock horns.
Gill said he supports the bill because of the needed infrastructure improvements that the stimulus funding was able to cover.
“We’re spending to improve infrastructure across America. Mr. Harper felt it was not right right to vote for a stimulus bill that provides infrastructure,” Gill said.
Harper said his main concern with the stimulus bill was that the federal government did not have the funding to support the $800 billion in mandates.
“Many communities have benefitted from the stimulus bill, but it’s like getting a cash advance on a Visa credit card — you still have to go back and pay for it,” Harper said.
“We don’t have the money to pay for it.”
Harper and Gill both oppose the current moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP disaster, primarily due to the trickle-down effect it will have on Mississippi families and communities.
“I support the moratorium until the safety issues are settled,” Gill said. “I don’t think it should be in place indefinitely. Far too many people in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama depend on those jobs.”
Harper and Gill also responded to questions on gun registration, Social Security, abortion and party-line voting during Saturday’s town hall meeting.
They will meet each other on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election.
More information about both candidates and their stances on various issues may be found on their respective campaign websites at http:///www.gillforcongress.org  or http://www.GreggHarper.ms .