The Cobb County Republican Party Picnic was at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta, and a large crowd there stirred most of the buzz for the day.
Among those in attendance were several candidates that are running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Saxby Chambliss and the 11th Congressional District seat held by Congressmen Phil Gingrey.
Gingrey, a Marietta resident, is running for the Senate seat, as are U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and Jack Kingston, Karen Handel and the Rev. Derrick Grayson, who was the only candidate not at the picnic.
As for those seeking Gingrey’s seat, candidates Tricia Pridemore, Georgia Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead), former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr and Georgia Sen. Barry Loudermilk were at the annual picnic.
Melissa Pike, chair of the Cobb County Democratic Committee, said they had a crowd of about 60 attend their annual Herb Butler picnic at IAM Local 709 Union Hall in Marietta, and it went well.
“It’s wrapping up early g out rt because we didn’t have the crowd that we expected, but otherwise it was really good and we were really pleased,” she said. The event was scheduled between noon and 5 p.m.
Democrats in attendance were former U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden, Georgia Reps. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) and Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) and former Georgia Reps. Terry Johnson and Doug Stoner.
And while both events were family friendly and all about celebrating the birth of our country, there was definitely some campaigning going on at the Republican picnic.
Each candidate took the stage for a few minutes and proclaimed why they are the best for their seat, and a few took time to answer more specific questions about whether they feel that the National Security Agency (NSA) should be held more accountable for their actions and what their answer might be to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.
Candidate’s responses to the question about the NSA were quite similar.
Handel, who lives in Roswell and is a former Secretary of State for Georgia and candidate for governor, said with regards to the NSA that accountability is always needed.
“It is very important and if we’ve seen anything out of Washington and the mess that is Washington is in these days, it is a lack of accountability to the American people,” she said. “There need to be some answers as well, but it can’t just be answering the issues that are going on, we have to make sure these types of things don’t happen more.”
Gingrey said he acknowledges that there are things members of Congress know that are classified “Top Secret” officials, but it’s something need to look at very closely.
“We need to maintain the liberties of the public while maintaining their safety,” he said.
Broun, who lives in Watkinsville just outside of Athens in Oconee County, has served as the Congressman for the 10th District for the last six years.
He said all agencies, including NSA, need to be constrained by the constitution.
“Congress has the ability to do that but has not been doing that and in the U.S. Senate, I’ll be in a position to help reel in this government that is out of control,” he said. “I can be more effective in establishing policy, according to what our founding fathers meant for government to be.”
As for what the U.S. Congressional candidates thought on the topic:
Barr, a 35-year Cobb resident and former U.S. Representative with eight years of experience dating back to the 1990s, said the NSA has to be reined in.
“We cannot have a government that spies on the citizenry and violates the Fourth Amendment, and also I believe it’s in direct violation of federal laws what they’re doing,” he said. “This latest information that’s come out on NSA truly ought to frighten every American with what they are doing.
“Congress needs to ask the questions, they need to probe, they need to demand answers and if they need to hold some of these officials in contempt, then they need to do that.”
Pridemore agreed with Barr.
“We need to rein in many federal agencies and the NSA is just one of them,” she said, adding that when politicians respond to the “hard questions” about problems, “If it was so sensitive, they should have done a better job at protecting the information.”
The Marietta resident is the only first-time candidate seeking a political seat at this time.
Secure the borders
When asked about people who are living in the country illegally, almost all of them agreed that first and foremost the northern and southern borders must be secured before Congress can even start to consider whether to grant paths to citizenship, ignore the problem or deport people.
“We don’t need more laws, just the latitude to enforce the ones we have,” Handel said. “And when we do invest the additional dollars in the border, we need to make sure what we’re doing is working.”
She also said she doesn’t believe amnesty is the answer.
Kingston, a Savannah resident with an extensive background in business, said he doesn’t think the immigration bill that recently passed in the U.S. Senate will pass in the House.
“I do not support it but you do not have to solve everything with one step,” he said. “With the bleeding of the border and the open border, you have to have border security first.”
Kingston said that approximately 51 percent of people who are living in the country illegally enter the country through the Arizona border.
“We have gaps in the fence for animal’s migration,” he said. “It’s insane if you’re going to secure the border, you have to secure the fence. Plus the fences.”
Barr said it may be best to try and make the country’s path to citizenship less complex, lengthy and cumbersome.
“It needs to be streamlined … parts of our immigration system should be reformed,” he said. “We also need to enforce the paths to citizenship, make sure businesses are being held accountable and that they are taking proper steps to make sure that respected employees are in the country legally.”