Congressional District 5 Candidates Square off in Canton Forum
The jointly sponsored Van Zandt County Republican Club and Edom Tea Party Republican Candidates Primary Election Forum was more amicable than argumentative between six of nine Congressional District 5 candidates who came to persuade voters at the Canton Civic Center last night. The six in attendance were: Danny Campbell, David Williams, Bunni Pounds, Sam Deen, Jason Wright, and Charles Lingerfelt, who each answered questions submitted ahead of time by members of each group responsible for the event. Moderators were Canton businessman Bob Reese of Remax Landmark Realty, Ken Hilton with Mercy Ships, and Editor of the Van Zandt Newspaper Group, Brad Blakemore. The three candidate no-shows were District 4 State Representative Lance Gooden, former State Rep. Kenneth Sheets, and Earl Brunner. **Correction** Earl Brunner withdrew from the race for CD5 to run for Texas House District 4.
Several of the candidates present, made sport of those (current and previously) elected officials who were MIA, as being more liberal than conservative and not as supportive of pro-life legislation, in particular.
Danny Campbell, a young husband and father of two boys, is a former Army Infantry Officer who’s been deployed overseas and led troops in combat. He began with his opening statement: “I’m here to bring fresh ideas. The federal government needs to get out of the business of doing things for people. That’s not what it was intended to do. It was intended to protect the homeland and protect the citizens. That’s it.” He accused Washington of being full of politicians, instead of servant leaders. Campbell promised to be the Rand Paul candidate for the U.S. House race.
David Williams was raised in Tyler, is a military veteran who has served 18 years in multiple deployments as a Nurse Corps Officer, and claims more than 20 years of experience in healthcare and healthcare finance. He is married and has three young daughters. His primary concerns highlighted in campaign material are the economy, immigration, national defense, healthcare, border security, the Veterans Administration, Second Amendment, law enforcement, and education. “I’ve got a lot of really good ideas about how we can start immediately turning things around… so we can be optimistic about our future,” he said.
Bunni Pounds and her husband have two adult children, own a pest control company and Roly Poly Sandwiches, near the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus. Pounds was 29 years old when she became politically involved in grassroots activism and went back to school and finished her Political Science degree at Dallas Baptist University and graduated Magna Cum Laude at age 32, while home schooling her kids. She served as Congressman Jeb Hensarling’s Campaign Manager and said, “It has been an honor to work for a man who fights for limited government and takes it to our own party when he needs to.” Pounds is the only CD5 candidate endorsed by Texas Right to Life, because as she put it, “I have stood for the unborn for 25 years. I have been in the trenches fighting against Planned Parenthood, believing that we need to protect life at every level.”
She said that she is in this seven-county race to promote limited government and help prevent federal encroachment.
Sam Deen is a Canton High School graduate and was a senior the year 9-11 happened. He knew after that event, that he wanted to join the military and help defeat terrorism. Deen said that former Congressman Ralph Hall gave his nomination for him to attend West Point, and President George W. Bush gave him his diploma in 2006. He became an Army Ranger and led his platoon in the northeastern mountains of Afghanistan for a year against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. He left the Army in 2011 and moved back to Canton to start his businesses. “I own Crossfit Van Zandt… we have five full time employees, we have a location in Athens. We have Van Zandt Coffee, and we have another company called GP Delta Investments.”
“I’m not going to sit by and watch the country fail our veterans,” Deen continued. “I’m not going to sit by while the country dissuades our teachers from teaching and dissuades our small business owners from doing well.”
Jason Wright declared himself, “first and foremost, a grassroots activist.” He helped found the Tyler group, Grassroots America, We the People. He served as a Tyler City Councilman, and worked to help Ted Cruz get elected to the United States Senate. One day, Wright said that someone called him and asked him to run for Congress when Jeb Hensarling announced that he would not seek reelection. He told them, “No;” but then changed his mind after realizing his friend’s and daughters’ disappointment. He said that they viewed him as running from the fight, and he couldn’t reconcile that. Wright promised that if elected, he would take “…our Constitutional-loving, limited government principles, and grassroots conservative activism to Washington DC.”
Charles Lingerfelt owns a Barbeque and catering business. He has also worked as a teacher, coach, principal, and assistant principal. He’s been married for 50 years, has six children, 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He is from Dallas, and made Texas his home in 1969. In 1972, Lingerfelt got involved with Senator John Tower’s campaign. “I’m a Christian Constitutional conservative. I’ve studied the Constitution since I was in the seventh grade… I am faithful to God, my family, and my country. That isn’t going to change. No one in Washington DC, no one anywhere else is going to make me change that faithfulness factor and principle in my life. I’ve built this campaign on four pillars: 1) experience, 2) maturity, 3) honesty, and 4) integrity.”
He continued, “We are about to lose America, and we’ve probably already lost our federal government, and I intend to go up there and take it back from those dogs and bring it back to the people here in Texas.”
One of the questions asked was, “What will you do to promote the pro-life cause in the U.S. House?”
Williams answered first. “I am adamantly a pro-life supporter.” He believes in returning authority to the States to limit abortion as they each see fit. “My approach on it is,” he explained, “we might not win every battle of each of the States, but we will, overall, win the war.”
Pounds outlined a more detailed plan she has in mind. “I have three priorities when it comes to the pro-life agenda. First of all, I want to make sure that the Hyde Amendment stays permanent forever, that we never put another dollar in the federal funding of abortions… Second thing, is we need to completely defund Planned Parenthood, where no dollar goes to their general funds, so they cannot help fund abortions any other way, and we need to make sure we have a bill that protects peoples that have consciences, like our Justices of the Peace that want only to perform traditional marriages, that our pharmacists are protected if they don’t want to give the abortion pill… I want to make sure that we are pushing the envelope on that in every realm; and that’s why I’m endorsed by Texas Right to Life.”
Deen said, “I’m 100 percent pro-life, no exceptions, so I’ll do my job, I’ll read the bills, and I’ll vote accordingly.”
Wright answered, “First of all, I will always push any legislation that establishes that life begins at conception.” He then accused one of the candidates in the race [Lance Gooden] of helping to defeat the Schaefer Amendment in the 85th Texas Legislative Session. “The Schaefer Amendment would have closed a loophole, allowing those children who are deemed to have a disability, to be aborted after 20 weeks. Matt Schaefer tried to defeat that. However, we have a candidate who didn’t show up to face you tonight, who sided with [Rep.] Byron Cook to table that Amendment. Now, due to a child’s imperfection, that child can be killed after 20 weeks. If I ever see any piece of legislation like this in the U.S. House, I will do everything in my power, and I will fight to my dying breath, that all life is appreciated because…none of us are perfect, and we all deserve a chance at this incredible thing called life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we have guaranteed in our Constitution.”
Lingerfelt said, “All these other candidates talk about being pro-life. I’ve attended all the pro-life rallies in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Waco, and Dallas for the past 20-25 years; and I’ve not seen any of them at a pro-life rally.”
Campbell also pointed to the absence of the elected official [Rep. Lance Gooden], who did not vote in line with the Schaefer Amendment. He then said that he agreed with Pounds’ proposal and said, “First off, zero federal dollars go to abortion, that’s the first step. The second step is getting the right people in Congress. It’s getting people like us on this stage, in Congress, but not just in the Fifth District…but across different states.”
Next question(s): Do you support the current Republican Tax Plan that was recently passed, and what, if anything, would you want to see done differently? How would you end the ongoing use of continuing resolutions, versus adopting a true workable budget? Do you support bringing back earmarks to support local community projects?
Pounds responded, “Yes, I support the tax plan. We did incredible things lowering the corporate tax rates, so that we can be competitive with the world. We got our individual tax rate cut, and our pass through tax rate for small business people…What I would have done differently is get rid of the death tax, increased the exemptions on the AMT tax (Alternative Minimum Tax). I am not for bringing back earmarks, absolutely not.” In regard to continuing resolutions, Pounds said, “We need a spending limit amendment to the Constitution or we need a balanced budget amendment, one of the two; but we’ve got to actually balance the budget and have a real budget.”
Deen answered, “I think it was overall, a good thing, but… We got a tax break. That’s all fine and dandy, the biggest deal was we got rid of the individual mandate, which was unconstitutional. But we didn’t get rid of the employer mandate, which a lot of the small businesses out here struggle with the number of employees they have. They have to have under 50, especially these restaurants and stuff around… Also, a full repeal of the windfall elimination provision should have been added into that. That is where, if you’re a teacher, a fire fighter, or a police officer, you get a government pension, you have to have a side job because you don’t have enough money, you pay into social security, and the government doesn’t let you get it. There’s no such thing as government money. It all comes from somebody else. So, if you put a dime into social security, you should get that back.”
Wright said, “First of all, I did support the tax reform bill… I think we need to continue to turn up the heat and push for a flat tax and a total abolishing of the IRS. Second, with regard to continuing resolutions, I believe we need to have a Convention of the State because I think it’s the only way we’re going to get a balanced budget amendment…” He does not support earmarks.
Lingerfelt is “for the tax plan. It’s put money that should never be going to the government in the first place, back in the pockets of the American citizens.” He opposes continuing resolutions, earmarks, and called for a balanced budget, and said, “We need to force Congress to balance the budget or get out of the way!”
Campbell supported the tax plan. “My only issue with it, is that it didn’t go far enough. I’m for a flat tax…a 10 percent individual tax rate, and a decrease on the corporate tax…” He signed a pledge to defeat the death tax. Campbell said that he’s in line with a plan Rand Paul submitted last week on continuing resolutions. “If we’re going to have continuing resolutions, and they result in a government shutdown, every agency across the board, has a one percent reduction in their budget for the following year. In earmarks. I’m against them, although I said I’m a Ron Paul candidate, I don’t agree with adding earmarks and voting against them. I wouldn’t have earmarks in the first place, and I would vote against them; and I’m for a balanced budget amendment, as well.”
Williams answered, “I’m very excited about the tax reform legislation that went through. As a former corporate person… I built a business of over 200 employees… with a budget of $25 million, so I understand about operating on a balanced budget.” He supports a balanced budget amendment and repeal of the windfall elimination provision, and opposes earmarks.
Deen said, “Make no mistake, the biggest threat to our national security is our debt.”
Campbell disagreed. “I believe our entanglements in every part of the globe is our biggest threat to national security.” He expressed concern over the expansion of terrorist cells.
Lingerfelt said that he believes our biggest threat to national security is illegal immigration and the DACA situation. He proposed registering all illegal immigrants to determine how many we have, and sending them home if they refuse to assimilate.
In answer to a question about how candidates would secure the border, Deen said, “I support a wall, where we need a wall.” He also supports more technology and military power. He advocated documenting all immigrants, so we know who’s in our country. Deen used the analogy, “If you sneak into Disney World, what’s going to happen? They’ll kick you out, or they make you start paying. That’s what needs to happen.” He does not support sanctuary cities.
Wright said, “First and foremost, we have to secure our border, before we can have any discussion on anything else, and that is with a wall, technology, whatever it takes. Sanctuary cities are an affront to rule of law…and are a magnet to those who come here illegally…as for DACA…your dreams, the dreams of your children, will always take precedence over a bunch of illegal, law-breaking immigrants.”
Lingerfelt said that his answer to border security is to 1) build the wall, 2) secure the border, and 3) get the house in order. “I believe in immigration. I don’t believe in il-legal immigration. That kind of tells me something’s wrong if it’s ill; something’s sick. No sanctuary cities, secure the border, get the house in order, register everyone that’s here illegally. We need to know how many are here.”
Campbell pointed out that the wall is going to cost $25 billion. He supports more technology and boots on the ground, a partial wall, with a more conservative estimate of $1.4 – 3 billion. “I think $25 billion is too much, and I don’t think that it’s necessary to secure the southern border. I also don’t believe that we can deport 13 million illegal immigrants. The cost alone, is $130 billion and it would take approximately 20 years. I don’t think that’s a possible answer either. I’m against sanctuary cities.”
Williams said, “Build the wall. That’s it.” He added that he agreed with the need for more Border Patrol and technology to help secure the border. He has a plan to rid the country of sanctuary cities. “If you start withholding State funds for those with sanctuary cities, you’ll start getting results.”
Pounds answered, “The State of Texas is doing things and they’re funding things that the federal government should be funding. Governor Abbott shouldn’t have to go to our State Legislature to get more funding for our border… We have to build a wall and give our Border Patrol agents everything they need. When it comes to sanctuary cities, if they’re not going to obey federal law, cut off their funding. Cut off every dollar they get. At the end of the day, it’s their responsibility to follow federal law. On the illegal immigrants that are here…this is what we’ll say, we have two opponents that are not here tonight that went on record with the Dallas Morning News for illegal status. I think my Romanian daughter-in-law, who is working on her status legally, they should not jump in front of her. They should go through the process… No legal status; no amnesty.
Look for another story later this week from The Northeast Texan, covering more questions asked of Congressional District 5 candidates at the Canton Forum.