Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble speaks as Tommy Crangle, Van Irion, Chuck Fleischmann, Robin Smith and Art Rhodes, seated from left, listen during a debate among Republican 3rd Congressional District candidates at Woodland Park Baptist Church on Saturday. The LiberTea debate was sponsored by the Chattanooga Tea Party and the Hamilton County Campaign for Liberty.
The six Republican candidates for Tennessee's 3rd District congressional seat who participated in a Saturday forum hosted by the Chattanooga Tea Party and the Campaign for Liberty all aimed to present themselves as small-government and Constitution-friendly.
"I am really mad at what the government's doing to our country," Van Irion, a Knoxville-area attorney told a crowd of several hundred gathered at Woodland Park Baptist Church.
Mr. Irion, a self-described "constitutionalist," touted that he was in Washington, D.C., at the Tea Party-sponsored march on Sept. 12, 2009, and called for the elimination of all payroll taxes.
Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairwoman Robin Smith described herself as "a Christian first and an American second." She said she is in the Republican Party because it best represents her religious beliefs at the moment, but told the tea party crowd, "I'm one of you."
Mr. Irion responded by saying, "I don't need to tell you who the Tea Party candidate is."
Chattanooga attorney Chuck Fleischmann told the audience that he's "fed up" with Washington.
"Get the government out of our lives," he said in response to a question about subsidizing industry.
In response to questions about taxes, Mr. Fleischmann said he wanted to lower taxes while Ms. Smith said she supported the so-called "fair tax" and abolishing capital gains taxes.
Cleveland, Tenn., businessman Art Rhodes roundly criticized President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, comparing them to 3-year-old children, and that Republicans must tell them "no."
He also emphasized that the federal government should be involved only in those things strictly set out in the Constitution.
Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble touted his experience as a Secret Service agent and his "history of being tough on crime and managing budgets effectively." He, like Ms. Smith, strongly criticized federal earmarks.
Chattanooga businessman Tommy Crangle told the audience that he's "not a politician" and said his core beliefs are individual freedom and equality of opportunity.
ABOUT THE LIBERTEA DEBATES
Saturday's forum with six Republican candidates for Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District was the first in a series of such debates, according to Mark West of the Chattanooga Tea Party. Mr. West said the Tea Party and the Campaign for Liberty are working on putting together a debate for Democratic candidates for Tennessee governor.
He said states should "exert more authority" rather than what he called the "national government."
Two independents, engineer Greg Goodwin and businessman Mark DeVol, are also running for the seat.
Democrat Brenda Short returned paperwork Tuesday to enter the 3rd District race. She is currently the only Democrat in the race.
Ms. Short has said she would like to promote bipartisan cooperation to deal with issues such as jobs and health care.