CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Both Republican candidates for the 9th District state Senate seat shared similar views Thursday on illegal immigration and states' rights.

State Rep. Mike Bell, R-Athens, and Lou Patten took part in a candidates' forum before the Cleveland Kiwanis Club. They answered questions submitted in advance by club members and fielded audience inquiries.

Rep. Bell has held the state House District 23 seat for four years. Mr. Patten, of Cleveland, held the 9th District seat from 1986 to 1994.

They are seeking the Republican nomination in the Aug. 5 primary. There is no Democrat seeking the seat.

Both men said illegal immigrants should be sent home to begin their quest for American citizenship, rather than the United States creating a pathway to citizenship here. Both said only American citizens should vote in American elections.

Mr. Patten advocated requiring voters to have photo identification. Mr. Bell said illegal immigrants are voting in Tennessee and that county election commissions should review voter registration lists.

Both candidates said the federal government is ignoring states' rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that powers not granted to the national government nor prohibited to the states are reserved to the states or the people.

Answering County Commissioner-elect Adam Lowe's question, Rep. Bell said he co-sponsored legislation declaring Tennessee's 10th Amendment rights and opposing federal law that allows federal regulation of firearms made completely within the state.

He said he also sponsored state legislation "trying to stop what I feel is an unprecedented federal takeover of our health care system."

"I will continue to push not only for state sovereignty for gun rights but for the 10th Amendment in general and (against) the federal takeover of our health care system," Rep. Bell said.

Mr. Patten said he is "absolutely committed to telling the federal government enough is enough."

"And if it comes to the point of losing federal programs because we won't accept federal funding, so be it," he said. "We have got to draw a line in the sand and tell the federal government to get their own house in order."

Asked how voters can differentiate between two conservative Republican "nice guys," both referred voters to their records as community leaders and legislators.

The 9th District includes Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties.

Next week the Cleveland Kiwanis Club hosts Bradley County sheriff candidates Steve Lawson and Jim Ruth.

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