BY KYLE SCHAFER, Staff Writer
Last Saturday afternoon, the UM-Dearborn College Republicans, in association with the Union Conservatives, hosted a U.S. Senate Republican primary debate, featuring seven candidates, and live coverage from an Ann Arbor radio station.
The idea was the brainchild of Terry Bowman of the Union Conservatives and Alexander Steward of the College Republicans. In December, Mr. Bowman contacted Mr. Steward, having worked with each other in the past, to organize a debate between the seven Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.
The Union Conservatives are a group of conservatives who are also members of trade unions (Mr. Bowman is a member of the United Auto Workers, for example), who believe in conservative fiscal principals. The group, which asserts that 40% of union membership is made up of conservatives, believes in policies traditionally not supported by unions, such as Right-to-work legislation.
The race, the winner of which will face two-term Senator Debbie Stabenow, currently has seven candidates. Rounding out the field are Scotty Bowman, Clark Durant, Gary Glenn, Randy Hekman, Peter Hoekstra, Peter Konetchy, and Chuck Marino.
Mr. Bowman, from Detroit, may not be the former coach of the Detroit Red Wings, but touts himself to be the only Libertarian candidate in the Republican field, aligning himself politically with Ron Paul. Mr. Durant, also from Detroit, was the former CEO of Cornerstone Schools. Mr. Glenn, from Midland, is a conservative activist. Mr. Hekman, from Grand Rapids, is a former juvenile court judge. Mr. Hoekstra, from Holland, is perhaps the most recognizable candidate, as he is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Konetchy, from Roscommon, is a businessman.
The debate was broadcast live on Ann Arbor conservative talk station WAAM 1600, and moderated by top personality and station co-owner Thayrone–his one word stage name. Their coverage included a pre-debate live interview show with each of the candidates, right at the stage of the debate.
During the debate, the candidates remained mostly cordial and open. At one point, Mr. Bowman even said, “God bless you,” to a gentleman he heard sneeze during a round of applause.
Union members sponsored the debate, so the first part of the debate centered on union issues. All candidates were in favor of eliminating the National Labor Relations Board, a New Deal-era program established by the Wagner Act of 1935, which guarantees unions the right to collectively bargain. They also all were in favor of making Michigan a Right to Work state. Although not traditionally union positions, the crowd seemed much in favor.
Other issues raised during the debate were education, health care, the role of government, and the deficit, among others. Most of the candidates agreed with each other on most of the issues. There was little disagreement from issue to issue, though there were some exceptions.
All candidates were for cutting government programs, with all favoring the cutting of the Department of Education at the federal level. All candidates opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (which they all called “Obamacare,” as that is the right wing talking point).
Mr. Bowman even promoted the idea of cutting the size of the federal government by 45% (while currently, Medicare, Social Security, and Military spending make up roughly three quarters of the federal budget). Mr. Glenn proposed paying for this by eliminating the federal income tax–an idea that seemed popular among the rest of the group.
When the issue of gun control came up, every candidate was for no gun control whatsoever (any firearm with any number of rounds in each clip). But each candidate tried to top the next. Mr. Glenn said his firstborn son’s name is “Heston” (the last name of the actor, and head of the NRA). Mr. Hekman showed the crowd his certificate to carry a concealed weapon (CCW). Mr. Konetchy said he had no problem with Ted Nugent owning a tank, if he so desired (as long as he met all zoning laws). Mr. Marino said the 2nd Amendment exists so, “…government doesn’t get out of line.” And Mr. Bowman even opposed waiting periods, because they infringe on Americans’ rights.
The lightning round was the last issue-based event in the debate. All candidates except Mr. Bowman were pro-Israel, as he supports a more isolationist policy. All candidates were against the United Nations, except Mr. Hekman, who was for a limited or different type of UN. All candidates were for the Fair Tax, except Mr. Konetchy, while some proposed eliminating the 16th Amendment, and Mr. Hoekstra was in favor of former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s “9-9-9 Plan” as a transition.
All candidates except Mr. Durant were in favor of bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), abolished in 1975, but popular in the 1950s for anti-Communist investigations. The committee is also associated with Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the Second Red Scare.
But, it was moderator Thayrone’s phrasing of the “HUAC question” that seemed odd. He asked if the candidates would support creating HUAC, as there are un-American activities going on in this country, “…some of which are going on on this very campus.” This implies un-American activities at the UM-Dearborn. When asked to clarify what he meant by this comment, at the time of print, Thayrone could not be reached for an answer.
At the end of the day, it was a wonderfully successful event. “I feel that the candidates have not gotten much of a chance for the people around Detroit to get to know them…I am really thankful the community hear [sic] about the candidates.” said Mr. Steward, adding, “I am really glad we could have this at our school, and I am proud to be a University of Michigan-Dearborn student.”
The Republican Primary elections will be held on August 7th. So, if you are a Republican, do not forget to get out there and go vote!