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Subtle differences emerge among GOP 4th candidates

As expected, the forum for the three Republican candidates for the Fourth District congressional seat revealed that little philosophical difference existed among then, only a few issue preferences really separated them, and that the main distinction they tried to create among themselves thereby comes the image they are able to convey to voters.

Minden physician John Fleming, Shreveport trucking executive Chris Gorman, and Bossier City attorney Jeff Thompson all made clear their conservative worldviews. Probably the most polished in terms of conveying a broad message was Gorman – which in fact was too broad in that he seemed most comfortable in falling back on platitudes rather than provide substance. Ironically, as he cautioned against politicians and their use of sound bites, he emitted them throughout.

By contrast, Fleming provided the most policy details, and in doing so generated the most controversy by preferences considered somewhat less orthodox. He broadly sketched a guest worker program for legal aliens that brought cautionary remarks from the other two. He voiced support for a balanced budget amendment and another providing the president with a line-item veto to control spending while the other two did not discuss anything really specific in that area. On a couple of occasions, Thompson actually drew a policy difference with him, while it was hard to tell with Gorman’s generalities his thoughts of these issues.

Fleming said state and local government should back off on funding the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier Parish until there was more certainty whether the Air Force’s Cyber Command would locate at Barksdale AFB, while Thompson indicated they should go full speed ahead confident enough Cyber Command components would come there. However, the issue of taxation really seemed to exemplify candidate distinctions at the forum. Fleming stated support for a national sales tax, to replace individual income taxes, while Gorman said it needed more study to determine whether taxes might not go up for some, and Thompson opposed it saying to be effective it would have to be almost twice the level Fleming advocated of 23 percent.

Actually, all three candidates whiffed on this one to some extent. A tax with exemptions for lower-income families could be realistic at 23 percent or close to it, as it has been well-studied, obviating both Gorman’s and Thompson’s concerns. However, its major problem is something only Thompson mentioned and just in passing, with enforcement. It likely would be easier to evade through barter or noncompliance and any significant leakage would either create a shortfall in revenue or cause the rate to be raised.

The most disappointing remarks came concerning health care reform to keep a great system but to make it more cost-effective, including prescription drug prices. Fleming seemed to have little specific to offer despite his being a doctor, Thompson contradicted himself in suggesting government coordinate efforts to pool efforts yet at other intervals said government should involved as little as possible, and the best Gorman could do, as he did on more than one interval when a question involved money, was to say savings could be realized by cutting out waste and fraud without offering anything more innovative or substantive.

Gorman came off the worst when questions (obliquely referenced by both Fleming and Thompson in their opening remarks) delved into their political pasts. The questions made it impossible for Gorman to hide that he had only in the past few years returned to the area after several years absence during which he had not been registered as a Republican if registered at all to vote. Gorman’s excuse – that he had been dissatisfied with the party – rung hollow when compared to events of the past 15 years where it only has been recently that GOP national leaders had moved away from conservatism, since Gorman kept bringing up the conservative label to describe himself.

The casual observer would not have found much to differentiate the candidates. But those with more interest and knowledge would have found it a helpful exercise – and these are precisely the kinds of Republican voters that will hit the closed primary on Sep. 6 to decide (almost certainly) which two of these will head to a runoff.


Anonymous said...

Although a nice synopsis of the forum, you failed to give those of us who could not attend the forum your view on who you think emerged as the front runner. I have not decided on my candidate yet but have heard all three voice against big government. Gorman is heavily funded from his family business and lacks experience. I do not think he is capable (based on his background) of having the perspective that we need from our representation. Fleming is quite the conservative but after due diligence, found his 500+ jobs created were minimum wage without benefits creatng minimal positive effect on the local economy. Thompson seems to be the most credible from experience and seems to have walked the closest to the middle class, which is very appealing to me. What do you think about each one individually?

Anonymous said...

I dont think that subtle differences quite describe it. Major differences exist between the top two candidates Gorman and Fleming. Immigration- Fleming is proposing a new federal program that involves bussing illegals into the United States, along with a new tax on businesses to pay for it. (For details :

Gorman supports enforcing current laws, increasing border security, building additional fences where necessary, and withholding federal funds to sanctuary cities.

Fleming supports a national sales tax and elimination of the IRS. Gorman supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

But of most concern was that Fleming believes we should halt additional invesment in the Cyber Innovation Center, while Gorman supports continuing our commitment and investment that has begun. Gorman realizes the impact that landing the CIC will have on Bossier,Caddo and Webster parishes.

Fleming is on the wrong side of three major issues for our district!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Fleming is on the right track in suggesting some features of a guest worker program for illegal immigrants. I believe there are some employers (industries) in the United States that have to resort to illegal immigrants as a readily available labor force because U.S. citizens simply will not take the jobs they need to fill (very hard work, little or no job security, low wages). Whether we like it or not, we, as consumers, benefit from this "cheap labor" through lower prices. I believe our border with Mexico must be secured but Dr. Fleming's ideas on a guest worker program have some merit.

Anonymous said...

Jim Gilchrist, founder and President of The Minuteman Project, caught wind of Fleming's immigration plan and came out strongly against it. Calling the proposal "amnesty on wheels," Gilchrist said Fleming has the most dangerous immigration reform plan of any candidate in Congress. Gilchrist also said:

...Fleming’s proposal to bus workers to and from Mexico is a terrible idea and would put our country at great risk. The only bus ride we need to give illegal aliens is a one-way ticket home. The last thing we need is to create an express lane for illegal aliens – paid for by American companies and American workers. Fleming’s plan is dangerous and the voters of the 4th Congressional District should beware."