Just as they protected the country's borders and its highest elected officials, two Republican congressional candidates say they'll work just as hard to protect South Carolina families from reckless federal spending and government intrusion.
State Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, who was a Secret Service agent, and Jonathan Hoffman, former White House border security director, made their cases to Beaufort County voters Monday during the last in a series of forums hosted by state Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort.
With a week to go before 16 Republican candidates face off in the March 19 primary in the 1st Congressional District, both Patrick and Hoffman touted their records of public service and vowed to balance the federal budget, reduce government intrusion and protect area military bases and veterans.
Both hope to replace Tim Scott, R-Charleston, who resigned after he was appointed to fill Jim DeMint's seat in the U.S. Senate.
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Patrick is in his second term in the S.C. House of Representatives. Before that he founded a security business, Advance Point Global.
Hoffman served as White House border security director under President George W. Bush's administration and now works as a military prosecutor in the Air Force Reserves.
"The foundations of America are crumbling from within," Patrick told the sparsely filled auditorium at the Technical College of the Lowcountry's campus in Beaufort. "Crumbling from the weight of debt, crumbling from a government that cannot pass a budget, crumbling from a deteriorating culture. ... The Founding Fathers believed in fiscal restraint, and we need to prioritize our spending like families prioritize their spending and get back to core functions of government."
He supports a balanced budget amendment, would hold federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product, block the expansion of entitlement programs such as Medicaid and require a two-thirds vote of Congress to increase taxes and other government revenue.
"Entitlement programs are the catalyst to our (budget) problems to begin with -- first and foremost with the Affordable Care Act," which Patrick said should be repealed. "The more government subsidizes, the further and further away we get from free market principles."
Patrick said he would also pursue implementation of a "fair tax" tied to consumption and abolish the federal income tax, which Hoffman disagreed with.
"We need to reform the tax code to lower rates, broaden the base and reduce loopholes and deductions," as well as government regulations that are hindering economic growth, Hoffman said.
Both support Second Amendment gun rights but differed slightly on their view of the national gun-control debate.
Patrick said the issue of U.S. gun violence is not "a weapons problem" but a "mental health system problem."
Hoffman agreed but believes the issue needs to be addressed through stricter background checks.
In the end, both stressed they were the most experienced candidate to pull the country away from a "tipping point" toward cultural decline and fiscal ruin.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom