DAPHNE — The two Republican candidates vying for Alabama's new first congressional district faced off Wednesday in a debate at the Daphne Civic Center.
U.S. Reps. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) and Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), both incumbents, are running against each other due to court-ordered redistricting that left Moore, who represents District 2, living in District 1, currently represented by Carl.
Before the debate, Moore and Carl said they felt good about their stances and hoped to share their views with voters. They said they had not spoken to one another ahead of the debate.
During the debate, crowd reaction made it clear that Moore had support in Baldwin County.
After the debate, both candidates told 1819 News they felt good about how it went, but Carl was left defending himself after he said he "misspoke" when he said "everyone has some type of racist in them." While he said he knew he would have to deal with the fallout from using the wrong word, he said his supporters would understand. Meanwhile, Moore vowed to continue to lean on his faith to lead him to victory.
The candidates were asked about border policy, foreign policy, Washington spending, national defense, agriculture and abortion.
While both candidates said they supported building the wall on the Southern border, Carl pointed out that he voted for the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), which had money set aside for the wall. The NDAA would be a recurring theme throughout the debate, as Carl pointed out his opponent did not vote for the NDAA, and Moore defended that decision.
Moore said he also believes in taking a closer look at immigration policy and bringing back Trump-era border policies.
The Supreme Court decision to allow Border Patrol to remove Texas-installed razor wire along the border is an example, both candidates said of federal government overreach.
"The federal government has taken too much of your tax money, they've taken too much of your liberty, and they've taken a great deal of liberty with the Constitution," Moore said. "We need to make sure that these states have rights."
"We've got too much federal government involved in state and local government, period," said Carl. "We need to get the federal government out of our business. If the state wants to put up and protect their borders, they have the right to protect their borders."
When asked if it is more important to stop Russia in Ukraine or Hamas in Israel, Moore said the most important thing is putting President Trump back in office.
"Russia had money to make war because of Joe Biden's energy policy," said Moore. "Certainly, we have to stand with Israel. In my opinion, it's as easy as 1, 2, 3. Genesis 12:3 says, 'If you bless Israel, you'll be blessed, if you curse Israel, you'll be cursed."
Carl said he has concerns about how much money has already been spent in Ukraine and once again mentioned the NDAA plan put caps on some of that spending.
"With that said, I think Israel should take priority," Carl added. "Without a doubt, it's Israel."
Carl said success in Israel means peace for the Israelis.
Moore said the focus in Ukraine should be stopping the sending of funds and equipment without accountability.
In response to a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, both Moore and Carl vowed support and defense for Taiwan.
Economy & Inflation
When asked to explain the failed Biden economy, Carl said the Biden administration has led to wasteful spending and a negative impact on the American family.
"Biden is driving the prices up on everybody," Carl explained. "It doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat, he's driving the prices up."
Carl said Biden is wrecking the economy by cutting oil production and causing inflation to rise.
"We've got to get this president out of office and get him replaced," Carl said.
Moore said inflation is caused by the government and the government only.
"If any one of us in D.C. raised your taxes 22%, you would send us to the house," Moore explained. "And yet we have done it with government spending."
Moore said there was no need to collect taxes if Washington could continue to print money.
"We spend money like a drunk sailor, and that's an insult to a drunk sailor," Moore said.
The candidates were asked to identify issues they had noticed since campaigning in each other's current districts. Carl said in the wiregrass, the top problems are supporting peanut farmers, solid border policy and Fort Novosel.
"I went on that base two weeks ago, and I was embarrassed," Carl said. "The barracks that we ask these warriors to spend weeks in, walls covered with mold."
After the debate, Moore told 1819 News the facilities at Fort Novosel were aged, and he had probably stayed in those barracks himself.
"The NDAA has little to do with why there would be mold in the barracks," Moore said. "The fact of the matter is those are things we can address. The resources are there if we quit wasting money on foreign countries."
In Mobile and Baldwin Counties, Moore said the focus needs to be shipping from the Mobile port.
"If we will get taxes and regulations out of the way, open up these ports and protect these jobs, folks, this economy will recover," said Moore.
Moore said putting America first would also help complete the Interstate 10 project in South Alabama. Carl said efforts have been underway to get more federal money to complete the project. While he is a fiscal conservative, he said he is also a realist. He said local leaders have supported his campaign because they have seen the money he has helped bring to the district.
"I'm not going to apologize for going after that and helping my cities and helping my state government," Carl added.
While his record shows he is a conservative, Moore said he is "big on infrastructure and defense."
"I am the only veteran in this race," he pointed out. "I love our soldiers, and I fight for our soldiers and the defense of this nation, but you may not get a walking track if I'm your congressman. I apologize. But I will balance the budget."
A glaring difference between Carl and Moore is that Carl voted for the NDAA signed into law this past December by President Biden.
Carl said he will continue to support the NDAA as a planning tool for defense. He said the bill had several defense needs that would directly benefit Alabama and, most importantly, veterans.
"We have a responsibility to take care of these people," he said. "We have a responsibility that they don't live in the junk that they have to live in. We've got to take pride in our military, and not supporting the NDAA is about as un-American as you can get."
"What a tough vote for a veteran," Moore fired back. "Let me tell you folks, the $600 million that was in there to go to Ukraine, I was a no vote on that. We had the abortion travel stripped out in the July NDAA that I voted for. The transgender surgery, we had stripped it out. All the Green New Deal stuff that Biden and them had in the NDAA, we had stripped it out."
However, Moore said by the time the bill came back for a vote, things conservatives wanted in the bill were not there, but reauthorization of the FBI's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was.
"FISA is how they got Donald Trump and General Flynn," he added. "It's how they did 287,000 unwarranted searches on your social media and the stuff you did in the last couple of years."
Moore also said the NDAA of 2018 led to the renaming of military bases.
The defense topic got Carl on the defensive, saying Moore didn't read the fine print on the 2024 NDAA.
"The $600 million he is talking about is actually $300 million per year," he said. "And if he would've read the small print like he should have, that money can be reallocated. It can go to Israel or it can go to Taiwan if we want it to. It's not earmarked just for Ukraine. So, let's find a different topic here before I blow a gasket."
When asked about abortion, Carl said he wants to see the federal government stay out of the state's business, and Moore said he believes in the sanctity of life and believes the federal government should protect that.
But one of the most uncomfortable moments of the night came when a question was asked regarding presidential candidate Nikki Haley's recent comment that, "We have never been a racist country."
"Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?" Albrecht asked.
"Everyone has some racist in them of some type," Carl responded. "I used to work a lot with ministers, and I had some very private conversations. Everyone has some type of racist in them."
"My mother, who, Pearl Harbor, she couldn't stand the Japanese," Carl continued. "She couldn't stand it, and it used to just eat her from the inside out. But if we talk about it, if we reach out and try to talk to these people, or they talk to us, or we talk as one, we can fix so many things."
After the debate, Carl told 1819 News he used the wrong word.
"I don't know if 'racist' was the right word," he told 1819 News. "I think it was more 'prejudice' and my pastor that I grew up under, we've had a lot of long conversation about that and abortion and other things, and he was a true man of God. He was talking about how everybody has, not racism, and I got that wrong up there. I just butchered that to be quite honest. But everybody's got a little something in them."
Carl said he knew the misstep would be something he would "have to pay the price for." He said his prejudice is against people who talk the talk but don't walk the walk.
"I'm prejudiced, especially in Washington. We get a lot of show ponies, and all they want to do is talk, talk, talk, and I went up there to work, I went up there to get stuff done, so I am prejudiced against those people," he said.
During the debate, Moore said he believed, at one point, America was getting away from a racist attitude, but after BLM and Antifa came about, he said people once again became divided.
"Divided we are so much weaker than we are united," he said. No one can touch us, but we can certainly destroy ourselves from within."
When asked if they could say something positive about their opponent, Moore said, "Everybody likes Jerry," and it is unfortunate that they're in the race against each other.
Carl was unable to return the favor. He said he had high hopes when the two entered Congress, but Moore has only disappointed him by not supporting veterans the way he thought he would. He said that Moore has a nice Porsche and condo in Washington, but Moore denied having one.
1819 News asked Carl after the debate if he had anything nice to say about Moore.
"I had a mental shutdown," Carl told 1819 News. "I had a mental shutdown. I was asked to say something nice about him and all I could think of was he's got a nice Porsche and a good-looking condo in Washington. I couldn't think of anything else to say."
Carl said he believed his opponent came into office for the right reasons, but he felt he was following D.C.-based organizations now instead of looking after the people in his district.
Carl says he is a "tough and strong conservative." He compares himself to President Donald Trump, pointing out that he's a job creator and a businessman fighting for conservative values.
Moore, who calls himself a "true conservative," has served two terms in the House of Representatives. He has based his campaign on lower taxes and less government, fighting for families and looking out for veterans.
A recent poll of 697 Republican voters showed Moore ahead by 4%.
The primary for both parties is scheduled for March 5.
1819 News was the platinum sponsor for the debate. You can watch the entire debate and closing statements below.
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