Three candidates for the 4th Congressional District seat faced off Friday in a debate addressing Social Security and fiscal responsibility at the Chapel Hill Senior Center.
The three candidates - incumbent Democrat David Price, Libertarian Brian Towey and Republican Jess Ward - spoke before a crowd of about 30 senior citizens.
After the candidates briefly introduced themselves, they answered questions from the audience on issues that primarily affect the elderly, such as the future availability of Social Security funds and the possibility of future tax breaks based on the current budget surplus.
Price said he favors using surplus tax funds to supplement the ailing Social Security system.
Towey said he wants to privately invest Social Security funds. During the forum, he frequently called the current system corrupt and inadequate.
But Ward said his policy on Social Security reform would be determined by his constituents.
Both Towey and Ward also said they were wary of large government.
"We need to see some evidence from Congress that they can get rid of programs that don't work," Ward said.
"The important thing to do is to rescue your money from the hands of politicians," Towey said.
But Price also criticized some downfalls of the current administration, citing Medicare as a major problem.
"It has overreached, and it needs to be fixed," Price said.
Price was on the defensive for much of the debate, fielding audience allegations of exorbitant spending in his Washington office, as well as being too lenient in regulating federal finances.
"I was shocked how wimpy you were in interviewing members of the IRS," one audience member, who refused to identify himself, said to Price.
Accusations among the candidates were sometimes just as stringent.
But the crowd seemed impressed with all three of the candidates, especially Price. Audience members often erupted in applause after Price responded to their questions.
Towey and Ward also had substantial followings.
"I was very impressed with Jess Ward," one audience member, who also would not identify himself, said. "His logic and presentation were very refreshing."
Despite the broad range of questions that were asked, each candidate consistently stressed the importance of the rights of senior citizens.
"We need to protect and preserve the rights of seniors and retirees," Ward said.
But one audience member said the candidates should spend more time discussing issues relating to young people, instead of focusing solely on programs for seniors. "I think more should be done for young people than the old," one elderly audience member, who did not give her name, said. "What will become of the youth?"
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