GOP Congressional candidates

Matt Gurtler and Andrew Clyde are pictured at the Madison County Republican Party's forum July 16.

The race to fill the U.S. 9th Congressional District seat has four candidates remaining — two Democratic and two Republican, with each vying to win their party’s nomination for the November general election.

Republicans Matt Gurtler and Andrew Clyde will face off Aug. 11, with the winner going against either Democrat Devin Pandy or Brooke Siskin on Nov. 3.

On July 16, the Madison County Republican Party hosted Gurtler and Clyde for an approximate hour-long forum in the Madison County High School cafeteria.

Both candidates said they are committed to limited taxes, small government, pro-life policies, protection of the Second Amendment, support for President Trump and support for law enforcement. They both said they favor the elimination of the federal Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, preferring to see those department’s responsibilities in state hands. They both said they are against a path to citizenship for those who haven’t entered the country legally.

Clyde, a Jackson County resident who served in the U.S. Navy and has owned a gun store in Athens since 1991, said he fought the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2013, when the agency confiscated $940,000 from his gun store through civil asset forfeiture. He said he took the matter to court, won, then pushed for legislation to “keep the IRS from confiscating legally earned money.” He said he helped get the Clyde Hirsch Sowers Respect Act, which was signed into law by President Trump, passed in 2019. He added that he would like to see the IRS eliminated and a consumption tax put in place.

“I’m a conservative Christian, a combat veteran, with 28 years in the U.S. Navy and I’m a gun-store owner,” said Clyde. “If you want a proven combat fighter who’s been through the trials of war both overseas against terrorist regimes and right here on our home soil against the corrupt IRS, then I’m your candidate. If you want someone who will defend the unborn, who believes that life begins at conception, and who has proven his commitment through the support of the Athens Crisis Pregnancy Center, then I’m your candidate. If you want a Congressman with an A rating from the National Rifle Association, I won’t give an inch and I will help take back what we’ve lost.”

Gurtler, a 31-year-old homebuilder from Rabun County who has served two terms as a state House representative, said he has been rated as the most conservative member of the Georgia legislature and that he is committed to reducing the size of government, eliminating debt and maintaining strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution. He said he wants to fight for President Trump and against “the radical Democratic socialists trying to destroy our country.”

“There is a clear difference in this race, a proven tested record,” said Gurtler. “That’s what I’m running on, a conservative fighting record. I’ve been fighting the establishment in the state capitol for four years. I’m the most hated man in politics right now by the establishment. I’ve never voted for a tax increase. I’ve taken the hard stands. We have people in our country right now who are trying to destroy it. President Trump, he needs proven conservative fighters to stand with him and stand against the socialists and the fake news and also against the RINO (Republicans in Name Only) Republicans.”

The candidates were asked their views on abortion, gun rights, immigration, civil unrest, church freedoms under the First Amendment. Both said they vowed to stand by their conservative principles on each issue.

“My view is that we are one race, the human race,” said Clyde when asked about today’s civil unrest in America. “There is no room for racism, whatsoever. We are all created equally by God. There is no color difference in God’s eyes. There’s no color difference in my eyes. It really starts at the heart of people. When people’s hearts get right, their decisions get right. If all we’re doing is going to a meeting and saying let’s get along, that’s not going to work. It’s got to be a change in the heart.”

Gurtler spoke of the golden rule.

“As a Christian, we should always follow the golden rule,” he said. “Treat people how you want to be treated. Promote personal responsibility is what will get people back to more community involvement. That means the churches have to get more involved. The government has to be reduced — get off the welfare state. People have to get more involved in politics and become less apathetic. We have a great district here, a high voting turnout and high attendance for churches. Promoting those things and leading by example — it starts with yourself. If you can do that, others will follow.”

The candidates were asked if there is any issue on which they differ from Trump.

“I stand with him on border wall, the Second Amendment, electing conservative members to the Supreme Court, the economy, making sure schools actually go back to normal, taking out terrorist Soleimani, protecting Americans overseas, supporting our military,” said Clyde. “Honestly, I can’t right now think of an issue that I don’t stand with the president on. We don’t want this to be a moment in time with our president. We want this to be a movement, a conservative movement. And I think the president is the leader to make this happen for us.”

Gurtler suggested he might not agree with Trump’s Twitter habits.

“The only thing that comes to my mind is Twitter,” he said. “But it’s good that he’s out there talking to the people and having that real connection, which makes him genuine unlike any other president in modern history. I think that’s why the left and the RINOs hate him so much, because they can’t control him. And I think that’s a good thing. I’m the most hated man by the establishment in Georgia, because they can’t control me. I don’t go along with all the stuff.”

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