ST. GEORGE – Chris Stewart, the Republican candidate running for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, was in St. George to greet potential voters and answer questions in a town hall earlier this week.
Both the supportive and the curious attended Stewart’s town hall meeting at the Lexington Hotel in St. George Tuesday night. Stewart was already familiar to some in the crowd who knew him as an author of numerous books, or by his association with The Glenn Beck Program.
Brian Steed, Stewart’s campaign manager, who introduced the candidate at the town hall, gave his opinion of the man’s character. “The man who will speak tonight is sincere,” he said.
Before taking questions, Stewart asked how people felt about the current state of the nation. The answer came in a chorus of negative responses. “All of us feel uncomfortable,” he said.
Stewart acknowledged the worries of the crowd over the perceived future of the country, yet said people needed to have faith in America’s future rather than fear of it. “We have an obligation to be faithful, to try … We need to maintain faith and hope.”
“We can save the American dream,” he said. “…The American dream will not die, even now.”
The crowd applauded, and the questions followed.
The following are highlights from the Q-and-A portion of the town hall
If elected, how would Stewart deal with the perceived “corruption” in Congress?
If the country had “a moral and courageous Congress,” Stewart said, than there would be no corruption. A way he proposed to root out corruption was to rid Congress of the many exemptions it allows itself.
Later in the meeting, Stewart said his wife, Evie Stewart, would help keep him from becoming corrupt with such advice as, “There’s nothing worth accomplishing in Washington that’s worth losing your soul over.”
What about term limits?
“I love term limits,” he said, and added that political power changes most of the people who stay in Washington for too long.
On energy regulation:
“Energy regulation sticks,” Steward said. “It is a boot on the throat of small business.”
In an interview following the meeting, Stewart said the Environmental Protection Agency was a federal agency he would like to see dissolved. “The EPA thwarts energy development,” he said.
A question that received significant applause concerned Stewart’s views of the National Defense Authorization Act, also called the NDAA. The question specifically dealt with language under Section 1021. Critics claim language in this section allows the military to detain suspect individuals for an indefinite period of time without the benefit of due process.
Stewart said he would not have voted for the NDAA with its “indefinite detention language,” and also said he believes the measure to be unconstitutional. “Congress should have pushed back on that one,” he said.
Jay Seegmiller, Stewart’s Democratic opponent for the 2nd Congressional District, said he would work to end the political gridlock between the parties. He would seek to establish common ground with Republicans and build from that point, he said.
As to what issues Stewart felt he could work with the Democrats on, he said the most likely issue would be sequestration, or cuts made to defense spending, should the Congress fail to agree on deficit-reduction measures by year’s end.
Despite this, Stewart was not overly optimistic about finding a common base with the other side of the aisle so easily. He said he didn’t expect anything new from the Democrats. Instead, he said they would continue on as usual. “They’ve been unwilling to put forth any news ideas.”
Recently, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 459, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act,which calls for an audit of the Federal Reserve. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has also expressed support for the idea. Stewart agrees with it as well.
“On what grounds would you object to auditing the Fed?” Stewart said. “We should audit the Fed. We should control the Fed.”
He said the Federal Reserve’s flooding the economy with money was not helping, but would instead lead to the suicide of the economy.
On the subject of national security, Stewart said he understood the danger the U.S. may face from rogue nations, yet they were not the No. 1 threat. “The greatest threat we face is the debt,” he said. “We have to fix it now.”
At the beginning of the town hall, Stewart told the crowd they need to maintain faith and hope in the nation in order to help change things for the better. Words are easy to repeat to a crowd, especially when repeated multiple times a day by a candidate on the campaign trail.
“It’s hard to be original eight times a day,” Stewart said.
The question was then thrown back to the candidate – how did Stewart manage to keep up his own “faith and hope” in the nation while asking the same of others?
He said there is a place in every person that despairs when he or she ponders the seemingly endless troubles America faces, even him. Yet, Stewart gave credit to those troubles for motivating people to action. “When we face crisis, we change things,” he said. “Americans are starting to wake up.”
So, in the end, Stewart said it is the American people who inspire him to keep the faith and continue on. “I still think we are a good people.”
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