Scott, Williams face off at NAACP forum

Published 12:08 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Republican House of Representatives candidate Marty Williams said he was told by supporters that a Smithfield forum sponsored by the NAACP was a “hostile” environment in which to square off against incumbent Congressman Bobby Scott, D-3rd, but he did it anyway.

Scott replied that he was told Isle of Wight was one of the most conservative counties in the state, but that didn’t stop him either.

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Williams and Scott held a testy exchange on topics ranging from the Second Amendment to economic development, mandatory minimum prison sentences and the 9/11 veto-override bill during the Oct. 4 forum held at Main Street Baptist Church.

Both candidates also used the presidential candidates — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — as debating points, with Scott criticizing Trump’s reliance on simplified phrases such as “it will be huge” and the fact that he hasn’t won any newspaper endorsements.

“There’s a reason for that,” said Scott of Trump. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Williams said he wants to make the country better, but does disagree with some of the things Trump says. 

One area that received some questions was the future of shipbuilding in the country. Newport News Shipbuilding is one of the largest employers in the Hampton Roads region — and of many Isle of Wight County residents.

Scott said Republican budget cuts have impacted the military budget and more money is needed.  

“A lot of cuts land on the military,” Scott said.

Williams said losing the shipbuilding industry “will kill us.” and that the United States needs to reinforce the border and get the military back in shape.

Williams said he isn’t in favor of raising taxes, but instead focused on getting rid of “waste and fraud.”

“Sometimes the rich don’t pay enough money,” Williams said, adding that taking away the mortgage and charitable deduction is wrong.

“Let’s get the IRS off our back,” Williams said.

Scott said there are multiple ways to impose taxes more fairly and increase the revenue stream, such as changing the estate tax, closing budget loopholes and taxing capital gains like employment income.

Without taxes, the country cannot build its military, Scott said.

Scott said he was unsure why Williams brought up what is known as the 9/11 bill.

Scott said he voted against an override of Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsorship of Terrorism Act, which would allow American citizens to sue countries responsible for funding Al Al-Qaeda. President Barack Obama vetoed the bill, saying it would damage relations with ally Saudi Arabia.

The day after the veto passed, a significant number of Republican lawmakers expressed regret for the override, saying it would have unintended consequences. Scott pointed that out during the forum. Scott said the veto-override vote was politically motivated and that his vote was based on his belief, later shared by Republicans, that the vote was wrong.

Williams said his idea of criminal justice reform is to focus on victims and said, “Mandatory minimums, in my opinion, work.”

Federal mandatory minimum prison sentences are set by Congress, provide little judicial discretion and assign specific time limits on incarceration.

Scott countered that mandatory minimums do not reduce crime, discriminate against minorities, violate “common sense” and have received bipartisan condemnation in  recent years.

Scott said low-level non-violent offenders are spending years in prison, and cited a case where a girlfriend of a drug offender was serving decades of time in prison.

“We’ve bloated prisons with foolishness like that,” he said.

Williams called racial profiling a “catch phrase,” and while he believes the practice is wrong, doesn’t believe there’s a problem with “criminal profiling.”

It’s possible to “look at someone and know,” Williams said.

When it comes to the Second Amendment, Scott favors reasonable background checks of gun purchasers.

Williams supports the Second Amendment, but jumped to the issue of bringing foreign aid back to the U.S. to take care of its own, such as creating Boys and Girls Clubs.

Williams agreed that climate change, particularly flooding, is a problem, but has not seen any legislation to address flooding. Williams said he would pursue legislation to protect against flooding.

“Nothing has been done,” he said.

Scott favors the scientific approach to climate change and if the country doesn’t go in that direction, then nothing will happen.

Hampton Roads is one of the most vulnerable areas in terms of sea level change, he said.

“If you don’t recognize the science, you won’t get better,” he said.

Republicans don’t recognize science or arithmetic, Scott said.

“It’s hard to deal with these people.”

Scott has served the 3rd Congressional District since 1993. Isle of Wight County, formerly in the 4th Congressional District, was moved into the 3rd as the result of a court ruling that the 3rd had been gerrymandered to concentrate black votes following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Scott supported the lawsuit and the altered district even though the resulting 3rd District now has a white majority. The change decreased the number of black voters in Scott’s district from 56 percent to 45 percent.

At the same time, the court order increased the black electorate in the 4th District, formerly represented by Republican J. Randy Forbes. In response, Forbes moved to the 2nd District, but lost in the primary in June.

Williams is a 25-year veteran of the Chesapeake Police Department and chairman of the Chesapeake Planning Commission.  {/mprestriction}