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Carl, Moore spar in heated debate over federal spending, abortion and more

DAPHNE, Ala.  — Republican Congressmen Jerry Carl and Barry Moore sparred over their fiscal conservatism and military and veterans’ issues Wednesday in a debate on who would best represent District 1.

A comparison of the Congressional District Map Alabama lawmakers approved in 2023 (left), and the court-imposed map the state will use in 2024 (right).

Throughout the first half of the debate, the two candidates were largely in agreement with each other. Both were supportive of constructing a wall on America’s southern border; both said the United States should defend Taiwan should China attempt to reunify the state; and both called for federal spending cuts and entitlement program reform.

About 45 minutes into the hour-long debate, however, they were asked about their opposing views on the House Freedom Caucus, a coalition of right-wing Republicans that often advocate for reduced federal spending and deregulation.

Moore is a member of the Freedom Caucus, Carl is not. Carl did not mince words in his disdain for its political strategies.

“The Freedom Caucus, they tell you how to vote, when to vote and what to vote… I didn’t go to Washington to represent the Freedom Caucus,” Carl said. 

“I don’t need these Washington-based groups giving me a scorecard, these are the people that I’m answering to, this is my scorecard sitting right here. All they do is create problems; there are some great people in the Freedom Caucus, but their political strategies, I do not agree with, I think it’s disruptive and harmful to this country.”

Moore called the caucus’ members patriots.

“When I get to the House Freedom Caucus and meet with the likes of Jim Jordan and Andy Biggs who (want) to secure the U.S. southern border, and Clay Higgins from Louisiana, those folks, they’re in the fight for the right reasons,” Moore said.

“They don’t tell us how to vote, but when I leave there, I don’t feel like I need a shower, there are patriots in that room, and to call them anything less is an insult. Those are the men and women, that if this nation is saved, they will save it.”

Moore, who currently represents District 2, announced last October that he would challenge Carl for his seat representing District 1. Moore’s announcement came shortly after the court-ordered redrawing of Alabama’s Congressional Districts, which shifted a portion of Moore’s district into Carl’s, as well redrew District 2 to favor Democrats.

Another topic discussed was how the two candidates differed on their vote on the $866 billion 2024 defense budget, known as the National Defense Authorization Act. While its passage was celebrated by the Alabama congressional delegation, Moore had initially voted against it. Carl voted for it.

Moore said that the inclusion of “Green New Deal stuff,” “abortion travel” and money for Ukraine were among the reasons he voted against its passage.

“So the NDAA, the $600 million that was in there to go to Ukraine, I was a no vote,” he said.

Carl pushed back on Moore’s claims.

“There is nothing in the NDAA bill that says anything about abortion; 700 pages, I challenge him to show me exactly where it’s at,” Carl said. 

“And the $600 million he was talking about is actually $300 million per year, and if he had read the small print like he should have, that money could be reallocated; it could go to Israel, or it could go to Taiwan, it’s not earmarked just for Ukraine.”

Leading off of Carl’s comments on abortion, the moderators asked the candidates whether states should be permitted to allow late-term abortions, or whether the federal government should draw a line as to when abortions may be permitted.

Moore inferred that yes, the federal government should play a role in regulating abortion nationwide.

“The sanctity of life is one of those issues that I absolutely feel that we, as a federal government, should support protecting the unborn,” he said. “That’s my position.”

Carl, while describing himself as “100% pro-life,” said instead that the federal government should not play a role in setting laws on abortion.

“It’s funny to me, we want the federal government out of our business until we want them in our business; that should be a state issue,” he said. 

“I am 100% pro-life, but if you put it back into federal hands, and you get the Democrats to take control again, I promise you, you will pay the price and it’ll be another 30 years that abortion will be legal.”

U.S. Republican Reps. Jerry Carl (right) and Barry Moore debate in Daphne.

Another topic briefly touched on was the Interstate 10 bridge construction in Mobile, a project that has been discussed and delayed since the 1990s. Both candidates were asked what could be done on a federal level to help move the long-standing project along.

In line with his fiscally conservative beliefs, Moore suggested that using already allocated spending earmarked for foreign aid for domestic infrastructure instead would be one suitable way for the federal government to help move the project along.

“We have sent $115 billion to Ukraine; for every federal road (and) bridge project in the United States in 2022, we spent $52 billion,” Moore said. 

“We sent twice as much money to Ukraine, to a young democracy, than we spent on infrastructure in the United States. If we keep the money here in America and invest it in infrastructure, we could grow the jobs and economy.”

Carl insisted that continuing to seek federal funding through grants was the ideal way to see the I-10 bridge project to completion.

“I’ve been working on the toll bridge for the last 12 years, I know a little bit about it,” Carl said.

“As a congressman, our challenge right now is (that) our predecessor got a $125 million grant for the bridge that we’ve got to make sure we get in place before it expires. My staff is constantly working with transportation, we’re looking for money constantly, we have some grants coming up in two years that we hope we can get our fingers in.”

In the final question of the debate, both candidates were asked to say something nice about their opponent, with moderators directing the request toward Moore first.

“Everybody likes Jerry, and it’s unfortunate that we’re in this race, and so it’s a matter of differentiating records, but you can’t help but like Jerry, I like Jerry fine,” Moore said.

Carl, in a response that drew heckles and boos from Moore’s supporters, spoke to his disappointment in Moore’s departure from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“I had high hopes working with Barry, we came in at the same time, we worked hard to get him on the Veterans’ Committee, we thought he would be our voice on the Veterans’ Committee,” Carl said. 

“He gave that up to go and join the Judicial Committee and let all of our veterans down, and that’s when I got real flustered. Our veterans do not have a voice in that committee anymore, so if you want something nice, I mean, Barry’s got a good-looking Porsche and a nice condo in Washington.”

Following the debate, Moore told Alabama Daily News his office’s availability to the public, as well as the time spent addressing individual constituents’ concerns would be an asset for District 1.

“Constituent services, I think we have the best team in the nation for that,” Moore told ADN.

“We’ve doubled my opponent’s numbers; same number of constituents, yet we served over 4,000 people for their needs. Taking care of the people, that’s the wins we get in D.C., and I can handle that pretty well.”

Carl said he would be better suited to address what he considered to be the biggest issue facing the Wiregrass region, that being the structural condition of Fort Novosel in Dale County, a U.S. Army base previously called Fort Rucker. Under the congressional map redrawing, the base moved from District 2 to 1.

“Fort Novosel is pitiful, I’ve never been on a base that looked that down and run out; you can’t have something that valuable for this country’s defense and not be there on a bi-monthly basis, just go on the base and find out what their needs are,” Carl told ADN.

“That’s the biggest single issue that we need to jump on and address, but it is sad the way Congressman Moore has just let that run down. He should be on the floor arguing for them, every chance he gets he should bring them up, that’s the fifth largest employer we have in the state of Alabama, second largest south of Montgomery.”

The primary is March 5. Tom Holmes is the sole Democrat seeking the seat.

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