Senate candidates questioned about SHEP during debate - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Senate candidates questioned about SHEP during debate

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

The fifth Republican primary debate was held in Savannah on Saturday. Seven candidates were eager to prove why they should be Georgia's next senator since Senator Saxby Chambliss is retiring.

A panel of judges asked questions on a variety of issues, some that directly impact Savannah. One of Georgia's biggest issues right now is the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project.

The candidates were asked about Governor Nathan Deal's decision to move forward with the project despite the president snubbing it in his budget.

The seven candidates were asked what they believed the state of Georgia should take to move forward.

"I'm in total agreement with Governor Deal," said Georgia Ports Authority Board Member, David Perdue.  

Perdue was up first, agreeing that the state of Georgia needs to move forward with the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project.

 "There is a law that says Gov. Deal can go ahead and spend the money and start investing in that without the commitment of the federal government," said Perdue.  "My solution is keep pounding the feds and get ready to get that thing deepened."

Congressman Phil Gingrey was next to answer. He shares similar frustration with the federal government for withholding the promised funds. He says he hopes the feds are not playing a game of politics but regardless, Georgia has work to do.

"We can get this done and we ought to go ahead and spend our own money," said Congressman Gingrey. "We've got $231 million, let's spend it and then make the federal government pay their share."

Congressman Paul Broun responds with what he says is a different vision.

"We have got to have a four lane interstate highway system from Savannah up to I-85 and then we have to a connection from I-85 to I-75," said Congressman Broun. "That will help with economic development for the whole state of Georgia."

Political activist, Derrick Grayson, also brought up Atlanta projects despite the question being about the dredging project.

"Let's not forget about Cobb County and the Braves stadium or Fulton County and the stadium for the Falcons," said Grayson. "Mayor Kasim Reid wants to move forward in an election year with tax payer money." 

 "I'll think I'll answer the question," said patent attorney, Art Gardner.

Gardner called out two of his opponents for dancing around the question, but then he joined some of the others with a similar response about deepening the harbor.

"I say we can get the funding done for the port by winning this election and winning the governor's election; that will get it done," said Gardner.  

The former Secretary of State of Georgia Karen Handel says Georgia has not been aggressive enough since this project began in 1990's.

"Where was the sense of urgency 17 years ago when they started out on this," said Handel. "Where was the sense of urgency when the Republicans had the majority in the House, the Senate and the White House? Where was that sense of priority?"

Congressman Jack Kingston who has lived and breathed this project since it all began, was the last one to respond. He tried to respond to any doubt that some of his opponents may have had.

"You ask where was that since of urgency? I ask you this, have you ever written a letter in support of it? I have worked with other members of Congress, but I haven't heard from anyone on this stage," said Congressman Kingston.

The next debate will be in Augusta, and then the last one will be in Columbus. Four democratic candidates are also running for the open senate seat. The primary election is set for May 20th.

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