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Forum gives area voters chance to meet 3 of 4 vying for 19th House seat

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By John Barnhart

    Three of the four candidates vying for the Republican nomination for the 19th House of Delegates seat showed up in Bedford last week to speak before a candidate forum held at the Bedford Municipal Building.

    Zachary Hatcher, Zach Martin and Jim McKelvey showed up speak. Terry Austin did not attend. According to Charlene Poole, who spearheaded the effort, Austin, like McKelvey and Martin, had received an invitation to the event three weeks ago. Hatcher got his notice late because he had only recently announced his candidacy.
    “After several years of praying, I decided not to be like Moses who said, ‘I can’t,’ but to be like Nehemiah, who said ‘I can.’” Hatcher said, explaining why he decided to seek the nomination. Hatcher said that he doesn’t want to be a politician, but rather, a citizen-legislator.
    Hatcher said that liberty is one of his three major issues. He said that liberty has been lost and it’s important to fight for what’s left, and to work to regain lost ground.
    Education is another of his issues.
    “We need to reform education,” he said. “We need to open up choice in education.”
    According to Hatcher, America does best with pre-kindergarten education and higher education. All of these are areas where choice prevails.
    Taxation is his third major issue. He said that it’s possible to tax something out of existence.
    “We need to stop taxing things we want to grow,” Hatcher said. He said that he will not vote for any tax increase.
    Zach Martin promised to work as hard as Lacey Putney, calling the long-time legislator a “legacy” to this district. Putney, who announced that he will not seek reelection, has held that seat since 1962.
    “I will stand up for conservative principles,” said Martin.
    Martin, who is 25, said he first got involved with the Republican Party while a student at Liberty University. He now works for Moore’s Electric and Mechanical as a business development manager.
    “I am a Christian, I am a conservative and I am a Republican,” he said.
    “Government is not God,” he added. “They work for us.”
    Martin pledged to restore lost liberties, say “no to ObamaCare” and to say “no to tax increases every couple of years.” He also pledged to block federal legislation every step of the way.
    He said he does not support term limits because that’s not the way the system in the United States is designed to work.
    “It [term limits] basically removes your freedom to elect who you want,” he said.
    Hatcher also opposes term limits.
    “You can’t put term limits on lobbyists,” he commented
    Taxation is a major issue for McKelvey.
    “Liberties have been taken away from us for years,” said Jim McKelvey. “We are being taxed to death.”.
    McKelvey said taxes keep rising because government is out of control. He called for a 10 percent cut in non-essential office personnel.
    “For some reason, nobody gets laid off in government,” said McKelvey who said he will not vote for tax increases.
    McKelvey also opposes unfunded state mandates on localities, suggesting that the General Assembly get rid of anything that it does not want to fund.
    “The state is balancing its budget on the backs of counties and municipalities,” he said.
    Term limits are another of McKelvey’s issues. He criticized the transportation bill the General Assembly passed in this year’s session and said the majority of those who voted for it had been in office more than eight years. Eight years is an important number in McKelvey’s term limits agenda. He proposes that all senators, delegates and the governor be limited to a maximum of eight years in office.
    “The system is broken,” he commented. “We gotta fix it.”
    McKelvey promised to limit himself to eight years in the House of Delegates.
    “I have no interest in getting into politics,” he said. “I’m tired, fed up with rhetoric from politicians.”
    McKelvey pledged that he will not vote for any new gun regulations and will vote to cut existing firearms regulations. He also wants to increase school choice and make it easier for parents to home school.
    The Republican Party will select its candidate for the 19th House of Delegates District in a firehouse primary on May 7. People in the Bedford County portion of the 19th District may vote at the Community Center in Thaxton from 6 to 9 p.m. Poole explained that the difference between a primary and a firehouse primary is that a firehouse primary is paid for by the political party sponsoring it, rather than the taxpayers.