BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS -- Candidates in the 4th Congressional District Republican primary tried to carve into each other's base of support during a televised debate Saturday.
Fort Mitchell attorney Rick Robinson, largely identified with the more mainstream faction of the GOP, affirmed his anti-abortion stance.
Boone County state Sen. Gex "Jay" Williams, a leader in the faith-based faction of the party, talked of tax cuts, economic development and a pro-business agenda.
Fort Thomas attorney Jim Kidney played to both groups, but mainly hit on what he perceives as waste in Washington and the tight-knit relationship between members of Congress and special interest groups, including political action committees that donate to campaigns.
"We don't need any more $139 bottles of aspirin . . . or $800,000 outhouses in our national parks" purchased by Washington bureaucrats, Mr. Kidney said.
Mr. Kidney also said that while he is opposed to abortion, he is not "a one-issue candidate."
"I also care about the born, not just the unborn," he said. Mr. Williams said he has "a great tax-cutting record, a great education record and I've been strong on crime."
"But there is nothing more important than protecting the life of unborn children," he said. "People in Northern Kentucky feel very strongly about that."
"The reason I'm pro-life is because I believe it in my heart," Mr. Robinson said. "Abortion is one of the greatest evils in this country since slavery and we must do all we can to stop it."
Mr. Robinson said he supports the position of U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., a leader of the anti-abortion movement who nevertheless is against cutting party funding off from some GOP congressional candidates who don't support a ban on late-term elections. He says that could result in abortion-rights candidates being elected. "The most important thing we can do for the pro-life movement is to make sure that we have a pro-life Republican Congress," Mr. Robinson said. The candidates also sparred over taxes.
Mr. Robinson hinted that Mr. Williams has not articulated a clear plan on how to change the nation's tax code.
"There have been positions taken in this race of folks being for a sales tax, of folks being for a flat tax, of folks . . . being for my position of a flatter, fairer tax and putting everything on the table" as far as rewriting the tax code, Mr. Robinson said.
Mr. Williams said he could vote for either a national sales tax or a flat, fairer tax. He said he advocates scrapping the current tax code and at the very least would work to increase the deduction for married couples, cut business taxes and expand tax breaks for parents.
Mr. Kidney said, "Certainly I'm for a flat tax. But I don't favor a national sales tax because there is too much opportunity for abuse." Mr. Robinson said he would work to bring federal dollars to the 22-county 4th District to improve roads and bridges and attract jobs.
"The greatest social program is a job," he said. "A paycheck is more important than a government check."
The debate was held at Northern Kentucky University and sponsored by InterMedia cable, The Kentucky Enquirer and The Recorder Newspapers of Northern Kentucky.
The primary is May 26. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Bunning, a Southgate Republican, is running for the Senate. He has endorsed Mr. Robinson, his former congressional and political aide.