By Vicki Leopold
The seven-man Republican primary in Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District on May 24 left two candidates standing for a runoff Tuesday, July 26: state Sen. Mike Crane of Newnan and West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson.
The winner will face Democrat Angela Pendley in November’s election to replace retiring Republican Lynn Westmoreland in the 3rd District, composed of 13 western counties stretching from Peachtree City to Columbus. Pendley defeated Tamarkus Cook by 51 votes out of almost 13,000 cast in the Democratic primary.
Reflecting the district’s political tilt, nearly 58,000 people voted in the Republican primary in May. Crane was the top vote-getter with 15,584 (26.9 percent), but Ferguson was a close second with 15,491 (26.8 percent). Jim Pace, who got 23 percent, was the only candidate close to the top two.
Both Crane and Ferguson are running as conservative outsiders, although both are political veterans. Both also are small-business owners.
Crane has represented the 28th District in the state Senate since 2011. He was a leader in this year’s fight for House Bill 757, the religious liberty legislation that opponents said would legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people. Crane called for a special legislative session in May to override Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of the bill.
In 2015 he led opposition to a proposed tax increase that eventually was cut in half.
Crane, a general contractor and Georgia Tech alum, is running on family values, opposition to abortion, support for traditional marriage and the Second Amendment, and the establishment of a smaller, more accountable federal government.
Ferguson, who was first elected mayor of West Point in 2008 after serving on the Board of Aldermen, helped revitalize the small city by landing the Kia Motors plant and related businesses. He was appointed by Deal to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in 2012.
A graduate of the University of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia who has his own family dental practice, Ferguson is running on securing the borders, destroying Islamic State, strengthening the military, replacing the current income tax with a flat tax, repealing Obamacare, and supporting a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits.
The candidates individually spoke with the AJT in late June. The following answers are paraphrases of what they said, except where quotation marks are used.
AJT: Why should voters select you over your opponent?
Crane: If people want to see a continuation of what they have, I am not their candidate. I want to go to Washington to fix a broken system, and I represent change. Sen. Ted Cruz has endorsed me. I describe myself as a “freedom-loving constitutional conservative.”
Ferguson: People should look at my record over the last eight years. My community had fallen on really hard times economically, and as mayor I was able to create 15,000 jobs by building relationships with the state and private sectors. I have been endorsed by Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and former presidential candidate Herman Cain.
AJT: What do you see as the primary domestic policy challenges of the next decade?
Crane: The primary role of government is to protect us and our unalienable rights from intrusion from the government and from others. This requires a careful balance. The primary challenges facing us are our fiscal irresponsibility, reforming our tax policy, restoring limited government and limiting bureaucratic intervention in the marketplace.
Ferguson: We have to revive our economy, keep Americans safe and develop a working immigration policy that serves America’s interests. We need to once again have a vibrant economy. We also must protect ourselves with a vibrant economy, and we need not be apologetic about it.
AJT: What do you see as the primary foreign policy challenge over the next decade?
Crane: We need to re-establish amongst our allies and our enemies America’s credibility, our integrity and our military.
Ferguson: Our foreign policy should promote democracy around the world, especially in the wake of Islamic terrorism. We need to protect our allies and American interests around the globe.
AJT: The presidential primaries have revealed a lot of anger at the political establishment. Why do you think people are so angry?
Crane: I don’t think it’s about anger, but the desire to fix a broken system. I have the desire to fix things. I represent limited government and protecting our G-d-given, unalienable rights.
Ferguson: The American people have lost all confidence in the federal government to do the things that need to be done and then get out of the way and allow people to live healthy, successful and safe lives.
AJT: What is your understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and what do you see as the obstacles to peace? What can the U.S. do to help?
Crane: I am not educated enough to make blanket statements. After being elected, I will educate myself on the background. It does seem that “the whole world wants to tell Israel how to do their business.”
Ferguson: Israel is a democracy there, and we should do everything we can to support them. Palestinians are coming to the table with preconditions, and that doesn’t work for successful negotiations.
AJT: What are your thoughts about the divest and boycott movement toward Israel, which especially is gaining ground in universities?
Crane: There are a lot of ungrounded ideas coming from academia. I fought for the religious liberty bill because it helps and protects all faiths from adverse government action. Some companies stated that they would leave Georgia if House Bill 757 became law, but those same companies have no qualms doing business with corrupt regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Ferguson: The movement is misguided and misinformed, and I am disgusted by it. We need to strengthen our economic relationship with Israel with additional bilateral trade deals. A strong Israel is important for our homeland as well.
AJT: What are your thoughts about the Iran deal, and if elected, would you favor scrapping the deal or enforcing it?
Crane: I don’t have all the knowledge about the deal and would first want to see if the actual deal is constitutional. If it is not, the deal would invalidate itself. The deal is based on 100 percent cooperation on Iran’s side, and, based on their past behavior, we could not expect that cooperation in their future behavior. “On the surface it looks like a terrible deal and has freed up money to support terrorists.”
Ferguson: The deal is bad. I don’t see how this is an enforceable deal as it has too many loopholes. If our goal is to prevent a nuclear Iran and protect Israel, the deal would need to be scrapped. I doubt that Iran will meet all the conditions of the deal.
AJT: What are your views on Syrian refugee immigration? Is it a privilege or is it morally required of us to take in the Syrian refugees?
Crane: Immigration is not an obligation, and we have the right to be selective and look at the potential of people and their feelings about the United States before we allow them to immigrate. All immigration ought to be legal, as undocumented people in the country are at an all-time high and represent a security issue. “We have no idea who is here, and we can’t keep track of them. This interferes with our pursuit of safety.” Safety measures need to be in place, and we need to secure our borders.
Ferguson: I don’t believe that we have a responsibility to allow Syrian refugees into America. We have an immigration policy that is failing us miserably. We have no vetting process, and we can inadvertently allow in those that want to do us harm. We can’t always be reactionary and then try to get rid of the bad guys that we have let in. We can help Syrians be safer in their own land.
AJT: What are your thoughts about fighting Islamic State? Are we doing enough, or do we need to change our strategy?
Crane: I would like a deeper briefing before I comment, but it seems like we could do more to degrade their capacities.
Ferguson: It is a fantasy that our policy fighting ISIS is working. We need to clearly focus on naming and destroying the enemy. To help make our country safer, I would allow intelligence to do what it needs to do and have the resources that they need. I don’t understand why the current administration is not in favor of giving intelligence the ability and resources to identify and stop the enemy. This struggle is personal to me, as my 19-year-old daughter has joined the Navy and is working in intelligence. I want her to have every tool she needs to do her job. I think we can find a balance between safety and personal liberty and privacy, but we need to name the enemy as radical Islamic terrorists.
AJT: In light of the recent terror attacks in Orlando and around the world, how do you suggest you might keep Americans safer?
Crane: Safety measures need to be in balance with our security, but securing our border will help us know who is here. Additionally, we need to identify our enemy, which is not as hard as we make it. “We are at war against an ideology that hates the concept of American liberty.”
Ferguson: To help make our country safe, I would allow intelligence to do what it needs to do and have the resources and tools that they need. We can find a balance between being safe and maintaining privacy. We need to identify our enemy.