LAWRENCEVILLE -- Whatever the topic, candidates for a pair of Congressional seats that represent parts of Gwinnett County primarily toed their respective party lines Monday.
Incumbent Congressman Rob Woodall and Democractic challenger Steve Reilly debated at Gwinnett Technical College's Busbee Auditorium as they vie to represent the 7th Congressional District. Incumbent Congressman Hank Johnson and Republican challenger Chris Vaughn spoke while campaigning for a seat in the 4th district.
Reproductive rights and immigration policy were among the hot topics discussed during the forum hosted by the Georgia League of Women Voters, the Organization of Chinese Americans-Georgia and the United Ebony Society of Gwinnett County.
When reproductive rights and abortion were brought up, Woodall called himself a "pro-life man" and said women should have the right to make their own "health care decisions" like birth control. He said he was opposed to the Supreme Court's historical decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalizes and sets parameters for abortion.
"These issues of morality have historically been decided at the state level," Woodall said. "I do believe that these questions of morality reflect a community conscience."
Reilly, an attorney, said he's struggled with the abortion issue but took a more defined position.
"The law needs to step in when the fetus has a beating heart, and at that point protect the fetus," he said. "Up until that point, a woman should be able to do an abortion and do it safely."
In District 4, Johnson said there was "no question in my mind" that women should control their reproductive choices. He said Roe v. Wade was "as far as the politicians need to go."
The system established in Roe v. Wade is "a great balance between the unborn and a mother's right to terminate a pregnancy," Johnson said.
Vaughn, a pastor, said he was "very much for life" but argued that issues like abortion should always be about states' rights.
"The Congressional office should not be involved ... but I will always fight against (abortion) on the principal of faith and conscience," he said.
On immigration, Woodall said he "absolutely" believes in comprehensive reform and called himself a "fan of 'send us your huddled masses longing to be free.'" That said, he said rules should be followed and immigrants should only come into the country through legal channels.
"We encourage this behavior with our rules," Woodall said. "We can change this behavior with our rules."
Reilly said he supports President Obama's Dream Act, and that "we can't just ship everybody back that's here illegally."
He said immigration rules have been ignored for too long, and the long-term solution is "maintaining robust southern border control."
Johnson said, "Every person in the world should have an ability to come to America," but that there should be limits on "how many and how you come." He stressed the need for a "set of fair rules" that would prevent illegal actions but still allow immigration.
Vaughn said he believes that President Obama is overreaching with the Dream Act, and that laws are in place that simply need to be enforced.
"If those laws were enforced, it would solve a lot of those issues," Vaughn said.
Monday's forum lasted about 90 minutes and also covered topics like gender pay inequality, foreign policy, the defense budget and renewable energy.
A League of Women Voters representative told the Daily Post it was not permitted to take photos during the forum, which was open to the public.