It was principles over people Wednesday night, as more than 200 participants filled the Red Ox Tavern in Auburn Hills to take part in a town-hall style discussion just hours before the Republican presidential primary debate at Oakland University in Rochester.
Featuring panelists from The Heritage Foundation, Mackinac Center for Public Policy and The Detroit News, discussion focused on topics, rather than candidates, that are considered key in tonight’s debate, chief among them jobs and revitalizing the economy.
“We need to get Washington out of the way,” said panelist Mike Brownfield, assistant director of Strategic Communications at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “(President Barack Obama) pursued a series of policies in the middle of a recession. We need to put the brakes on the federal government and get spending under control.”
Panelist Henry Payne, who serves as editor of The Michigan View and as an editorial cartoonist for The Detroit News, agreed.
“Government has no place in the private economy,” he said.
For audience members such as Jim Hare of the Oakland County Republican Club and small business owner Wendy Damron of Plymouth, the town hall served primarily to highlight issues already on their radar that they will be looking for Republican candidates to address tonight.
“I like the more conservative viewpoint,” Damron said. “Getting government out of the way so the private sector can have some certainty.”
From unions and free trade to auto sector bailouts and Schools of Choice, panelists covered a lot of ground, but kept one theme consistent: The less government intervention the better.
Panelists also discussed these issues:
Auto industry: Payne expressed his belief that Obama “saved” the auto industry because it employs the UAW union, which Payne said supports “Obama’s wallet.”
Welfare: For Payne, repairing the welfare system is largely a matter of reducing it.
Schools of Choice: Voucher programs, charter schools and Schools of Choice should be options for everyone, the group agreed.