Berger Jr., Walker trade criticism during candidate forum

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Two Republicans and one Democrat vying for one congressional seat hope their appearance at a candidate forum in Greensboro Tuesday helped set them apart.

Phil Berger Jr. and Mark Walker have about six weeks before their runoff. On the first question about mortgage interest deductions Berger took the first swing by pointing out Walker’s tax plan would eliminate tax breaks that homeowners currently take advantage of.

“My opponent believes in a system which incorporates a flat rate tax model and a consumption tax that would eliminate all exemptions and deductions and increase taxes on millions of Americans,” said Berger “I just don’t think that’s the right approach at this time.”

Walker defended his stance on finding a better tax system for the nation.

“We need tax reform and we need it now,” said Walker. He suggests finding some common ground between a flat tax and a fair tax.

Walker did not take the swipe sitting down. In his closing remarks, Walker went after Berger for accepting special interest money for his campaign.

“We’ve not aligned ourselves with a Washington special interest group,” said Walker. “We’ve taken every penny, every dime from the people just from the grassroots because it’s time to make a true change in Washington.”

Berger defended his acceptance of political action committee money, saying it represents the people.

“I’ll guarantee you that you have contributed in some way shape or fashion to that PAC so you are my special interest,” Berger told the group of realtors. “Your views are the views I want to protect in Washington.”

The winner of the July 15 runoff will face Democratic primary winner Laura Fjeld on Nov. 4. She was also a part of the forum but stayed out of the bickering.

Fjeld did criticize politicians for not being able to work together and allowing problems to pile up.

“A Congress that pats itself on the back for getting a budget done that’s not good enough we have umpteen issues that aren’t being addressed because of the gridlock,” said Fjeld.

Fjeld is hoping to win in an area that has long been counted as Republican. The seat is currently held by retiring Congressman Howard Coble, who was first elected in 1984. In the last 26 years, no challenger has drawn 40 percent of the vote in races with Coble.

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