A look at the GOP candidates for U.S. House - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

A look at the GOP candidates for U.S. House

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Mark Donka Mark Donka
Don Nolte Don Nolte
Don Russell Don Russell

Three Republican Vermonters are fighting to become the state's sole representative to U.S. Congress. All three occupy hard-line conservative positions-- with tea party and libertarian leanings-- on taxes, health care, the national debt and military strength.

None think the government is working as the country's founding fathers intended.

"My ideas I think are going to work. They're simpler; they're easier," said Mark Donka, Republican for U.S. Congress.

Donka of Hartford unsuccessfully sought to unseat incumbent Democrat Peter Welch in 2012. He wants to cut spending across the board, with the military as the only exception. The police officer opposes tax hikes but doesn't rule them out should the country finds itself in another war.

He says amnesty is not an option for illegal immigrants

"I have a lot of empathy for them. We're not supposed to kick them out to the street, we're not just kicking them out, but we need to send them back. They need to go back to their country and come to our country legally," Donka said.

"There shouldn't be handouts for able people who are just taking public welfare," said Don Nolte, Republican for U.S. Congress.

Newport resident Nolte is new to the campaign trail. He says if younger generations had his generation's work ethic, there would be less reliance on government benefits, and more jobs available. Nolte wants to cut foreign aid, bar the government from bailing out industry, reduce subsidies and rework grant programs.

He says a balanced budget is the first step in addressing trillions in U.S. debt.

"I maintain that if we do the others of my points that there will be enough money left over for valuable and worthwhile programs," Nolte said.

"I've always believed in the Constitution. I also believe in telling the truth," said Don Russell, Republican for U.S. Congress.

Russell of Shelburne advocates for lowering tax rates, with the highest bar set at 15 percent, and owns the most radical ideas of the three candidates. He lays out 40 key points in a 277-page book. They include:

  • Repealing hate speech laws
  • Moving the national capitol to the Midwest and limiting the number of lawyers in the House and Senate to 2 percent of its membership
  • Russell says the death penalty should be mandatory in cases of murder and treason and has no sympathy for white collar criminals who bilk retirement savings

"That man if he's convicted should be executed because he's worse than a murderer," Russell said.

The candidates have differing plans to make college affordable. Donka proposes barring schools from receiving cash from the federal government unless prices come down. Nolte suggests students alternate years working and studying, while Russell envisions a taxpayer financed K-16 system for those who make the grade.

"College education should be available in your hometown right across from the campus of the high school perhaps," Russell said.

All three candidates say abortion should be illegal except in cases where a mother's life is in jeopardy, but concede the law is unlikely to change.

Nolte disagrees with gay marriage on principal, but says the subject is not a top priority.

"I don't think the government has any say in marriage," Donka said.

"Gay marriage, it's sort of like Rodney King, can't we all just get along? I mean, I have nothing against people who want to have gay marriage; that's their business, not mine," Russell said.

All three are gun rights advocates; Russell says nuclear weapons are the only arms Americans shouldn't be allowed to bear.

The candidates say they could work across the aisle. But none could provide a single example of a strong idea from the other side, including Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont.

"If he's been down there eight years and nothing's gotten solved, I think it's time for him to come home," Nolte said.

Donka may have more name recognition than his fellow challengers given his previous run for office. That could give him the primary nod, but Republican political analyst Mike Smith says Tuesday's result won't matter in November.

"Peter Welch is your next congressman no matter what happens in any primary," Smith predicted.

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