LYNCHBURG — Seven GOP 5th District hopefuls faced a nearly full auditorium at Brookville High School on Saturday night, with all saying they’d try to rein in the federal government’s power.

The debate, sponsored by the Lynchburg Tea Party, featured questions about topics including illegal immigration, their eagerness to stick to their principles and what the U.S. should do about nuclear capability in Iran.

All the candidates who will be on the 5th District ballot in a June 8 Republican primary attended the debate. They are Kenneth C. Boyd, of Albemarle County; Ron Ferrin, of Campbell County; state Sen. Robert Hurt, of Chatham; Jim McKelvey, of Franklin County; Michael McPadden, of Albemarle County; Feda Kidd Morton, of Fluvanna County; and Laurence Verga, of Albemarle County.

The winner will oppose incumbent Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Ivy.

Under the debate’s format, each question was put to just three candidates, which meant other candidates might not have talked about some of the topics.

Iran and its nuclear activity produced one of the clear differences among some of the candidates, with Morton saying the United States should strengthen its military and work with the United Nations to build a consensus among Middle East countries to impose sanctions on Iran.

McKelvey said, “At some point we are going to have to throw the U.N. aside, not only for the security of this country but the security of the world. We need to do what we have to do to protect the rest of the world from terrorist nations such as Iran. Hard decisions, folks, but they will have to be made.”

Earlier, in response to a question about the No. 1 threat to national security, McKelvey got a round of cheers by saying, “The present administration is the biggest threat.”

Verga said the biggest threat is the Americans who voted the Obama administration into office. “That was political correctness gone awry,” Verga said. “There is a global jihad against the United States,” Verga said, “and we need to stand up to Iran with our allies and stop what they are doing.”

A question about “Climategate” produced agreement among the three candidates who answered it.

Hurt said Climategate is “scientists who have given us something that is not true. It is faulty information and it has real consequences in the 5th District, in the loss of jobs and in power bills from Appalachian Power Co.”

Residents have power bills that exceed their income and businesses are closing or talking about moving overseas, he said.

“How is that possible?” Hurt asked. “It’s possible because of regulation and the idea that bureaucrats in Washington know better than anybody else.

“I would try to repeal those regulations,” Hurt said.

Ferrin got some laughter when he said, “Global warming has sure cost me a whole lot of money on heating the last couple of months.” He went on to say that the cap-and-trade energy bill passed last summer in the U.S. House “is all about promoting the socialist agenda of this administration.”

Boyd said, “There is nothing to prove we have man-made global warming,” and the cap-and-trade bill “is an absolute job killer. The last thing we need is anything that is going to take more jobs or increase the cost of doing business in the 5th District.”

To a question about whether a candidate should give up his core principles if his constituents seemed to be strongly on the other side of an issue, McPadden and others said they would stick to their principles.

“Never go against your core principles,” he said.

Several of the candidates that that two examples of too much federal government can be found in the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Education.

Morton, a teacher, said, “The Department of Education is one of the worst mistakes we ever made to public education.”

Ferrin said, “I can’t find a reason for the Department of Education.”

Hurt said, “The problem with the Department of Education is what it represents — a mindset that the government is the answer to every problem.”

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