Republican congressional candidates debate the issues

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Thursday night's debate was televised live on News 5 and streamed at

Watch the full debate in the video player above.

CHICKASAW, Ala. (WKRG) — On the stage at the Chickasaw Municipal Auditorium Thursday night was likely Lower Alabama’s next congressman. The district has been in GOP hands since 1965, and all five Republicans running for the open seat took part in a debate televised live by WKRG News 5.

The five agreed on most issues but used the debate to try to differentiate themselves from the competition. Jerry Carl touted his record as a County Commissioner creating jobs in the area.

“Look at Austal shipbuilding and Airbus’ expansion of the A220,” Carl said. “People probably don’t realize that when that 220 reaches capacity we’re going to be the fourth largest airplane center in the world. I also helped bring jobs to Amazon at their center out in Theodore, and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center”

Former State Senator Bill Hightower had a clear game plan of positioning himself as the most conservative candidate.

“As an Alabama State Senator, I was voted consistently as the most conservative,” Hightower said. “I’m a lifetime member of the NRA. I can’t compromise on pro-life. I can’t compromise on religious liberty.”

State Representative Chris Pringle also bragged about his conservative credentials on such hot button issues as gun control.

“That’s always the first right they want to take away when they start moving to socialism, is to disarm everybody,” Pringle said.

The two political newcomers in the race, Wes Lambert and John Castorani, were willing to buck the conservative playbook on some key issues.

“I’m pro-life, but I believe provisions should be made for rape, incest, and the health of the mother,” said Lambert in opposing severely restrictive abortion laws recently passed in Alabama and other states.

Castorani went further.

“It’s a women’s health issue,” he said. “I’m personally against abortion. I was raised Baptist. But at the end of the day, I’m not going to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.”

Lambert and Castorani also favor some background checks on certain gun purchases.

Castorani also criticized the President’s policies on Syria and North Korea and says he doesn’t support a key Trump pledge.

“We do need to secure our border, but we don’t have to build a border wall to do that,” he said.   

All candidates say the federal government should stay out of red snapper fishing regulations and say the federal government should pay for a new I-10 bridge and expanded Bayway.

This is just the third time in 34 years that Alabama’s 1st Congressional Seat has been open. Current Rep. Bradley Byrne is running for U.S.Senate. Three Democrats are also running.

The Alabama Primary is March 3rd.

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