HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The race is on to represent Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. Republican candidates Dale Strong and Casey Wardynski met for a primetime debate on News 19 Tuesday night.

Strong, the current Madison County Commission Chairman and former Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski are vying for the Republican nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks in Congress. The winner of next week’s runoff election will face Democrat Kathy Warner-Stanton in November.

Both men answered questions submitted from News 19 viewers.

When asked about what they’ve learned on the campaign trail, Wardynski said this was a pivotal time for the country and voters told him America was in great difficulty.

“Almost globally, as I’ve knocked on doors or had folks to my home, I met people in all the counties, express terrific concern about the direction America is headed,” Wardynski stated. “They’re looking for folks to go to Washington, and get this country back on the track to liberty and prosperity.”

Strong cited multiple issues expressed to him on the campaign trail, including inflation and illegal immigration.

On the crises facing the nation, Strong said, “This is what the Biden administration has brought to our country and that’s exactly what I’m going to find as the next United States Congressman representing the fifth district.”

Watch part one of the debate here:

Both candidates faced targeted questions about issues that have defined their campaigns thus far.

To Strong, News 19 asked who paid for the Confederate monument to be removed from the Madison County Courthouse. The monument was moved to Maple Hill Cemetery in October 2020 by the Huntsville City Council and Madison County Commission following a summer of protests over police brutality.

Strong said the commission passed a resolution to preserve and protect the statue – and took 150 days to allow people to executive their First Amendment rights as well as seeking legal counsel. Strong stressed that taxpayer money did not pay for the move.

When asked about his resignation as Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, Wardynski said he believed he should resign because of the relationship he had with the CEO of Pinnacle — which would have created an ethical problem.

Watch part two of the debate here:

Both men said they support term limits for members of Congress. Wardynski said he planned to serve just six years, or three terms, and signed a pledge to that effect. Strong said he also believes in term limits but that the state of Alabama should follow the same rules as other states.

On the question of abortion, both candidates said they were pro-life.

“The right to life is fundamental,” Wardynski stated. “The Supreme Court cooked up the idea that somehow as a matter of convenience, we could terminate innocent life… I’d advise a young lady, if there is an unwanted pregnancy, there’s a thing called adoption and there are plenty of good options.”

Strong echoed his support for the unborn.

“Look right here on Sparkman Drive in Huntsville… more than 6,000 abortions are done at that abortion mill,” Strong said of the Alabama Women’s Center. “It is unacceptable, life begins at conception, and this is not something that I’ve taken a position on just today.”

Watch part three of the debate here:

In his closing statement, Strong said he recruited more than 26,000 jobs to the region and reduced the size of government since taking over the Madison County Commission.

“This is a pivotal time for our country,” Wardynski said in his closing statement, citing issues like the economy and China. He said Alabamians need representation in Washington with a vision for smaller government, and less expensive federal government.

Runoff elections across Alabama will be held next Tuesday, June 21. Polls will be open statewide from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.