The setting for Thursday's forum for the 5th Congressional District candidates resembled a painting of the Last Supper after Judas Iscariot split. Twelve men — 11 candidates with a moderator in the middle — sat behind a long table with a white tablecloth looking out at a crowd of about 125 who attended the event at Oklahoma Christian University. "Who knew there was a table this long?” quipped Republican candidate Rick Flanigan of Bethany. Moderator H.J. Reed, a lobbyist with ConocoPhillips, which presented the forum sponsored by the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce, had time only to submit three questions to each candidate, who also were given a minute each to make a closing statement. Seven Republicans, two Democrats and two independents are vying for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, who is not seeking a third term to run for governor. Democratic and Republican voters will select their nominees during the July 27 primary elections. The independents, Dave White and Clark Duffe, both of Edmond, are automatically on the Nov. 2 general election ballot. Most of the contenders said they were seeking the seat, which includes most of Oklahoma County and Pottawatomie and Seminole counties, because they are frustrated with the overspending practices of Congress and federal government regulations. "The economy is in absolute shambles,” said Republican Kevin Calvey of Oklahoma City. He pledged to cut government spending and to relax regulations on businesses. "Small business is the engine for our economy,” he said. Democrat Billy Coyle of Oklahoma City said he favors cutting taxes to small businesses and he would focus on developing Oklahoma's energy resources. Flanigan said taxes on businesses are oppressive which make people "afraid to go into business any more.” "The government is telling banks who they have to loan money to, the government's telling businesses what products they have to sell and what products they can't sell,” he said. Republican James Lankford of Edmond said he would like to eliminate the fear some business owners have that the federal government will come in with new regulations. "Every day there's some new regulation being debated and talked about,” he said. For the federal government to own 61 percent of General Motors Corp. "is insane,” he said. Democrat Tom Guild of Edmond was the only contender who didn't lash out at the federal government. Some spending policies, such as President Barack Obama's federal stimulus measure, appear to be working and saved the country's economy, he said. "Some would have you believe the government is the enemy,” Guild said. "We are the government. "It's easy to demonize and make the government the enemy, but ... that ... scares people and I think that's not the road to go on,” he said. State Rep. Shane Jett, R-Tecumseh, said he would propose a balanced budget amendment to let voters decide on whether the federal government should be required to pass a balanced budget. The Oklahoma Constitution requires legislators in this state to pass a balanced budget each year. Republican Harry Johnson of Oklahoma City said he supports opening federal lands for drilling. It would create jobs and decrease the country's dependence on foreign oil. He said he'd like to see the U.S. export natural gas and place tariffs on countries that pay low wages; the tariffs would be reduced as the wages increased. Dr. Johnny Roy, a Republican from Edmond, said he opposed the Obama administration's efforts to create a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions to curb global warming. He called it an assault on the oil and gas industry. State Rep. Mike Thompson, R-Oklahoma City, said he would work to empower small enterprises that have 50 or fewer employees. He said the Democratic president would be wrong not to renew tax cuts enacted by his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. "That is irresponsible and you should never, ever, raise taxes in a bad economy,” he said. "I'm against raising taxes, period.” All said they would support securing the country's borders, with most saying the federal government has failed to curb illegal immigration. "Republicans want cheap labor, Democrats want the votes,” Johnson said. Lankford said the federal government's inability has forced some states, including Oklahoma, to pass anti-immigration measures. "State governments are not set up to do immigration,” Lankford said. "This is a federal issue that the federal government has failed consistently.” Calvey said he would work to abolish measures that grant U.S. citizenship to children born in America to illegal immigrants. "It's absolutely crazy,” he said. Asked how they would communicate with residents in the Edmond area, Roy — who said he would limit himself to six years, or three terms, in Congress — and Calvey said they would set up a district office in Edmond. Several others said they planned to commute back to the state on weekends.