Sunday, September 14, 2008

Oconee Candidate Forum Set for Oct. 13

Breedlove & Clark (Listed Alphabetically) Agree to Meet

Oconee County Board of Education candidates Tom Breedlove and Rich Clark have agreed to take part in a Candidate Forum from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13, at the auditorium in the Oconee County Library in Watkinsville.

The Forum is being organized by the same consortium of Oconee citizen groups that organized the successful candidate forums in early June for the local primaries. More than 100 people turned out for the first of those Forums, on June 2, for the Board of Commissioner and Coroner candidates.

A slightly smaller audience turned out on June 4 for Board of Education candidates.

Both Breedlove and Clark participated in the June 4 Forum, when Breedlove was competing with Kyle Martin in the July 15 primary election to secure the Republican nomination for the Post 5 slot on the BOE and Clark was running unopposed as a Democrat for Post 5.

Both also participated in a Candidate Forum put together by the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce on June 16.

The Oct. 13 Candidate Forum is being organized by members of five citizen organizations: Citizens for Oconee’s Future, Citizens for South Oconee County, Friends of Barber Creek, Friends of the Apalachee, and Oconee Citizens for Responsible Growth. I’m the president of Friends of Barber Creek.

Citizens will be able to ask questions directly of Breedlove and Clark at the Oct. 13 Forum.

None of the other four successful candidates for BOE in the Republican primary on July 15 has opposition in the November election. David Weeks will become BOE Chairman, which also is Post 1. Mack Guest will assume the Post 2 position. Kim Argo will become Post 3 board member, and Michael Hunter will move into the Post 4 position.

Breedlove received 3,037 votes against 2,270 for Martin in the primary, while Clark received only 529 votes against no opposition in the Democratic primary.

Georgia has open primaries, meaning that anyone can vote for either party. Given that all of the locally contested races were in the Republican primary, it isn’t surprising that only a small number of local voters participated in the Democratic primary. The largest number of votes–614–was cast in the primary race for someone to run against incumbent Saxby Chambliss for the U.S. Senate.

In the February presidential primary, however, a third of the votes were cast on a Democratic ballot.

Both Republicans and Democrats will be fielding candidates in November for the presidential race, for the U.S. Senate race (Chamblis vs. Jim Martin), for the U.S. 10th Congressional seat (Incumbent Republican Paul Brown vs. Democrat Bobby Saxon), for the State Senator from the 46th District (Incumbent Republican Bill Cowsert vs. Democrat Sherry Jackson), and for District 4 Public Service Commissioner (Democrat Jim Powell vs. Republican Lauren McDonald).

I have sent email messages to both Cowsert and Jackson asking them to appear at the October 13 Candidate Forum and have spoken with Jackson, but neither has committed so far to appear.

Libertarian candidates will appear on the ballot for President (Bob Barr), U.S. Senator (Allen Buckley), District 1 Public Service Commissioner (John Monds), and District 4 Public Service Commissioner (Branden Givens).

None of the Oconee County elections other than the BOE Post 5 slot is being contested on the ballot, though Tom Leach is running a write-in campaign for Chairman of the Board of Commissioners. Incumbent Melvin Davis is the Republican candidate.

Bob Smith is unopposed in his bid to be reelected to represent the 113th District in the General Assembly.

Breedlove, 38, is a partner in the firm Williams & Associates Land Planners one of the two most prominent such firms representating developers in Oconee County.

Clark, 43, is director of polling at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Breedlove lives at 1130 Creek Farm Run off Malcolm Bridge Road near Eastville, and Clark lives at 1230 Castle Drive off Simonton Road east of Watkinsville.

Either Breedlove or Clark will be joining a relatively inexperienced Board of Education. Chairman Weeks has been on the Board of Education for four years, and Post 2 member Guest has been on the Board for about a year. Argo and Hunter are newcomers.

While most of the media attention in Oconee County generally is on the activities of the Board of Commissioners, most of our property tax revenue goes to the Board of Education.

For every $1 we pay in property taxes, just under 71 cents is for the BOE. The Board of Commissioners control how 28 cents are spent, and the state takes a penny.

Of the 7 cents for each dollar we spend in sales taxes, the state takes 4 cents, the Board of Commissioners 2 cents, and the BOE 1 cent.

Obviously, the BOE deserves more attention that it has received from me and from others concerned about Oconee County.

All of the winners in the BOE races on July 15 were listed first on the ballot. My analysis of the race suggests ballot order was not the only explanation for the candidate success.

The Candidate Forum on Oct. 13 should give those who attend more to go on than name in making a choice on Nov. 4.

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