Saturday, May 28, 2011

Three Republican Candidates for House District 113 Seat Focus on Taxes and Finances at Candidate Forum

Democrat Needs to Best Non-Campaign

All three Republican candidates running in the special election on June 21 for the open House District 113 seat focused on taxes and the state’s finances in a forum held by the Oconee County Republican Party earlier this month.

“We are taxed too much,” Sarah Bell told the gathering. “We are taxed at every turn.”

Bell said she believes any government budget as large as that of the state of Georgia “is going to have waste and fraud in it.” She said she will work to cut taxes and force the state to operate with less.

Sarah Bell
Ed Perkins, campaign chairman for candidate Chuck Williams, said Williams “is a tough financial conservative” who will use those values in addressing the state’s budget problems.

Williams was not able to attend the meeting because of illness.

Alan Alexander, the final candidate to speak at the meeting on May 19, said the state doesn’t have enough money at present, revenue is decreasing and expenses are increasing.

That “is the very reason that the Republic philosophy, which I agree with very much, should be put in place,” Alexander said.

About 30 people attended the forum, held at the Watkinsville Community Center. The meeting was open to the public, but only the three Republican candidates were invited to participate.

Alan Alexander
Alexander, Bell and Williams have asked to be labeled as Republicans in the June 21 special election, called to fill the vacancy in the 113th District seat because of the resignation of Republican Hank Huckaby.

Huckaby has been appointed chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

Dan Matthews has filed and asked to be labeled as a Democrat. Matthews was chair of the Oconee County Democratic Party at the time he qualified.

All four candidates have agreed to participate in a candidate forum to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on June 8 in the auditorium at the library on Hog Mountain Road in Watkinsville.

That forum is being organized by Russ Page and me. Citizens will get the chance to ask questions directly of the candidates, with Page and me recognizing the questioner and then making sure each candidate is given the same amount of time to respond to the questions.

All of Oconee County is in the 113th House District. Parts of Clarke, Morgan and Oglethorpe counties also are in the 113th District.

The forum on June 8 will be open to all citizens of the district.

The Oconee County Chamber of Commerce also is holding a candidate forum from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on June 16 at the North Oconee County High School on Hog Mountain Road. WGAU’s Tim Bryant will moderate, with citizens given the opportunity to provide questions to Bryant for the candidates.

Alexander, Bell, Matthews and Williams have been invited to participate in that forum.

Williams is a member of the Board of Directors of the Chamber.

At the May 19 forum organized by the Oconee County Republican Party, the candidates were speaking to a largely Republican audience, and only Alexander among them suggested that it is important that at least one of them rather than Matthews be elected.

If no candidate gets a majority of votes in the June 21 election, the two top candidates will go into a runoff on July 19.

Huckaby defeated Democrat Suzy Compere in the 2010 race.

Compere, from Bostwick in Morgan County, did almost no campaigning and to date has filed only one of the four required campaign finance reports. In that report, she said she neither raised nor spent any money.

Despite the lack of campaigning, Compere garnered 27.5 percent of the vote to Huckaby’s 72.5 percent.

If Matthews does only as well as Compere, and the three Republicans split the remaining 72.5 percent of the vote exactly evenly, Matthews would be the top candidate going into the runoff.

Of course, it is unlikely the three Republicans will split the vote evenly, but it seems possible a Democratic candidate from Oconee County who does campaign will do better than a candidate from Morgan County who didn’t.

In the Nov. 2, 2010, vote, Compere got only 20.0 percent of the Oconee County vote, but 47.9 percent of the Clarke County vote, 23.8 percent of the Morgan County vote, and 27.7 percent of the Oglethorpe County vote.

In that election, 20,271 votes were cast, with 23.7 percent of them coming from Clarke, 5.7 percent from Morgan, 61.5 percent from Oconee, and 9.0 percent from Oglethorpe.

Alexander, Bell and Williams also are from Oconee County.

The level of turnout at the special election on June 21 will be very important for the outcome, with both parties needing to rally voters to participate.

At the May 19 Republican Party candidate forum, each of the three Republican candidate was given seven minutes to introduce herself or himself and five minutes to answer questions from the audience.

Alexander was supposed to speak first, but he arrived late, and Republican Party Chairman Jay Hanley turned next to Bell.

Bell said she will focus on three themes in her campaign: creation of a family court for Oconee and Clarke counties, “taxes and spending,” and education.

She said the family court would “expedite cases so it would cost families less.”

Bell, who teaches at the Oconee County campus of Gainesville State College, said she has watched students decline in the skills they bring to the classroom “year after year after year.”

“The standards that we have for the state are right up there, but they are not getting delivered somehow,” Bell said. “There is a gap between what we want them to learn and what they are learning.”

“I think we’ve got some teachers who are ineffective,” Bell continued. “We’ve got an administration that maybe is ineffective. Those folks need to go find something else to do.”

In response to questions from the audience, Bell said she was in favor of charter schools and having the local school superintendent elected rather than appointed by the elected Board of Education.

When one member of the audience asked Bell to identify where she would turn to cut taxes, she said she could not be specific at this time.

“I have not looked at the budget,” Bell said. “It is hard to get a copy of that.”

She said she is opposed to the proposed transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax and will vote against it.

Perkins, representing Williams, spoke only for four minutes and said he didn’t think it was fair to Williams for him to take questions.

Perkins said that Williams’ campaign “is based on community-based values and common-sense government.”

Williams has deep roots in the community, Perkins said. “His family is from the area. He was on the city council in Watkinsville when he was still a student at the University of Georgia."

Williams “has a wonderful record of community service,” Perkins said. “If there is something the community needs, Chuck is going to be there for it.”

Williams “recognizes the importance of education, criminal justice, transportation, the environment and open spaces in our unique community,” Perkins said.

Alexander apologized for being late and said he had been dealing with an issue at his church.

He used only a few of his seven minutes for introductory comments, focusing on what he said were his qualifications. He said his legal experience representing four sheriffs and two police departments would serve him well as a legislator.

Alexander was asked his position on the interbasin transfer of water. He said he needed to learn more before he could answer that question.

An audience member also asked Alexander his position on tax cuts.

“Funding the things that are important should be prioritized,” he said. “In my opinion, education is one of those–one of the highest priorities”

“I think we need to cut fluff,” Alexander said. “There is a lot of it out there to be cut.”

“We’ve got to live within our means,” he said. “We’ve got to pay salaries. That’s got to be done. We’ve got to pay education. That’s got to be done. It is important. Law enforcement is important. Parks and recs is very important.”

Alexander said he favors electing the local superintendent of schools rather than having the superintendent appointed.

He said he didn’t know what his position would be on the proposed sales tax to fund transportation projects.

Alexander said he wants to consider replacing the state income tax with a sales tax.

He said he wants to preserve the Hope Scholarship program and wants the university of Georgia to focus on basics. He criticized faculty travel for research and conferences as an unneeded expense.


A full video of the comments of the three candidates is on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.