Steven Strickland and Marcus Wiedower are competitors in the Republican Primary on May 22, but they made it clear in comments to the Oconee County Republic Party late last month that they share the goal of taking back Georgia House District 119 from the Democrats in November.
Both blamed “complacency” for their and the party’s defeat in the four-person special election held last November to fill the unexpired term of Republican Chuck Williams. The election was won by Democrat Jonathan Wallace.
Houston Gaines, who has no competition in the Republican Primary on May 22 for Georgia House District 117, formerly held by Republican Regina Quick, was harsh in his criticism of incumbent Democrat Deborah Gonzalez, who defeated Gaines in another special election last November for the 117th Georgia House District.
Gaines said Gonzalez “got absolutely nothing done” in the legislative session just completed and “never will” accomplish anything in the General Assembly because she is in the minority party.
Gaines, Strickland and Wiedower were three of the seven candidates to speak to the Oconee County Republicans at the party’s regular meeting on April 26.
Amy Parrish, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Post 2 on the Oconee County Board of Education, also addressed the group, as did Eric Norris, running to retain his Superior Court judgeship in the May 22 nonpartisan Judicial General Election.
Other speakers were Bradley Griffin from Jasper County, one of three Republicans running in the 10th Congressional District Republican Primary, and Jim Beck, Carrollton, running in the Republican Primary for Insurance Commissioner.
Strickland and Wiedower were respectful of Wallace, who defeated them and Tom Lord in the four-way race in November, though they did indicate they disagreed with things Wallace had done during the legislative session.
Strickland said he would take some responsibility for the low turnout in the special election and has organized student volunteers to go door-to-door to bring voters to the polls for the May 22 primary.
Turnout in early voting continues to be low, with Fran Davis, director of Oconee County Elections and Voter Registration, reporting at the end of the day today (Monday) that only 655 of the county’s 28,284 registered voters had cast a ballot.
Early voting started a week ago and continues until May 18. Voting will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday at the Board of Elections and Registration Office next door to the Courthouse in Watkinsville.
Strickland And Wiedower On Issues
Strickland said he wants to develop more apprenticeships to train future workers, to invest in rail service to get goods from the Georgia ports to the rest of the country, and make sure the University of Georgia and other institutions of higher education are properly funded.
Strickland also said he supports religious liberty and will be “very tough on immigration.”
Wiedower said he would work to build relationships with leaders in Atlanta and said former Rep. Williams set an example in that regard.
Wiedower said he did not think the state should offer incentives to bring businesses to Georgia.
“I don’t care if they come at all,” Wiedower said when asked if he supported efforts to bring the Amazon business center to the state. “I don’t think we should offer them anything.”
Strickland and Wiedower, responding to questions, said they did not support the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Gaines On Gonzalez
While Wiedower said he did not think incumbent Wallace is “representing us all” and criticized Wallace for voting with fellow Democrats, Gaines was much more critical of Wallace and of his opponent in November, Rep. Gonzalez.
“The voters, particularly in Oconee County, need to realize we’ve got two extremely far-to-the-left Democrats representing us in the General Assembly,” Gaines said.
“No matter what political belief you have,” Gaines said, “I don’t see how you can be pleased with the representation we have right now. Not only because she is far to the left. The reality is that she got absolutely nothing done and never will.”
Gaines said “we are fortunate to have conservative leadership” in the General Assembly.
“And we have somebody who is over there very far left who can’t get anything done,” Gaines said.
“Next November we have an opportunity to reverse that,” he added.
Parrish On Schools
School Board candidate Parrish said the county has an excellent school system and she wants to continue to work to support that excellence.
Parrish was appointed to the Board to fill an unexpired term and is running her first election. She has competition from Adam Spence in the Republican Primary.
“The world changes,” Parrish said. “So you can’t stay stagnant. You must continue to grow. And nothing is ever perfect. As good as it is, it is not perfect. There is always room for improvement.”
“Our desire is for every child to have a path and the tools they need to move beyond high school and be successful,” Parrish said. “That looks different for every kid.”
Bill Mayberry asked Parrish if the Board would consider changing the times of its meetings, and Parrish answered that “I think we’re open for discussion.”
Parrish told Mayberry no one has brought up this request “since I’ve been on the Board.”
Brandi Herndon, moderator of the Facebook group, Parents Improving Oconee Schools, made just such a request of the Board, with Parrish present, at the Board’s April 16 meeting.
Norris On Judicial Race
Superior Court Judge Norris gave a presentation to the Oconee County Republicans that mirrored comments he had made to Oconee County Democrats the week before.
Norris explained the jurisdiction of the Court and explained the nature of the Western Judicial Circuit, which includes Clarke and Oconee counties.
“If you find yourself in front of a Superior Court judge, you would like to know that that judge has the experience to decide a case, to rule on a case,” Norris said.
Norris said he has the “experience, temperament and knowledge” that is needed in a Superior Court Judge.
Norris was appointed to that position two years ago and is being challenged in seeking a full four-year term by Allison Mauldin, chief assistant district attorney in Greene County.
The May 22 election is final, with the winner assuming office in January.
Griffin And Congressional Race
Griffin is joined by Joe Hunt in challenging incumbent Jody Hice in the Republican Primary in the 10th Congressional District.
Griffin is CEO of a digital marketing services company, and Joe Hunt, from Oconee County, is vice president of Franchise Relations at Zaxby’s.
Hice is a pastor from Monroe.
Griffin said he wants to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to bring down costs, wants the patent length shorted from 20 years to 15 years to encourage development of generic drugs, and wants to speed up the approval process to get those drugs on the market more quickly.
On immigration, Griffin said the wall with Mexico “has to be built as a physical deterrent before any deals can be made.”
Griffin also said the “current educational system is not helping our students to be prepared to fill the jobs we already have” and called on improvements in skill-based education.
Beck On ACA
Beck, a former deputy insurance commissioner, said he is self-financing his campaign to avoid conflicts that come with finance contributions.
The election provides “an opportunity for you to truly elect an independent insurance commissioner,” Beck said.
Beck was particularly critical of the Affordable Care Act.
“Obamacare was never about providing (for the) uninsured health insurance,” Beck said. “It was a power grab over 20 percent of the gross domestic spending.
“It was no different than a third world dictator nationalizing oil wells,” he said.
Beck has opposition in the Republican Primary from Jay Florence from Norcross and Tracey Jordan from Jackson County.
Florence spoke before the Oconee County Republican Party in March.
I was not able to attend the meeting on April 26, held at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce in Watkinsville.
Sarah Bell did attend, and she produced the video below. Bell estimates that 25 people attended the meeting.
Griffin began his comments at 2:25 in the video.
Beck began speaking at 16:48.
Strickland began his comments at 26:15.
Wiedower’s comments are at 35:53 in the video.
Gaines came to the podium at 41:25 in the video.
Parrish spoke at 51:20.
Norris’ comments begin at 1:04:01 in the video.