Jobs, health care dominate forum

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Nearly every one of the 30 or more candidates that spoke at a Saturday forum managed to work "jobs" and "health care" into their rhetoric -- a sign that those two key issues, among others, are chief on the minds of both politicians and the electorate.

While the forum, which was sponsored by the political Web site swgapolitics.com, was sparsely attended, candidates vying for local, state and congressional offices each took to the microphone to spell out their priorities and concerns.

Video from the event is set to be posted on swgapolitics.com, for those who missed the event, organizers say.

On the local level, School Board District 2 candidates Sherrell Byrd and Donnie Smith, who are both trying to unseat Milton "June Bug" Griffin who wasn't at Saturday's forum, each took a few minutes to explain their reason for running before answering two questions each from a panel moderators who were members of the local press.

Byrd criticized the board for setting procedures and then not following them while responding to a question from the panel about the hiring process of Superintendent Joshua Murfree, saying that the board has lost the trust and faith of the people by not doing so.

Byrd did say that she believed that the investigation into the CRCT Erasure scandal was thorough and that "we need to trust the people we have in place," who investigated the matter.

Smith also took issue with the process with which the board hired Murfree, calling the members who voted to end the hiring process early "corrupt."

"I've read the rules and regulations of board members and they haven't hit one one yet," she said.

Unlike Byrd, however, Smith said that she wasn't satisfied with the results of the CRCT investigation and believes that many of the answers were, in fact, changed.

Also speaking Saturday was Richard Thomas, a businessman who is running against longtime incumbent Jack Stone for Dougherty County Commission.

Thomas was critical of Stone's record on the commission and said that he believes in cutting non-essential services in order to meet budget deficits.

"My opponent has been sticking up signs all across the district saying look at his record," Thomas said. "His record is 24 years of decay and dismal performance."

Stone was not in attendance at Saturday's forum.

Lonnie Smith, who is challenging Commissioner John Hayes for a county commission seat also spoke, but was able to point to his general priorities -- reducing taxes and crime and creating jobs -- before his time ran out.

In total, candidates running for attorney general, public service commission, state school superintendent, insurance and safety fire commissioner, labor commissioner, agriculture commissioner, governor and representative of the 2nd Congressional District all spoke during the event.

Three gubernatorial candidates were present with each talking jobs and the economy as one of their key issues.

Gen. David Poythress had only one word to say when asked what he thought the single biggest issue facing Georgia was this year.

"Jobs," he said.

During his speech, he said that he would refuse a paycheck as governor until unemployment was below 7 percent.

"The economy is chief right now and so getting people back to work has got to be the chief priority for our state government," Poythress said.

Poythress also said that he believes that Georgia government shouldn't be completely centralized in Atlanta, saying that some departments like the department of agriculture, could be headquartered in other parts of the state like Albany.

Likewise, state legislator and gubernatorial candidate Dubose Porter said that job creation was important, but said that education and protecting water were also key issues of concern.

"I've asked teachers what they need to succeed and the response has been, smaller class sizes, 100 percent parental involvement and technology," Porter said.

Porter is pushing a plan to expand the water level at Lake Lanier by two feet, which he believes would create 25 billion gallons of water for metro Atlanta, ensuring a hands-off approach to more plentiful ground water supplies in southern Georgia.

Cairo resident John Monds, who is the Libertarian candidate for governor, said that he feels his message of smaller government and less taxes will resonate with the public.

"It's a message that is catching on around the state," Monds said. "Small business is the key to getting people back to work; they are the economic engine of our state and government needs to shrink and stay out of their way."