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Candidate takes issue with forum sponsor

Debate organizer endorsed Miller's opponent

POSTED: April 30, 2010 12:46 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

State Senate District 49 candidates Brandon Givens, left, and Jimmy Norman listen to a question during a forum Thursday evening at the Mulberry Creek Community Center.

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Two of the three candidates to be Hall County’s representative in the state Senate spent an hour and a half carving out their ideologies for anyone who would listen Thursday.

But noticeably absent from the debate sponsored by the Four Corners Tea Party at the Mulberry Creek Community Center was the fundraising frontrunner in the race, Gainesville businessman Butch Miller.

“It was good for what it could be with one of the major candidates not here,” Republican candidate Jimmy Norman said of the event that attracted only about 25 people. “So that took the steam out of it a little bit, because we didn’t get to show the most extreme differences that are existing in the campaign.”

Miller told The Times prior to the event that he never planned to attend because of a previously scheduled event. Miller posted a message on forum organizer Bill Greene’s Facebook page on April 21, saying he had another commitment.

Miller also expressed concerns about how Greene’s allegiances might affect the credibility of the forum. Greene is an organizer of the Four Corners Tea Party and president of, a conservative, nonprofit political organization that includes a political action committee.

“If the (organizer) of the Four Corners Tea Party and the president of were not one in the same, then it would have lended more credibility to the forum, no doubt,” Miller said.

But Greene said he tried to distance himself from Thursday’s forum because of his personal support for Norman, Miller’s Republican opponent.

The political action committee was responsible for a recent automated telephone call, or robocall, made to voters in the district. The robocall endorsed Norman and seemingly derided Miller, a co-owner of Milton Martin Honda in Gainesville.

“Jimmy Norman is one of us,” the automated message said. “He’s not a politician or a used car salesman.”

Norman said Thursday he was not aware of the automated telephone calls from Greene’s PAC, but Greene has personally endorsed Norman — a fact neither Greene nor Norman denies.

Greene said he did not write the questions for the debate, and instead left it all in the hands of a local radio personality who moderated the event.

“That’s why we brought Martha Zoller in. We wanted to make sure everything was completely unbiased,” Greene said.

Norman also said he received no special treatment because of his relationship with Greene.

“There was nothing here that wasn’t totally objective,” Norman said. “He didn’t write a single question. ... Martha was totally in control of the total show. It was done totally objectively.”

And that’s the way Libertarian candidate Brandon Givens felt about the forum. Givens said the forum gave audience a good understanding of the similarities and differences between he and Norman.

“I thought it was a pretty balanced forum,” Givens said. “I think there may have been more Norman fans than Givens fans, but that’s life.”


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