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Economy drives debate in House race

Republican Collins, Democrat Cooley seek new 9th District seat

POSTED: October 13, 2012 11:59 p.m.

Over the next several weeks, voters in Northeast Georgia will cast their choice for their local and national leaders.

Between Monday, when early voting begins, and Nov. 6, voters will choose a representative for Georgia’s newly drawn 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republican Doug Collins and Democrat Jody Cooley, both Gainesville attorneys, hope to fill the open seat and are currently on the last legs of their campaign.

Although the two men represent different parties, their campaigns have hinged primarily on one topic they say resonates in the district’s 20 counties: the economy.

“That’s the biggest issue (Collins is) hearing about when he goes to different places here in the district,” said Loree Ann Thompson, press secretary for the Collins campaign. “People want to know how he’s going to work to create an economic environment that encourages job growth. I think that’s everyone’s No. 1 concern.”

Both candidates believe that starts with a balanced federal budget.

Cooley said compromise between political parties is the only way that happens, and that there has been little of that in Congress recently.

“People want candidates who will listen first and foremost,” Cooley said. “The 9th District is certainly a conservative district, but it’s not necessarily a partisan district. What I continue to hear is people are tired of Democrats and Republicans and they want legislators who will focus on getting something done, even if that requires some compromise to go forward, because compromise is the only way the partisan stalemate will ever be broken.”

Collins’ camp said his background and work in the state House— he served as 27th District representative and floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal — give him the platform to make those fiscal changes in Washington.

“The biggest issues for the 9th District of Georgia, and for the entire county for that matter, are jobs and getting our country back on track,” Thompson said. “We have a tumultuous debt we have to get rid of and the first thing Doug’s going to do, if he’s fortunate enough to go to Washington to represent us, is sign onto a balanced budget amendment. He’s going to balance the budget just like he did in Atlanta.”

Cooley said the only way he sees a compromised budget plan getting through Congress is through a deficit-cutting plan recommended by the Simpson-Bowles commission.

The plan calls for a cut in government spending and tax rates while doing away with many deductions. The plan also calls for reductions and reform of entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security.

“I’ve not read any economist who suggests we can solve the budget crisis without both cutting spending and some type of new revenue – not a tax increase – but some type of new revenue,” Cooley said. “It’s the only approach I feel has a chance of passing through Congress.”

He said he hopes to change entitlement formulas that are the “least detrimental.”

“It’s going to have to be a compromised budget agreement that cuts spending, that reforms some entitlements, but that also recognizes that we’ve fought two wars in 10 years in the face of tax reductions and that has created a significant federal deficit,” he said. “So it’s time to take the castor oil. ... Anybody that thinks the solutions to the country’s major problems, the debt, is going to be easy, is not offering a serious platform.”

Collins’ campaign said getting the government “off the back and out of the pockets” of the private business sector will help boost job creation in the nation.

“The message we have spread throughout these 20 counties has been about his record of consistent, conservative action,” Thompson said. “When people ask Doug these questions about how he’ll create these changes in Washington: create jobs, lower taxes, to reduce the debt and they hear about what he’s already done in Atlanta, it gives them a lot of hope and it inspires them, I think.”

The conversations, however, about the candidates’ plans to re-energize a struggling national economy are just starting.

Leading up to the November vote, the two will meet in two more debates. The first is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Gainesville Civic Center, sponsored by the Lanier Tea Party Patriots. A second one is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, in Atlanta, sponsored by the Atlanta Press club and televised by Georgia Public Television.

“We do have a lot of debates coming up, so we’re just getting (Collins) out there in front of the voters and letting as many people hear about his record and what he’s done,” Thompson said. “This is a brand new district. ... So I think it is picking up a lot of interest. This is an open seat and anytime you have that, it’s always interesting. I think people are looking out for it. After the presidential race, we’ll be next on the ticket here in the 9th, so it’s important to a lot of people.”


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