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Candidates discuss issues at Brenau political forum
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A political forum Saturday at Brenau University attracted a handful of candidates and a small audience.

A number of candidates for statewide and local offices, as well as a number of surrogates for those who could not attend, offered their thoughts and answered questions submitted by those in attendance.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle served as a stand-in for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga, who was holding a campaign kickoff in Atlanta. Democratic nominee Jim Martin and Libertarian Allen Buckley both took aim against current policies.

"The reason we’re in this mess is because of the failed policies of the Bush administration, supported by Saxby Chambliss," Martin said. "I see a situation where the price of oil can be set by innovators, not speculators. Where health care is accessible and affordable by all. A country where we have the leadership in the world on economic development."

Buckley was more direct in his criticism of current financial policy.

"By 2040, if we keep doing what we’re doing, most of our tax dollars will go to pay interest on our debt," Buckley said. "At that point, financially, we’re finished, our kids are finished. When that happens, the stock market goes down with it."

Two candidates for the Georgia Public Service Commission talked about providing power for the future.

Incumbent Doug Everett, R-Albany, and Libertarian John Monds differ in their approach.

"The electric utilities are going to need between 8,000 and 9,000 megawatts of electricity between now and 2017," Everett said. "We’re looking at all possible forms. We’re looking strongly at nuclear for the expansion of Plant Vogtle."

Monds has a different approach.

"I’m pro open markets and free markets," Monds said. "If you allow more companies in the energy markets, that serves consumers. But it serves producers also."

He also said he believes investors in publicly owned utilities should foot the bill for nuclear expansion.

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, and his Democratic opponent, Jeff Scott of LaFayette, met for the first time in Hall County. The two men spent a lot of their time talking about energy policy.

"I’m one of those who says drill here, drill now and increase our supply because we have the potential of doing it," Deal said.

"As for drilling, let’s do it," Scott said, "but only with a solid plan to get us off of gasoline in the next 10 to 20 years."

On the subject of the federal budget, Scott said if elected he would make sure the U.S. is more prudent in its spending policy.

"We’re spending money like it grows on trees," Scott said. " I’d stand up because I’m accountable to the people of this district first. If it causes me not to get the support of everybody in the Democratic party in Washington, so be it. If it cost me an election in two years, so be it."

Deal said that the Democratic leadership in the House has brought out only one spending bill of the 12 that must be voted on by Oct. 1.

"It is the latest time in at least 20 years that this has occurred," Deal said. "Appropriations bills generally come to the floor in what we call an open rule, where anybody has the power to submit and propose an amendment. That scares (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi to death."

Incumbent State Court Judge Charles Wynne and challenger Sonny Sikes offered little in terms of their differences. Wynne touted his eight years of experience and the creation of the DUI court, which offers rehabilitation to drunk drivers.

Sykes said his 34 years as a criminal defense lawyer has given him insight into the system and he said some of his clients have spent days in jail awaiting state court adjudication of a charge that carried only a small fine.

The candidates for State House district 25 clashed largely over taxes.

State Rep. James Mills, R-Gainesville, said the current state budget is smaller than the spending plan of 1996, when growth and inflation are factored in.

His opponent, Democrat Chris Strickland of Flowery Branch, said Mills votes for less than full funding of the state education budget has resulted in a tax hike for Hall County property owners.

"When you cut education and you send unfunded mandates back to the local board, it is nothing less than an unfunded mandate that causes property taxes to go up," Strickland said, calling Mills, "a tax-and-spend liberal."

Mills bristled at that notion, citing his vote to eliminate school taxes for senior citizens.

"I’ve worked to reduce and cut taxes; my record bears that out," Mills said. "I authored the bill to eliminate school taxes for senior citizens in Hall County that passed and is now law."

He said that another measure, to be voted on in November, would lower the age of eligibility for the senior tax cut to 70.

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