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Economy top focus in race for new House seat
Hopefuls talk fair tax, schools, roads
GAHOUSEKen Russell
Ken Russell

State House District 103

Timothy Barr
Age: 31
Occupation: Owner of Patriot Construction Group
Education: After being part of his grandfather’s and father’s family business, Timothy started his own company in 2005
Political experience: None
Family: Wife Melinda of five years; two daughters, Liberty, and Haven
District history: Lifelong resident of Gwinnett County; member of Killian Hill Baptist Church in Gwinnett; member of Gwinnett County Republican Club and South Hall Republican Club and Georgia Carry

Ken Russell
Age: 77
Occupation: Owned private investigative firm for 18 years, contracting with state and federal agencies for background checks; retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; spent five years as officer for U.S. Navy; spent five years as a member of Naval Criminal Investigative Service, spending one year in Vietnam
Education: College of Charleston, Bachelor of Science in biology; George Washington University, Master of Science in forensic science
Political experience: None
Family: Wife Eleanor of 18 years; sons, Todd, Sean, Scott and Kevin
District history: Moved to Sterling on the Lake seven years ago; founding member and former vice president of the South Hall Republican Club; co-founder and volunteer co-manager of the Spout Springs Library Farmers Market

Two candidates who see the economy as a top concern for Georgia are making their last pitches this week to potential constituents in what is the newly redrawn state House District 103 seat.

“We really can’t do anything unless we have money, so bringing in new businesses, especially large ones, is very, very important,” said Ken Russell, a Charleston, S.C., native and FBI retiree.

“We’ve got a friendly government, a government that wants to make businesses very happy,” he added. “I’m very keen at working on that.”

His opponent, Timothy Barr, said: “Obviously, right now, we need to look at our economy in a big way. I experience that daily with owning my own company and everybody has to make a living somehow, so that needs to be No. 1.”

Barr, who owns a construction company, added that he believes “we need to look at some restructuring, in a serious way, of our tax code in Georgia.”

District 103 was redrawn as part of statewide redistricting efforts that followed the release of U.S. census data, a process repeated every 10 years. The district includes the southernmost part of Hall County and a small section of northeastern Gwinnett County.

Barr, a Lawrenceville resident, said that his political pursuit began with the growing of his own family.

“We took a look down the road to where are we going to be in 25, 50 years, and that’s what really got us to thinking about our involvement (in government),” he said.

“Our country is at a place where our generation needs to be involved in looking out for our generation and the next, and building a road that sees us in prosperity.”

Russell, who lives in Flowery Branch and has been involved in previous campaigns, said he realized he “enjoyed banging on doors, talking to people, putting signs up, everything.”

He also said he had heard at GOP meetings that “everybody ought to run for something once” and that stuck with him.

“That made an impression on me. It really is a civic obligation to run for office,” Russell said. With more candidates, “hopefully, you’ll get a better pool.”

Both candidates favor a fair tax, or a consumer-based tax that would replace the income tax.

“Besides that, we need regulation reform and education reform especially,” Russell said. “We’ve got a state where (more than half) of the budget goes to education and we are consistently ranked in the lower two or (three) spots. The question begs: Are we getting our bang for a buck?”

He believes in more local control for school systems.

“That way, more money will reach the students,” Russell said.

Examining the state income tax is a big issue for Barr.

“It’s not going to be an easy process. We’re going to have to do a lot of research,” he said, citing Florida and Tennessee’s absence of such a tax. “Texas is doing very well without it, so there are some examples we can take from.”

Barr said he is concerned about transportation issues within the House district, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s statewide vote on the proposed 1 percent transportation sales tax.

Overall, Barr, making his first run for office, said he believes he should be the voter’s choice because of several factors.

“A lot of people look at my youth and say, ‘Well, you’re kind of young,’” he said. “But I would tell them I believe my generation and my children have so much freedom to lose in our lifetime, and I have the passion and drive to stand up for our freedoms and liberties.”

Russell said: “Obviously, I think I’m the best candidate. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

Also a Vietnam War veteran and former owner of a private investigative firm, he added, “I think I have some advantages. The majority of my career was spent ... in service to our country.”