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House candidates spar as runoff looms
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DALTON — With a week to go before Tuesday’s runoff for Georgia’s 9th District congressional seat, candidates Tom Graves and Lee Hawkins clashed Tuesday night over whether a trip to Missouri counts as traveling across the country.

The dispute started when the two, both Republicans, addressed some of Dalton’s top business leaders at a board meeting of the Carpet and Rug Institute. One person asked if they support the FairTax, a proposal to replace virtually all federal taxes with a national sales tax. Both men said they back the idea.

“I’ve actually advocated for it not only here in the state of Georgia but across the country with (Rep.) John Linder, Herman Cain and Neal Boortz, regardless of their lack of recollection of my attendance with them,” said Graves, a former state representative from Ranger.

That was an apparent reference to a recent automated phone call recorded by Linder, R-Duluth, on behalf of Hawkins. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in the message Linder accused Graves of lying about traveling the nation with him to support the FairTax.

Graves made a trip to Missouri with Linder for a FairTax rally. But in the message Linder said, “I didn’t know who he was, or why he was there,” according to the AJC.

Hawkins returned to that subject later, stating Graves may have gone to Missouri with Linder.

“But that does not constitute traveling across the nation to support the FairTax. There’s a difference between going to Missouri and traveling across the nation,” said Hawkins, a former state senator from Gainesville.

The two also clashed over a jobs bill, authored by Graves, that the state legislature passed earlier this year.

Graves noted that Hawkins was just one of two Republicans who voted against the bill, which provides tax incentives to businesses to expand and add jobs.

But Hawkins said the bill wouldn’t do what it promised because the incentives are too small and fine print keeps some of the provisions from taking effect until the state has $1 billion in reserves.

“I don’t know when the state will have a billion dollars in reserves,” he said. “I don’t think we are going to be able to put this into action for another five or 10 years.”

Both men outlined a generally fiscally conservative approach to economics, opposing the health care bill recently passed by Congress and supporting spending cuts and efforts to reduce the federal debt.

Both also asked those present to look at their records in the legislature to see that they stood by that philosophy.

Frank Hurd, the CRI’s director of government relations, said after the meeting that members appreciated the chance to ask questions of the candidates.

“From our perspective they were very open and engaging and we feel whoever is elected will be a great representative for the 9th District,” he said.

The (Dalton) Daily Citizen is part of the Georgia Newspaper Partnership.