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Three seek open seat for attorney general
Olens, Hodges, Smart on Nov. 2 ballot as state's top law enforcement official
Don Smart

Ken Hodges
: Democrat
Age: 44
Residence: Atlanta
Experience: District Attorney in Albany for 12 years. President of the Georgia District Attorney's Association
What he'll do if elected: Run office within or under budget as well as tackle some of the state's most important legal business. Keep office independent with tradition of answering only to the voters of Georgia. Fight public corruption, protect Georgians from violent crime and ensure civil rights.

Sam Olens
: Republican
Age: 52
Residence: Marietta
Experience: Attorney. Chairman of Cobb County Commission, 2002-2010. Chairman of Atlanta Regional
What he'll do if elected: Pursue legal avenues to fight federal takeover of heath care; ensure Georgians have sufficient water supply; strengthen ethics laws; create statewide grand juries to strengthen and expedite criminal justice system; prepare legal defense for 2011 redistricting efforts.

Don Smart
: Libertarian
Age: 58
Residence: Savannah
Experience: U.S. Marine Corps 1975-79, Marine Corps Reserve until 1999; has practiced law in Savannah since 1980
What he'll do if elected: Would use the position to rein in government power and intends to prove the "scare tactics" from the two major parties are wrong. As a Libertarian, stands for smaller government, lower taxes and more freedom and will administer the office using these principles as a guide.

Source: Candidate websites;; The Associated Press; Georgia Newspaper Partnership




ATLANTA — This year's race for Georgia attorney general —  the first since World War II without an incumbent seeking re-election —  may hinge less on state law enforcement than on how the rivals plan to tackle federal issues like health care reform and immigration policy.

In the campaign to become Georgia's top prosecutor, Democrat Ken Hodges and Republican Sam Olens have sparred over adopting a Georgia immigration law that mirrors Arizona's new crackdown, considered the toughest in the nation. And they have butted heads over how to react to the sweeping health care overhaul adopted by Congress this year.

Both candidates have vowed to be more proactive than Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat who launched a failed bid for governor instead of seeking re-election.

Also on the Nov. 2 ballot is Libertarian Don Smart, a 58-year-old Savannah attorney. He says he would use the position to rein in government power and intends to prove the "scare tactics" from the two major parties are wrong.

Olens, 53, has said he will work with state lawmakers to follow Arizona's lead and adopt tougher immigration laws. The former Cobb County Commission chair has also touted his county's participation in a federal program called 287(g) that allows local law enforcement agents to enforce immigration laws.

"The federal government is not doing its job, plain and simple. Arizona passed the law as a clarion call to get the federal government to step up," Olens said. "They need to do their darn job and secure the borders."

Hodges, however, said he worries that adopting a tough new measure would create an unfunded and unenforceable mandate. He favors using laws already on the books to tackle immigration issues, and looking to Congress for a policy overhaul.

"The frustration exists because federal lawmakers aren't doing the job," said Hodges, a 45-year-old former Dougherty County district attorney. "There are ample laws now on the books, and I will enforce the laws of the state of Georgia."

He added that he would enforce any laws that the state adopts. "Illegal is illegal and the immigration laws must be enforced."

Hodges has also criticized Olens, saying illegal immigrants were found working on Cobb County's new courthouse under his watch as commission chair. Olens dismissed the criticism, saying a subcontractor hired the workers without the county's knowledge or the cooperation of their contractor.

The health care overhaul pushed by President Barack Obama also has highlighted the differences between the two major-party candidates.

Hodges, who must be careful not to alienate the state's Democratic voters, has argued that challenging the new health care laws is a waste of taxpayer dollars because other states are already pursuing their own lawsuits. Olens, however, contends that Georgia can win helpful concessions only if it's involved in the legal fight.

The sharp rhetoric has also veered into other issues that don't typically factor in the attorney general's race.

Olens hopes his background as chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission can help him solve Atlanta's transportation woes and the decades-long battle with Florida and Alabama over water rights.

"It's the best meld of the practice of law and public service," he said of the attorney general's role. "I got to deal with the state's water and transportation issues, but I didn't get to solve them. This is a great opportunity to actively move our state forward in areas of water, transportation and jobs development."

Hodges, however, said Georgia needs a veteran prosecutor on the case precisely because these stubborn problems still exist.

"Don't vote for any of us based on party. Vote for the person," he said. "I'm a prosecutor not a politician. I'm not going to give you double speak and tell you one thing and say another."