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Voters seeking the right blend of qualities in US House race
0509issues-Susan Gannaway
Susan Gannaway

At age 68, Bill Early says he is paying much more attention to the economy than he ever has.

And 82-year-old Clarence Huhman is, for the first time, feeling insecure about it.

“I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about my children and grandchildren,” Huhman said.

As Tuesday’s special election nears to replace Nathan Deal in the U.S. House, Early said he has been listening to the candidates’ proposals. But he hasn’t yet seen a candidate who is taking an approach that suits him.

“I wish I did,” Early said.

But Early says he already has voted. As a former educator, he looked at candidates’ approach to education and selected who he felt was the candidate with the best character.

That’s likely the issue that will help 69-year-old Susan Gannaway make her decision, too, she said.

“It’s just so tricky, because they’re politicians,” Early said. “And they have to tell you what they think you want to hear, then you somehow have to ferret out what you think their character is ... if I just know they’re going to put up a good fight for what appears to me to be the best thing — for the state, the nation, whatever seems to be the case — then I’m going to vote for them and we’ll see what they’re able to do.”

There are eight candidates whose fate will be decided Tuesday in a special election to fill the final months of Nathan Deal’s term.

Six are Republicans — Bert Loftman, Bill Stephens, Chris Cates, Lee Hawkins, Steve Tarvin and Tom Graves —and another, Eugene Moon, calls himself a conservative independent.

The eighth candidate, Democrat Mike Freeman from Gainesville, announced he would withdraw from the race last month but his name remains on the ballot. He said in an e-mail Saturday that he has returned to the race.

The election likely will give the winner a leg up in the July 20 primary to determine who gets the seat for a full term, though that race will look slightly different. Freeman has said he will not participate in the special election, and another Republican, state Rep. Bobby Reese of Sugar Hill, has added his name to the other six seeking the Republican nomination.

Candidates have spent the last few months traveling across the 15-county district seeking votes and supporters, and the candidates say they have spoken to residents who are mostly concerned about jobs and the economy and out-of-control spending.

As the concerns of their voter base have shifted to the economy, jobs and controls on government spending, candidates are talking less about moral issues and more about fiscal conservatism this election.

But conservatism in this election is not contained to the Republican party.

Huhman, of Dahlonega, said he has stopped identifying with a party. He wants a representative who goes to Washington to serve the people and not for personal interests.

He says it wouldn’t be a bad idea to flush Washington of its current congressmen.

And though he says he is not part of any local tea party groups, Huhman identifies with their rationale.

“I’m proud of those folks that are letting (the politicians) know that they’re unhappy,” Huhman said.

But, like Early, the voters are also concerned with questions of character and integrity. They can’t always find answers to those questions on pamphlets in their mailbox.

Gannaway says she hasn’t made up her mind. A resident of North Hall, she considers herself an independent voter, and she wants a representative in the U.S. House who, like herself, is willing to negotiate.

“I am tired of one party taking one side, and one party taking the other and there being no room to compromise,” Gannaway said.
And as the campaign pamphlets have made it through her mailbox, Gannaway says she has not seen a candidate who seems to have that ability.

And without that, Gannaway said she is searching for candidates’ answers to issues such as education that are not always decided at the party line. Specifically, she’s looking for how candidates will approach teacher evaluations and achievement programs.

“It’s a complex issue and it requires a nuanced solution, which means you have to be willing to not take a position and be willing to die for it until it’s clear you really understand it,” Gannaway said.

She has until Tuesday to find that candidate.