The candidates for the Nov. 6 special Republican primary Monday are Mike Dugan, a Carrollton general contractor and former military officer; former House Rep. Bill Hembree, a Winston insurance agent; Jim Naughton, a Carrollton business consultant; and Glenn Richardson, a Hiram attorney and former speaker of the Georgia House.
James Camp, a Libertarian candidate from Temple and an information technician, is not running in the Nov. 6 race. He qualified to run in the Jan. 8 special general election and will face the winner of the Nov. 6 Republican primary.
Naughton said he supports ethics reform and believes candidates should sign a pledge, before assuming office, that they will take no gifts from lobbyists.
“Mr. Hembree talks about sponsoring a bill to limit lobbyist gifts to $100, and that’s good as a first step,” Naughton said Monday at a League of Women Voters Carrollton Carroll County. “But we shouldn’t wait for a bill. A legislator should make a personal pledge to take no gifts. I don’t need a lobbyist to buy me dinner, take me to a Braves game or a Falcons playoff. I want to represent the people of my district, not the people who treat me. I would support a ban on lobbyist gifts to elected officials.”
Richardson supports a ban on lobbyist gifts and he believes it has wide support from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Whether or not it’s state law, the Senate can adopt it as a Senate rule on Day One, Jan. 14, and it should. I will make that pledge.”
Camp said he would support ethics legislation and added that he questions the practice of the Legislature controlling the ethics commission budget, calling it “the fox guarding the hen house.”
“How can we claim to be transparent when we control the budget of the ethics commission?” he asked. “I will move to restore the ethics commission budget so they can add staff to investigate violations. There should be a study to look at similar laws in other states to see what their caps are. I think terms should be limited to prevent legislators from becoming entrenched and losing sight of who they serve.”
Dugan said, “As far as I know, I’m the only one who signed a pledge saying what contributions should be. When I was serving in the army, I couldn’t take contributions from anybody. If I went out to dinner with someone, they paid their bill and I paid mine.”
Dugan said he’s not against lobbyists, but he realizes the information they give is from their point of view.
“Our job as your senator is supposed to be to look at legitimate information from all sides and make the right decision,” he said. “They don’t need to give me anything else. They don’t need to buy my dinner. The information they provide costs a lot of money and that’s enough.”
Hembree said he would vote for ethics reform, adding, “We need to put the public trust back into the elected offices we have. I support that. Back in 2009, I sponsored House Bill 920 which set a cap of $100.”
On the question of what can be done to make Georgia more attractive to industry and to create jobs, the candidates offered several ideas.
Richardson said one of the first things an industry looks for in a new location is a trained work force.
“They want to know if they build a factory in your county that they can hire the workers to do the job,” Richardson said. “That’s the most important thing we can do, to have workers ready on day one.”
He called for teaching technical skills in high schools, such as welding, plumbing and other skills that industries need. He said industry also wants cheap land and every competing county wants to give it to them.
“They’re looking for infrastructure and ability to get fiber optics on the ground,” Richardson said.
Camp said the government cannot create private sector jobs, no matter how many incentive packages or promotions they make.
“I believe the best course of action is for government to get out of the way by removing regulatory burdens and install some kind of tax reform so businesses will have more money on hand to create new jobs,” he said.
Dugan said the government creates the climate to allow businesses to create jobs.
“One thing a business is going to look at is where our kids are going to school,” he said. “They want to know where their work force is going to come from. That’s not just the University of West Georgia. We also have another great college, West Georgia Technical College. We have the makings of a ready and able work force now. We have a fiber optic hub that runs right through the middle of the district. We have easy access to Atlanta and reasonable land prices. We have low labor rates, if you look at the national average.”
Dugan said he sees himself as a cheerleader, an organizer of local officials to determine what types of industry to recruit.
“We’d go together to recruit and bring industry in, make the area appeal to them and let them know what we have,” he said. “We have to show them why we’re different and better.”
“I was a co-sponsor of House Bill 1023, which said Georgia companies who hire people receiving unemployment benefits will get a tax incentive,” Hembree said. “This will get Georgia workers back to work and small businesses can hire them.”
He cited his support of House Bill 868, a jobs tax credit for manufacturing and industry.
“We’re doing things in Georgia to try to make it a place businesses want to go,” Hembree said. “House Bill 386 eliminated the energy tax on manufacturers. That’s so important for companies in the carpet and poultry industries.
“Our technical colleges have a program called Quick Start where they train individuals for the specific jobs that companies need,” he said. “We need to put families back to work in this district and the state. I will fight every day to make sure it happens.”
Naughton said that in 1994 he was promoted in his job with Milliken and Company to take on an affiliated company that was failing because of NAFTA.
“I was given the assignment because they thought the business was doomed,” he said. “I built a sales team and professional work force and doubled the business in four years, adding 100 jobs. I do know how to grow jobs.”
He gave another example in which Milliken leader Roger Milliken used his political clout to boost technical education in upstate South Carolina to attract BMW to the area.
Naughton is concerned about what the school systems provide.
“Southwire had to give $1 million to the technical college to design a curriculum they needed to provide a work force,” he said. “Not every company can do that.”
He cited another local company which he said has to rely on Michigan temporary workers because it can’t find skilled workers here.
“We’re not working to fix this and we’re not going to attract businesses unless we do,” he said.
The winner of the race will fill the seat vacated by Bill Hamrick, Carrollton, who resigned last month to accept a position as superior court judge in the Coweta Circuit.