State, US seat hopefuls speak

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Candidates address topics at first Chamber forum

By Matthew Strother












LaGRANGE — A slate of political hopefuls seeking the U.S. House seat for the 3rd Congressional District and two contenders for the state senate spoke in front of a packed room at Del’Avant on Monday evening at the first of two candidate forums hosted by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.

State Senate District 28

Matt Brass and Hayden Marlowe, both of Newnan, are facing off May 24 on the Republican primary ballot. With no other qualified candidates, the winner is a shoe-in for the seat left open by Mike Crane, now a candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat.

Asked about how to improve education, Brass noted what company Southwire did in Carrollton, offering the program 12 for Life when the school system had a 65 percent graduation rate. The focus of the program was on school work, work force training and tutoring, and over five years the school system’s graduation rate increased to 72 percent, he said.

Marlowe said the state needs to support vouchers for charter or private schools based on what parents feel their student’s needs are. He said increased student interest and desire to achieve will increase graduation.

Asked about the campus carry law, Marlowe said he supports it and would expand it. Brass agreed, saying he felt that students were better protected when allowed to legally carry a weapon.

On states’ rights, Brass said the state needs more rights on education and the federal government needs to “untangle” itself from education standards like common core. He said educational control should go even beyond state-level and be a county-level decision.

Marlowe agreed on common core and also cited the Affordable Care Act as the government overstepping its role. He felt the federal government should not overstep state legislation.

Both candidates said they would support either in-state cultivation or pushing for federal changes to legalize inter-state transportation of medical marijuana.

Asked whether the state can pass a religious liberty bill without supporting state-sanctioned discrimination, Brass said the religious liberty bill didn’t support discrimination and felt that it should mirror the federal law.

Marlowe said he felt legislators were heading in the wrong direction, because the government shouldn’t be telling businesses, groups or individuals who it can serve. In a free market, there are repurcussions for businesses that discriminate, he said, and they will have to deal with that, rather than be dictated by the government.

On the state’s refusal to expand medicaid, Marlowe said he was against expansion because it would continue to expand as more people complain of being cutoff. Brass said he wouldn’t support medicaid expansion because it’s a broken system that can’t filter out the people cheating it.

U.S. 3rd Congressional District

There are nine candidates running for the U.S. congressional seat currently held by Lynn Westmoreland, who is not running for re-election. Republican candidates are Samuel Anders of Newnan, Mike Crane of Newnan, Drew Ferguson of West Point, Chip Flanegan of Jonesboro, Richard Mix of Newnan, Jim Pace of Peachtree City and Rod Thomas of Newnan. Democratic candidates are Tamarkus Cook, whose address was unlisted, and Angela Pendley of Grantville.

Candidates were questioned in groups of three on specific questions under four general topics: health and social issues, economy, immigration and national security and government operations. The following is a summation of some of those responses.

On what the government can do about teenage pregnancy, Thomas said the issue comes down to local education and wasn’t sure if Congress has a role in the matter. Crane said there is a lot the federal government needs to not do, saying the increase in divorces and out-of-wedlock births tie back to well-intentioned, but failed wellfare programs. Pace felt it was a problem of going back to a more Christian foundation in government and allowing more religious influence into schools and communities.

Addressing the Affordable Care Act, Flanegan said it was a redistribution of wealth, is failing and the country needs to go back to a free-market system. Ferguson, a dentist, said he’s seen the cost of the program to businesses and patients, and wants to see it repealed. Anders said it restricts people from being able to choose what they want and feels it is moving toward socialized medicine.

On whether there should be federal expansion of anti-discrimation laws on sexual orientation or gender identification, Mix said he doesn’t support discrimination, but the nation doesn’t need more laws, and those decisions should be left to a local level. Pendley said she would support “protecting Americans, no matter who they are.” Cook said the law should reflect the condition of the world in which it is developing, and when the current laws were written, there weren’t trans-gendered people “amongst us,” but “laws should include all people.”

On helping to keep West Point Lake viable, Crane credited locals for doing much “yeoman’s work” on the issue over the years, and he wants to see the Corps of Engineers relinquish control and have the lake kept at a higher level year-round. Pace likewise said he wants to see the Corps relinquish control and wanted to see a consrotium of representatives from the “water wars” states come together to work out a solution. Ferguson said he felt the Chattahoochee’s water belongs to Georgia alone, since it begins in the state, and would fight for the state’s right to manage the water flow.

Asked whether candidates would support raising the minimum wage, Anders said “to a degree,” but not to $15 an hour, and schools need to improve and better prepare students for better-paying jobs. Cook said he felt it wouldn’t make sense to have the government pressure businesses into raising the minimum wage when the government won’t invest in those same people for college education. Thomas said he would support a 10 to 15 percent increase in the minumum wage. He was also in favor on a tax on the top 1 percent of income earners.

On Social Security, Pendley said the Affordable Care Act has helped “thousands of lives” and if Georgia participated in medicaid and medicare expansion, it would help take care of the elderly and poor. Flanegan said the funds have been raided by federal leaders and suggested more oil exploration could help restore the funding. Mix said Social Security was never meant to fund someone’s entire retirement, but a supplement, and raising the age requirement by only a month could help save some of the shortfall.

Matthew Strother is the editor of LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153.