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Candidates respond to state issues

COVINGTON - The following is a summary of responses given by state candidates at a forum held Oct. 23. State Senate District 17 candidates John Douglas and Rudy B. Cox participated, along with House of Representatives District 95 Republican candidate Erick Hunt. Hunt's opponent, Democrat Toney Collins, did not attend.

The General Assembly has been criticized the past two sessions as being especially ineffective and failing to deal with the difficult issues confronting the state, choosing partisan bickering instead. Do you agree with this assessment and, if so, what are your thoughts on how a single legislator can improve the situation?

Senate District 17 Republican incumbent John Douglas said he does not agree that legislators waste time bickering. "I think the General Assembly gets along very well across the aisle," he said, adding that there is more arguing between the House and Senate and governor than between parties.

Issues such as school vouchers and illegal immigration have seen cooperation between the parties, he said, adding that the working relationship is "better than in Washington, when they don't speak to each other."

Democratic opponent Rudy B. Cox said that as an educator, he is used to teamwork with parents, students and the community. "I can do that very easily. Something can always be worked out for the good of the community," he said.

District 95 Republican candidate Erick Hunt said he is used to working on a one-to-one basis with others in the corporate world, and he would bring that influence to the General Assembly.

"I'm running because I believe the lifestyle and quality of life in the 95th District are worth protecting," said Hunt, who moved to the area 10 years ago with his wife. "We realized what we have here is a gem."

What issues do you see as being particularly challenging to the state in the next five years and how do you plan to address those challenges?

For Cox, it really boils down to one issue: "The economy, the economy, the economy."

"If we get the economy turned around, everything else will turn around," he said, adding that legislators should be working to bring more jobs and businesses to the state.

Douglas identified transportation, education and the economy as the top issues. He said he supports a 1-cent local option sales tax to fund road improvements, with 80 percent of funds collected going to the counties; 10 percent going to state and county projects; and 10 percent going to the state.

On education, he said more local control is needed. As for the economy, while the state can't turn around a national recession, state legislators can make their voices heard in Washington by opposing tax increases and supporting putting money back into the hands of citizens, he said.

District 95 candidate Hunt said education, transportation and law enforcement are the biggest challenges facing the state.

As the first person in his family to graduate from college, Hunt said he believes in giving young people all the resources they need to succeed in school, and said he has ideas on how to lower the dropout rate.

Hunt proposes encouraging more parental involvement in PTA, particularly for men; empowering parents to have a stronger voice for their kids through school choice; and improving relationships with and better supporting existing, successful mentoring, tutoring and faith-based educational organizations.

Legislators must look at all transportation options available, including public transportation, such as bus services to downtown Atlanta, he said, along with pursuing long-term options such as light rail or trolley.

Hunt said strict enforcement of current laws and ordinances must take place along with additional measures to secure neighborhoods and shopping areas.