COVINGTON -- Former Newton County Commissioner Ester Fleming said his experience in local politics will help him better serve the residents of the 17th State Senate District should he prevail in the November election.
Fleming, along with fellow Republican John Lunsford, qualified Wednesday for the open Senate seat vacated by state Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle. Douglas surprised many when he opted not to seek re-election but instead to vie for the Public Service Commission District 2 seat.
Lunsford, who lives in McDonough, has represented state House District 110 for the past 10 years.
But for Fleming, it's his years of serving in local government that will provide him the best perspective as a state legislator, he said.
"I think to serve at the state House and/or state Senate, a criteria should be that you have first served at the local level because that's where the rubber hits the road. You really see the impact of funding decisions and unfunded mandates from the state and federal levels and you learn about finance," he said. "I believe if they had that perspective, leaders probably wouldn't pass the number of unfunded mandates and tax increases because they see what it does to the local people."
Fleming served four terms on the Newton County Board of Commissioners. He was first elected in 1990 and served until 2008. He most recently has served as chairman of the Newton County Republican Party. However, upon qualifying for state Senate, he has resigned that position.
Fleming said he has always harbored the goal to hold elected office at the state level, and when Douglas made the announcement he was vacating his long-held Senate seat, the time just seemed right.
"I have always had the ambition and goal to serve at the state level," Fleming said. "Issues such as taxing, spending, transportation and education are very dear to me. The opportunity came up when Mr. Douglas decided to run for PSC. I felt it was the prime time to enter the race."
Fleming said if elected, he will work to not raise taxes and focus his attention on trimming fat in every area of government.
"That's why I'm running for state Senate," he said. "I think we need common-sense conservative people in office serving in Atlanta."
And while he is confident there are areas in the state budget that can be reduced, he said he refuses to make cuts to essential services, such as public safety and teachers.
"I have never lost my conservative values, and I won't go to Atlanta and lose them either. I won't be part of the yes team, won't be part of the good ol' boys. I will be there to represent the people," Fleming said.
Fleming said his focus in the Senate will be on serving the people -- not ingratiating himself to what he calls the "Gold Dome crowd." He said that too often elected officials focus on what is happening in the Capitol and not what is happening in their districts.
"I love serving the people in Newton County and in the state of Georgia," he said. "I will make one commitment right now. If and when I'm elected here and another position comes open, I can tell you today that this is where I'll be. I will not be jumping from one office to the next."
Bottom line for Fleming: "I'm consistent, I'm conservative, I don't move away from it and I don't seesaw. When I commit, I commit."
Fleming lives in Oxford with his wife, Delia. They have three sons and one grandson. Fleming has been employed with the Gwinnett County Department of Transportation for the past 10 years and holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Georgia.
The winner of the Republican primary for Senate District 17 will face the victor of the Democratic primary. As of Thursday, Covington resident Nicholas P. Day and Jim Nichols of Stockbridge qualified as Democratic candidates for the seat.