COVINGTON -- Austin Scott, the Republican candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in his re-election bid for the 8th Congressional District, spoke to members of the Newton County Republican Party on Monday.
Scott secured 52.4 percent of the vote in the Republican primary July 20, beating his two opponents and avoiding a runoff.
Scott is a newcomer to national politics but has represented his hometown of Tifton in the state House of Representatives for 14 years. Throughout his speech, he periodically referenced a cameraman from the Marshall camp who Scott said has been following him throughout the campaign.
For Scott, the biggest issues for this upcoming election are the economy and instating open debate in Congress.
"We need to be able to debate and let the public decide what should and should not be in bills before they are voted on," he said. "That, ladies and gentlemen, is what this election is about."
Scott's primary concern is the federal budget that is nearing $14 trillion in debt and the critical need to spur growth in the private sector.
"The greatest threat we have is the unbalanced budget," he said.
Scott, who operates an independent insurance brokerage company, said he sees the effect of the economy from the front lines.
"My clients' small businesses are getting smaller, which means my small business is getting smaller," he said.
Scott became emotional when he described what he believes will be the effect of increased tax rates on family farms -- an industry that is part of Scott's heritage.
"Agriculture is the No. 1 job creator in this state, and if they start taxing farms at 55 percent on all its assets ... they want to destroy Georgia's economy. They will kill us in the name of equalization," he said. "It will bankrupt us all if we give them two more years."
No single solution will be the fix-all, Scott said, but a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget would be a critical step forward, a measure he promised to co-sponsor and support if elected.
He said private industry is crucial to the overall economy and said every public sector job requires several private sector jobs to pay for it.
Scott said he was not a proponent of the FairTax, which would eliminate the income tax and replace it with a flat sales tax, although he was in favor of simplifying the tax code and reducing taxes on businesses and individuals.
Scott agreed with an audience member who said tax cuts bring in more revenue. "Higher tax rates don't mean more revenue," he said.
After Scott spoke, former state Sen. John Douglas of Social Circle addressed the crowd. Douglas is facing an Aug. 10 runoff with Tim Echols of Athens in his bid for Public Service Commission District 2.
He said that in addition to regulating utilities, such as the Atlanta Gas Light pipeline, Georgia Power and small independent phone companies, the PSC licenses wrecker services, household moving companies, limousine services and charter bus services.
Douglas said those transportation companies are private industries that could survive fine in the marketplace.
"We need to cut that stuff loose," he said.
Douglas then outlined the five planks of his Rate Payer Pledge that he will push if elected.
The first would be to simplify utility bills and cell phone bills so they are easy to read and understand; the second would be to ensure that those who are on the state Do Not Call list don't get called -- "How simple is that?" Douglas asked rhetorically -- the third plank is to protect the elderly from telecommunications scammers. His fourth plank received the most enthusiastic response: "When you call the PSC, you won't be asked to punch '1' for English." Douglas said he would push to make sure that when the public calls the PSC he or she is greeted by a live person, not a recorded message.
And fifth, Douglas said he wants to make sure that every dollar spent by the PSC is "spent frugally or sent home to you."