COVINGTON — In the race for the open District 112 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, Ester Fleming says he’s the most credible candidate, thanks to his many years of experience in both the public and private sectors.
“Bottom line – I am the true proven conservative in this race,” said Fleming, who served on the Newton County Board of Commissioners for some 13 years. “I have a record and I’m happy to stand on my record. As a county commissioner, I worked to reduce taxes. I won’t back off my experience as a county commissioner and I’ll use those same conservative principles and ideals I had then to help small businesses.”
Fleming is one of three Republicans seeking to succeed former State Rep. Doug Holt, who announced late last year that he wouldn’t pursue a sixth term in the Legislature. A lifelong Newton County resident, Fleming is opposed by Aaron Brooks and Dave Belton, and the winner of the May 20 Republican Primary will move on to November’s General Election.
In addition to his tenure as a county commissioner, Fleming has owned and operated two small businesses and was in management for several Fortune 500 companies. He’s got a host of issues he’s focused on, but helping small businesses is high on the list.
“At the state level, I’ll use my past business experience to help grow our economy and attract jobs by passing conservative reforms to lower taxes,” said Fleming, who owns and operates a real estate and investment business with his wife Delia. “In this district, agriculture is the No. 1 industry and nobody’s talking about it. We’ve got protect our agriculture by getting government out of the way. There’s so much red tape.
“I can remember all the unnecessary regulations that just make it hard for the small business person. Small business is the backbone of our economy and our small business people should be allowed to do what they do best, which is run their business.”
Fleming suggested the state could develop a “one-stop shop” to streamline the hoops small business must jump through.
“I’ve had a thought that I’d like to see the state create a one-stop shop for small businesses, where they can go and get information on the various taxes,” Fleming said. “A lot of people in small business are good at their trade, but they don’t know what all is involved. I’d like to see this one-stop shop provide a streamlined education process and make it where people don’t have to go to a dozen places to lawfully operate their businesses.”
As one of the pioneers in the early growth of the Republican Party in Newton County, Fleming remains adamant in his conservative beliefs, supporting the rejection of expanding Medicaid in Georgia and the demolition of Common Core, which seeks to create national standards for schools.
“From Day One, I’ve been adamantly, totally, 100 percent opposed to Common Core,” said Fleming, who has also worked for the Gwinnett County government, primarily in land acquisition, since 1999. “Education decisions should be made at the local level. We don’t need state and federal bureaucrats setting the criteria for our local systems. I don’t think children in Newton County and in this district should have the same curriculum as kids in Nebraska or as kids in Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco. The teachers, administrators and school systems need to make those decisions and we need to get the state and feds out of the way. I’m not an expert in education, but I’ve talked to a lot of people in that field and I know what they want.”
Fleming was first elected to the county commission in 1990 and represented District 2 until 1995, when he mounted an unsuccessful run for commission chair. After running for a state House seat in 1998, he again campaigned for county commissioner and served District 3 from 2000-2008. In 2010, Fleming was thwarted in a run for a state Senate seat.
Saying he wouldn’t have qualified for the District 112 seat — which includes all of Morgan County and a portion of Newton County — if Holt had sought re-election, Fleming assents he’s long held an appetite for the political process and wants to apply his knowledge and experience in the Georgia General Assembly.
“I’m passionate about this,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to serve at the state level. Had Doug decided to run, Doug and I talked in December, I wouldn’t have run. I was not planning to run until Doug decided not to.”
Fleming, who says he’s already knocked on nearly 3,400 doors in the district, adds that many years of running businesses, balancing budgets, making payrolls and making sometimes difficult decisions in county government are the reasons he’s best suited to represent the district.
“I am the qualified choice in this race simply because of my past experience,” he said. “It’s easy for people to get up and say one thing and put out all this political rhetoric, but with me, what you see is what you get. I walk the walk. I’ve got the experience and leadership to prove I’m the right person for the job.”