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Incumbent's character questioned in congressional race

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Incumbent David Scott's road to a fourth-consecutive term as the District 13 representative in Congress is not likely to be smooth sailing.

In Scott's bid for re-election, he faces a four-term, former state senator, his Republican rival from the 2006 election, as well as a series of attack ads aimed at bringing his character and integrity into question.

Donzella James, a Democrat and former state senator, and Repbulican Deborah Honeycutt, a family medicine doctor who opposed Scott in the last election, are trying to unseat the veteran Democrat this time around.

Honeycutt, 60, born in Chicago, Ill., has lived in Georgia since 1994. Practicing family medicine since then, she has served as a past medical director of the Good Shepherd Clinic in Morrow, and currently serves as the medical director of Health Services at Clayton State University.

Honeycutt said that in her 2006 run for Congress, she was "a no-name" candidate running against a strong incumbent, but nevertheless, was able to garner 31 percent of the vote. She also received strong financial support form out-of-state conservatives through direct-mail, fund-raising efforts.

Honeycutt believes the experience she gained in 2006 will help her this year. She said she will be able to draw votes from people seeking a representative who spends more time in the district than in Washington, D.C.

"People are concerned that they are not being heard, that their issues are not being addressed ... that their representative is missing," said Honeycutt. "On the other hand, I've had a history of listening to people all over the district."

She said she can "give representation to the 13th District that is responsible to the people of that district, that has integrity, and has presence in the district."

Donzella James, 59, a native Atlantan, has a long history of community activism in the south Fulton area. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, James helped bring an end to landfill dumping in the south Fulton area, around land which now houses the Tom Lowe Shooting Grounds.

For 12 years, she worked for the United States Postal Service and gained influence as a union organizer in both the Atlanta and national chapters of the National Alliance of Postal Federal Employees. In 1993 -- the same year James was elected as a state senator from the 35th district -- her second-born son, Kerry James, was killed by a drunk driver. While serving four terms as senator, James crafted legislation to improve the safety of Georgia roads and to increase the penalties against offenders who repeatedly drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

"I went in as a grieving mother," said James. "That made me focus on the children and finding some solution to make things safer for everybody."

James said she is "disappointed" in Scott and "appalled" at the way he has voted on many issues, such as what she believes are "failed Bush policies," which "keep gas prices high." She is highly concerned about environmental issues, making sure that citizens in the district have affordable health care, and education reform, particularly Bush's "No Child Left Behind" act.

"Right now, the Leave No Child Behind act requires too much testing and not enough teaching," said James. "You may be able to say that all the problems in Clayton County come from the school board, but there is a lot of blame to go around, even at the federal level."

James believes Scott's office is not accessible and wants to create "an open-door policy," in which "people can come on a first-come, first-served basis without an appointment" to speak with her about their concerns.

"I'm a woman of integrity, I'm an honest woman, and I am a person who will do my homework," said James. "I will listen to everyone and I will make sure that everyone gets answers."

Scott, however, refutes claims of being a distant congressman, noting his involvement on the local level. "I go door to door with the people in Clayton County," he said. "If you have any doubt of that, look at the yard signs ... I put those in myself. I knock on their door and I talk to them. That's how I know what they are interested in.

"We're not resting on what we have done," said Scott. "District 13 "has an outstanding congressman ... the record speaks to that."

As a medical professional, Honeycutt said she has advocated for addressing health disparities among minority communities. She has served as both, a past president and past board chair, of the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians. She said she currently serves as co-chair of the Georgia Department of Community Health Minority Health Advisory Council.

Honeycutt characterizes herself as a "solutions oriented" person, who "works with whomever is interested in solving the problem." To quell rising energy prices, she believes the government should "cut funding on wasteful subsidies" and pass the savings to consumers.

Honeycutt described the Clayton County Public Schools accreditation crisis as "a pink elephant," which she believes Scott has not taken enough initiative to address.

"If your congressman made a call, that would be a call that you would take," said Honeycutt. "I would be calling the Secretary of Education ... anybody that in any way could help to affect an efficient, quick solution to the problem, so my county school system would maintain their accreditation."

Scott, originally from Aynor, S.C., has been a recognizable character in Georgia politics since the mid-1970s. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1974 to 1982 and the Georgia Senate from 1983 until his election to Congress in 2002.

Scott is a key member of several Congressional committees, including the Financial Services Committee; the Foreign Affairs Committee; and the Agriculture Committee.

While maintaining an International presence as a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Scott has worked on a local level to combat unemployment, health disparities, and poverty through annual health fairs and job fairs he has hosted for the majority of his time in office.

He said he has also fought to retrieve millions of dollars from the federal government for local transportation projects, such as the commuter rail line from Atlanta to Lovejoy and on to Macon.

"Nobody is more prepared, nobody is more qualified, and nobody has demonstrated the great love and affection I have," for the people of the 13th District, particularly in the Southern Crescent, said Scott. "So much of our standing deals with our relations in the world. What they have in the 13th District is a man who is well-positioned to work on my constituents' behalf in a way that on one else can."

A potential thorn for the Scott campaign, however, is a web site (www.voteoutdavidscott.com) and supplemental campaign materials associated with Democrats for Good Government. The web site, created by Jonesboro-based web developer, David Knox, sites several past articles from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Peach Pundit web site, which paint Scott as a "corrupt" Washington bureaucrat, who has allegedly misused official resources, and is behind on his taxes.

Knox, who also serves as the fonder of Democrats for Good Government, has distributed campaign materials at local forums, accusing Scott of being under federal investigation, funneling $715,330.17 to his family from his campaign, and having a $150,000 tax lien from the Internal Revenue Service.

While Knox said that, "I work for myself," and have no "financial connection" to either the James or Honeycutt campaigns, Knox worked on Honeycutt's 2006 campaign as its web page designer. On the Federal Election Commission web site, Honeycutt's campaign disclosures show a series of payments made to Knox for "web site maintenance," the last of which was made on Feb. 6, 2007.

Honeycutt admitted to having Knox work on her 2006 campaign web site, but said "myself, my campaign staff and my workers have nothing to do with Democrats for Good Government" and that no money has been accepted or given to Knox in her 2008 campaign.

Knox said that he is a registered Democrat, who "would vote for Donzella [James]" in the 2008 election, but the James campaign denied having a connection to Knox. James' campaign manager, Leroy White, said, "I don't know who David Knox is," He said Knox has neither contributed to the campaign nor received payment for services.

Knox said his motivations are personal and he wishes to inform voters about "what is happening in their own backyard." At the bottom of Knox's web site is a message which says: "No Disclaimer Necessary--We only work for the government part-time (ourselves the rest of the time)."

Scott campaign manager, Michael Andel, believes the web site and the material distributed by Knox are "exaggerated" and "thumbs its nose" at the McCain-Feingold Law, which governs campaign disclosures.

"It's a wild exaggeration," said Andel, in reference to accusations that Scott diverted $715,330.17 from his campaign. "Most of those are reimbursements for purchasing media [particularly billboards, mailings and signs during the 2006 campaign]," Andel said. "All of those are disclosed by the FEC. Nothing was done improperly."

In regard to the $150,000 tax lien, Andel said it refers to a small business dispute between the IRS and Dayn-Mark Advertising, a private media consulting firm which Scott founded and served as its CEO until 2002. Andel said those issues have been resolved.

"There was a dispute and they negotiated a much lower amount," said Andel. "The IRS has since worked all of that out." A May 29, 2007 letter addressed to Scott from Cathelene "Tina" Robinson, Clerk of Superior Court of Fulton County, where Scott resides, states:

"From 1998 through May 29, 2007, ten liens were filed in the name David A. Scott. The record shows that all of these liens have been satisfied and canceled of record. There are no open property tax liens in the names David A. Scott or Alfredia Scott on their personal home or other property. From 1998 through May 29, 2007, seventeen state and local tax liens were filed in the name of Dayn-Mark Company. Payment has been tendered for these liens and the releases and satisfactions will become of record in due time."

"If you comment on a blog or something that is free speech," said Andel. "If you create a web site or entity purely to attack somebody or elect somebody, then you have to disclose that. It just seems suspect that [James, Honeycutt, and Knox] are singing from the same hymn book, but not coordinating."