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Battle: Chambliss critical of Martin as election nears

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of political profiles of the two men seeking to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. The next will focus on Jim Martin.

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

The Republican U.S. Senator seeking re-election in Georgia said the differences between him and his opponent, come down to their views on taxes, terrorism and the economy.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss is seeking to turn back a challenge from Democrat Jim Martin.

Chambliss, who lives in Moultrie, Ga., is finishing his first sixth-year term as a senator. Prior to being elected, he served in the 8th Congressional District, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Chambliss said he is proud of the work he and his colleagues in Congress have accomplished, but noted there is more work to be done.

"The job isn't finished," said Chambliss, 64. "We've worked hard to keep taxes low, and fight the war on terrorism. Now, we're working hard to reduce gas prices, and [address] issues that affect the economy."

The incumbent senator said Martin, an attorney and former Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor in Georgia, is "an advocate for higher taxes." That outlook, Chambliss noted, is the wrong approach to take in the current financial climate of the country.

"When we have an economic crisis, the answer is not raising taxes," he said. "We need to take action to calm the markets down, and enact policies that would create jobs."

Chambliss also said he supports offshore oil drilling, a concept which, he said, Martin opposes. The incumbent said more research should be done to advance the development of alternatively-powered vehicles, to further reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil.

Another topic on which Chambliss is building his platform for the November election, centers on the war in Iraq. Chambliss, a former chairman of the Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said the group has played an essential role in preventing terrorist attacks.

He also took Martin to task for his views on the current level of U.S. military presence in the Middle East.

"My opponent calls for a pull out [of U.S. troops] from Iraq," said Chambliss. "I think a pull out needs to be determined by military leaders, not by members of Congress."

The senator also cited one of his and Martin's other contrasting views. On health care, Chambliss said he supports "public-private partnerships," and said Martin has indicated support for universal health care.

"I don't think government should be able to decide which doctor people go to," said Chambliss.

The senator, who has been married for 41 years to his wife, Julianne, has two children and two grandchildren. Chambliss is currently visiting areas of the state as part of a campaign to retain his senate seat.

At the same time, he noted, he is keeping a close eye on the race for president, between Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.

"We're working hard to help elect Sen. John McCain," said Chambliss. "He's a seasoned politician. That's what we need from a domestic standpoint, as well as a foreign-policy standpoint - someone who's prepared to make the right kind of decisions."