By Valerie Baldowski
A gubernatorial candidate seeking to return to the office he once held, made a stop in McDonough to emphasize the need for more funding for education, and holding the line on property taxes.
Roy Barnes, the leading Democratic candidate in the governor's race, made his remarks Saturday as the guest speaker for the Southern Corridor Breakfast. The breakfast was hosted by the Henry County Democratic Party, and was held at the Henry County Government Annex in McDonough.
In addition to Barnes, the other candidates in the governor's race are Democrats Thurbert Baker, Bill Bolton, Carl Camon, Randal Mangham, DuBose Porter, and David Poythress, while the Republicans are Jeff Chapman, Nathan Deal, Karen Handel, Eric Johnson, Ray McBerry, John Oxendine, and Otis Putnam.
The winner of the primaries on July 20 will face Libertarian candidate John Monds in the November general election.
"The purpose of this breakfast is to make sure .. .the residents of Henry County understand the Democratic Party, get an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates, and overall meet the candidates and get a good feel for who they are," said Sam Valme, president of the Henry County Democratic Party.
Valme stressed the value of being an informed voter. "Even though we have the Internet, and you can get a lot of information from the Internet, however, it's very important to meet the candidates and see how they interact, and how they answer questions in person," he added. "That makes you better understand ... how they would do in office."
Before the meeting, Barnes said education and alternative means of transportation are important issues for him. "I think [we should be] making sure we fund our school systems, so that local property taxes don't increase, and our children have the ability to compete in an international marketplace in the future," he said.
"I think transportation is very important here, this whole Atlanta region. We've done about all that we can do to expand the expressways," he said. "We have to go to an overall system of coordinated transportation systems. That includes passenger rail, and includes mass transit."
Barnes pledged to address those goals in the future. "If I'm elected, I'm going to concentrate on those issues, and make sure that Henry County continues to grow and prosper, because it's a vital part of our economy," he said.
Barnes voiced support for a commuter rail line through the Southern Crescent. To make the Lovejoy passenger rail line a reality, he said, federal funding is needed. "One of the things that we need to do is to draw down our federal money that will allow that line to go first to ... Hampton," he said.
The meeting provided an opportunity for several other candidates to give brief remarks. Some of them included Dawn Randolph and Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), both of whom are running for Senate District 44; Carlotta Harrell, who is running for House Distict 76; Matt Roberts, who is running for House District 109; Jim Nichols and Nicholas P. Day, both candidates for Senate District 17; Ken Hodges, who is running for Attorney General; Gail Davenport, who is running for Senate District 44; Chris McFadden, who is running for the State Court of Appeals; Jackie Anderson-Woods and Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesesoro), both of whom are running for House District 78; and Sen. Gail Buckner (D-Jonesboro), who is running for Secretary of State.
The room was filled to capacity when Barnes took the podium. His supporters lined the walls, as they flowed into the back of the room. His address was punctuated at times with hearty applause and murmurs of agreement.
Barnes said that, after serving as governor previously, he did not expect he would seek another term. "I never expected to be here, standing here, running for office again," he said. He served as governor from 1999, to 2003.
He told his audience that the priorities of current lawmakers are misplaced. "Over the last few years, I have been shocked by what is coming out of the governor's office, and the leadership of our general assembly," said Barnes. "I don't understand what happened down there."
Barnes said earlier in the week, that he visited the State Capitol with a number of local and state leaders. "I told them when we finished, I said, 'Before we leave here, let's search out this entire capitol, and try to find that bottle of crazy pills that they've been taking down here,'" he said. "You know, that bottle of crazy pills that makes them do things like pass bills that worry about microchips in you. And the one that wants to pass bills that say we're going to secede from the union, if we don't like what Congress did."
Barnes expressed concern over how Georgia will be viewed by outsiders. "Tell me how we became a state that is the laughingstock of the nation for what our leaders are doing under that gold dome," he said. "Instead of worrying about education and transportation and solving the water problems of our state, we're worrying about road kill and microchips."
Gov. Sonny Perdue signed Senate Bill 474 into law on June 3. The legislation pertains to possession of wild animals killed by motor vehicles. A section of the bill states "any person may lawfully possess native wildlife, which has been accidentally killed by a motor vehicle."
By not focusing more on funding education, he said, the state legislature is "[shortchanging] a generation of children."
He also voiced his objection to higher property taxes. "You want to know why your property taxes are going up?" he asked. "Because the local school boards have had to raise the property taxes for the failure of the state to support education. They're not tax-cutters, they're tax-raisers ... on the backs of those that can least afford it."