By Joel Hall
Seeking to offset some of the Democratic Party's gains in the 2008 election, six Republican candidates in the 13th Congressional District have stepped forward to challenge incumbent congressman, U.S. Rep. David Scott. All six are expected to share their platforms and field questions Monday during a Republican candidate forum in Clayton County.
The forum will take place Monday, June 7, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Comfort Suites Atlanta Airport, located at 5087 Clark Howell Highway. The six candidates scheduled to debate are: Mike Crane, Hank Dudek, Chip Flanegan, Deborah Honeycutt, Dave Orr, and Rupert Parchment.
Allie Gelineau, chairman of the 13th District Republican Party, said the moderators of the forum will be Virginia Galloway, Georgia director of Americans for Prosperity, and Jim Jess, a member of the board of directors for the Georgia Tea Party. She said the candidates will give short presentations, take questions from the moderators, and with time permitting, take questions from the audience.
"It's a big deal for us," Gelineau said. "I don't think we've had this many candidates in this race ever."
With the exception of Honeycutt, who ran against Scott in 2006 and 2008, all of the candidates are making their first run for political office.
* Mike Crane, 47, of Newnan, is a general contractor and owner of Harvest Construction, Inc. A Georgia Institute of Technology graduate and resident of the state for 30 years, Crane said he wants to do something about the "stimulus spending and unreasonable amount of debt" he believes is crippling businesses and burdening "future generations of Americans.
"I think Congress is where most of the problems we face are poured out on Americans," he said. "They have really overstepped their bounds and are interfering with the way the states should govern our lives at a more local level. There are four more months in the fiscal year ... Congress is still operating without a budget for fiscal year 2010. It's confidence that drives the American economy, not stimulus spending. If we can get up there and spend in a fiscally responsible way ... it will instill confidence in the financial markets."
* Hank Dudek, 41, of Smyrna, is regional account manager for a background screening company. Dudek said Scott has not faced adequate Republican opposition during his four terms in office, and he believes he can provide the leadership necessary to beat Scott in November. "At the last two elections, we lost by 38 points," Dudek said. "I think we need a conservative voice and somebody who can speak to all people. I don't think we have that right now with the other candidates."
Dudek said he is a staunch supporter of the Fair Tax, as well as school vouchers and charter school alternatives to public schools. He added that he is a proponent of a border fence on the country's southern and northern borders, and is against immigration reform in the form of amnesty for illegal immigrants.
* Chip Flanegan, 52, of Stockbridge, has owned Jonesboro Rental since 1980. The small business owner said he has been a "crisis budgeter" since 1988, when a fire in an adjacent building burned his business to the ground. Flanegan, who says he rebuilt his business through sacrifice, said he will take those same life-lessons to Congress. "It was not fun, but we made it," he said. "We have to live on less than we make as a country and as individuals. The borrower is a slave to the lender, and we can't keep borrowing. The only way we can stop this is to send people up there who live on less money than they make."
Flanegan said Congress is to blame for the sub-prime mortgage market, due to lenders being encouraged by members of Congress to give loans to low-income individuals. He said he would attempt to end what he calls a cycle of "predatory lending."
* For Deborah Honeycutt, 62, a Fayette County resident and medical director of Clayton State University Health Services, this year will mark her third campaign against Scott. Honeycutt, who has, at times, been Scott's only Republican adversary, believes her "tenacity" and "trail blazing" has encouraged others to run. "Country-wide, people are saying this is a good year for conservatives," she said. "I've basically stood up by myself and alerted people that we can do this ... we can get good representation here. I want to bring some ethical representation that is responsive to the citizens and reflects their views. They can count on me to cast votes that are consistent with what their values and beliefs are."
Honeycutt said she would use her experience in the medical field to address health-care reform. She said she would work to address health-care choice, cost containment, and tort reform. "The [health-care] bill we have right now doesn't address the main problems, and creates more problems. Some people only have catastrophic health care needs and are willing to pay out of pocket. People should be able to make those kind of choices for themselves."
* Dave Orr, 40, of Smyrna, is a food and restaurant business manager, who owns and operates restaurants in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Orr said he believes Scott has been "unresponsive" to residents and small business owners. "Last summer, during a health-care debate in Douglasville ... a physician at the end of the session asked him [Scott] a legitimate health-care question, and he gets berated by his representative," Orr said. "That is mind-boggling. I think all of our lives would be enhanced economically and in every other way, if the government got out of our lives."
Orr said his career as a business owner has given him experience in dealing with governments at the local, state, and federal level. He said that, if elected, he would be "a champion of the Fair Tax," as well as simplying tax rules for small businesses. "By eliminating the IRS and income taxes, you would treat all of America as a safe haven for investment," he said.
* Rupert Parchment, 39, is an Atlanta resident and owner of Decor Moving Services. A former database engineer and the son of Jamaican immigrants, he said the district needs representation that will fight for small businesses. "Over the last year, nothing has been done to help small businesses that employ 80 percent of America," he said. "To me, that is a battle cry to say, 'We need to do something now.' Even if this jobless rate is going down, if all of our small businesses are gone, that isn't helping anyone. I think I share the idea of many Americans, in that we need to remove the incumbents and restore Congress to small business-minded individuals, who will think about our country and our prosperity."
Parchment said that, if elected, his biggest priorities would be addressing jobs, education, transportation, and taxation. He said he would work to cut down on overspending in the health-care reform bill, and promote term-limits on members of Congress. "What I bring to the table," he said, "is something we've lacked for years -- a listening ear."
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