Republican women's groups host separate political forums

Voters will get at least two opportunities to size up candidates running for various offices in the July primaries over the next few days.

Conservative Republican Women will hold a meet-and-greet today, during its monthly meeting, at the Ted Strickland Center, at 130 Berry St., in Stockbridge –– the old Stockbridge city tag office. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

The Republican Women of Henry County will host a "breakfast" legislative forum on Saturday, from 9 to 11 a.m. The forum will be held at Ryan's Family Steakhouse, 5425 North Henry Boulevard in Stockbridge.

Inviting the candidates to meet voters serves an important function, said Sahar Hekmati, president of Conservative Republican Women. "The purpose of having this forum is to educate and inform citizens for the cause of good government," said Hekmati. The meeting will provide attendees an opportunity to become acquainted with the candidates and learn their platforms, she added.

Candidates scheduled to attend the Conservative Republican Women's meeting today include those vying for the State House District 110 seat, the Georgia District 2 Public Service Commission seat, and the State Senate District 17 post.

House District 110 candidates include: Republicans, Ron Moon, 67, who is a small business owner; Tom R. Nicholson, 63, also a business owner; Lee M. Spahos, 35, who works in the financial services sector, and Andrew "Andy" Welch III, 38, an attorney, and the former chairman of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

Democrat Rudy Cox, 57, of McDonough, an educator, is also running for the seat. No Democratic candidates were invited to the meeting.

Georgia District 2 Public Service Commissioner candidates include: Republicans, B. Joseph "Joey" Brush, 54, of Grovetown, who is a builder-developer; State Sen. John Douglas, 56, of Social Circle, a retired Army officer; Tim Echols, 49, of Athens, an executive with a non-profit organization; and State Rep. Jeff May, 40, of Monroe, a business owner. Democrat Keith Moffett, 38, of Macon, a government affairs employee, is also running.

The candidates for Senate District 17 include: Republicans, Rick Jeffares, 46, of Locust Grove, the former District II Henry County Commissioner, and a business owner; Ester Fleming, Jr., 61, of Oxford, who works for the Gwinnett County Department of Transportation; Todd Hilton, 44, of Covington, a technology director-educator.

A couple of Democrats are also in the race for the Senate District 17 seat. They are Nicholas P. Day, 65, of Covington, who is retired, and Jim Nichols, 29, of Stockbridge, a truck loader and a past chairman of the Henry County Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, The Republican Women of Henry County's legislative breakfast is a way to introduce the candidates to the public, said Eleanor Toppins, vice president of the organization. "It's extremely important, nobody knows these candidates," said Toppins. One of the biggest issues facing voters at the county level, she said, is fiscal responsibility. "We can't have someone come in and start spending and raising taxes for the citizens of Henry County," she added.

Candidates scheduled to attend the forum include those vying for the Henry County Board of Commissioners District II seat. The seat was vacated when Jeffares resigned to run for State Senate District 17. It is temporarily being held by Monroe Roark, but there will be a special election, during the Nov. 2 general elections, to fill the seat. Qualifying for the race will take place from 9 a.m., on June 28, through noon on July 2.

Six candidates have filed declarations of intent to accept campaign contributions to run for that post, including: Robin Earnest, of Stockbridge, Shawn Griffin, of Locust Grove, Tommy Smith, of Hampton, Richard Stanford, of Hampton, Herman Talmadge, III, of Hampton, and Harold "Willie" Walls, of Hampton, according to the Henry County Board of Elections and Registration.

Other Republican candidates scheduled to attend the Saturday breakfast forum are those seeking the Georgia District 2 Public Service Commission seat, the State Senate District 17 post, and the State House District 110 seat.

The Public Service Commission candidates include: B. Joseph "Joey" Brush; John Douglas; Tim Echols; and Jeff May. The candidates for Senate District 17 post include: Rick Jeffares; Ester Fleming, Jr., and Todd Hilton.

As with the other forum, only Republican candidates were invited to attend the legislative breakfast forum.

House District 110 candidates expected to attend include: Ron Moon; Tom R. Nicholson; Lee M. Spahos, and Andrew "Andy" Welch, III.

Christy Marr, legislative chairperson for Conservative Republican Women, emphasized the value of voters making an educated decision at the polls. "It's more important now than ever before," said Marr. "We've gotten away from our constitution. Our government is supposed to be set up with limited powers. The true power belongs to we, the people, and the states."

There are several key issues to be addressed in this election year, added Vicki Temple, president of Republican Women of Henry County. "The most important issues, of course, will be the budget –– county and state –– taxes, and education, which is taking a hit," she said. "My question is, is it taking a hit in the right areas?"

Temple said another concern is the business climate in Henry County. "We have lots of distribution centers, we're almost a trucking center," she added. "What are we going to do to bring other types of business to Henry County?"