Candidates for the District 22 state Senate seat answered questions ranging from health care to the future of Regency Mall during a forum tonight, but much of the interest centered on candidate Hardie Davis' defending his record as District 122 state representative from Harold Jones' challenges.
Verbal sparring between the two came during a forum sponsored by the Augusta Branch NAACP at Henry Brigham Center where Democrat candidates Mr. Davis; Mr. Jones, the former Richmond County State Court Solicitor; Dr. Sandra C. Scott, minister of music, professor and entrepreneur; and Libertarian Taylor Bryant were quizzed about their qualifications and political philosophies.
Dr. Scott said she was qualified for the senate because of her lifetime of "servant leadership" and a call from God.
"God is calling me," she said. "You are the leader. Step up."
Mr. Davis said his record of responding to constituent needs and requests set him apart from the other candidates.
"My record shows I know how to get things done," he said. "I have the leadership and integrity."
Mr. Bryant said what Augusta needs is common sense, and lawmakers need to ask who is going to pay for legislative initiatives before committing money to them.
"Who are we going to take the money from to pay for it?" he said. "It's not wise to spend money we don't make."
Mr. Jones said the most important thing in this election to fill the seat of former Sen. Ed Tarver is courage, which he has shown by speaking out against a downtown baseball stadium, rate hikes to Georgia Power and legislation that gave insurance companies $45 million of taxpayers' money.
"That money could have been used for Peach Care," he said. "Instead, it went to insurance companies."
He also said he would work for the decriminalization of traffic offenses and forming allies to work on state water issues.
Mr. Davis said he had helped craft the 2008 statewide water plan and had written a bill against sexual offenders that was hijecked by another lawmaker.
Mr. Jones was critical of legislation he said Mr. Davis supported that gives tax breaks to corporations and rate increases to Georgia Power Co. while the public is continually being told the state is broke. Mr. Jones, meanwhile, when asked whether he could be independent as a lawmaker since he has the support of most Richmond County legislators, said there was no doubt about his independence. He said Reps. Quincy Murphy, Gloria Frazier, Henry Howard and some Augusta commissioners who support him are not special interests but were representatives elected by the people.
Mr. Davis defended his support of Georgia Power, saying new reactors at Plant Vogtle would bring 3,000 jobs to the state. Mr. Jones, however, said Georgia Power was going to build their reactors anyway, and that the rate hike wasn't $1 a year but $1 a month and would increase every year.
At one point toward the end of the forum, moderator Barbara Gordon, publisher of the Metro Courier newspaper, said she thought everyone needed to tone it down a little and asked each to state one plan they'd like to see accomplished.
Mr. Davis said he'd like to see a "broader workforce development initiative." Mr. Bryant said taxes have to be lowered. Mr. Jones said more community colleges to partner with corporations are needed and the city's disparity study should be used to make sure small businesses are part of government construction projects.
When asked whether they thought Augusta's charter should be changed, Mr. Jones said no.
"We should use the system we have," he said. "We should get together and make this system work."
Mr. Bryant said it should either be changed or abstentions should not be allowed.
"It's one thing to have a weak mayor," he said. "It's another to have a powerless mayor."
Mr. Davis said he would not support changing the charter.
"People have got to work together," he said. "You have to have a willingness to work with folks and not compromise your core principles."
Dr. Scott said it was just "infrastructure.
"It doesn't matter what system you use," she said. "Our position in this job would be to work with the people. You have to listen to the people out on the corner."