Originally created 07/21/02

Hopefuls praise full field



Seven Democrats vying for one congressional seat could signal a divisive party, but most of those seeking the new 12th District post don't see it that way.

"It increases the Democratic (voter) turnout," Chuck Pardue said. Ben Allen said the crowded field "gives people a clearer choice."

At Saturday's Richmond County Democratic Party breakfast, candidates appeared to agree on a variety of issues, including health care, job growth, Social Security and minimum wage increases.

Garney Browning, a retired labor union official, credited the candidates for staging a clean race amid issues of "race-baiting" that plague county politics.

Lowell Greenbaum, the Richmond County party chairman, said the attendance by all invited candidates showed party unity and vitality.

"They (the candidates) know we're a very important component in the state," he said. "We're proud they all came out. It reflects positively for the party."

Robert Finch, a former chief assistant to state Sen. Charles Walker, was critical of the senator's son, candidate Charles "Champ" Walker Jr.

Concerning the full field, Mr. Finch said, "It leaves everything up for grabs and neutralizes the Walkers' money and their power."

The younger Mr. Walker answered him, saying, "We raised our money. They're aiming at me, and I love it."

Mr. Walker said he considers himself the race's front-runner.

Denise Freeman, the only female candidate and a congressional candidate in 1998 and 2000, said the countdown to the Aug. 20 primaries has been positive.

"People will recognize who'll get the job done," she said.

Merwyn Scott said the race is void of " ... the Jerry Springer mentality," and Tony Center, of Savannah, said the candidates are anticipating a runoff.

"Then we'll see what happens," he said.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.