Originally created 11/04/02

Hopefuls focus on war, economy



Republican Charlie Norwood, campaigning on issues such as the economy, war and terrorism, is facing Democrat Barry Gordon Irwin in a battle for the 9th Congressional District.

Mr. Norwood is serving his fourth term representing the 10th Congressional District, which stretches from Elbert County south to Laurens County, and from Butts County east to the South Carolina border.

Mr. Irwin, a lawyer from Colbert, is running as a "fiscally conservative Penny-Democrat," according to his campaign Web site. The Athens Banner-Herald was unable to schedule an interview with Mr. Irwin.

The new 9th Congressional District comprises 22 counties and parts of four others, spanning much of northeast Georgia, including Columbia County. The district, however, is spliced through the middle, thereby excluding Clarke County, Taliaferro County and part of Oglethorpe County.

Altnough Mr. Norwood noted that health care is one of his favorite topics, he said it has not been much of a campaign issue because of the strain on Congress as it fights terrorism, ponders a U.S.-led attack on Iraq and tends to a sinking economy.

"I'm old enough to tell you the economy doesn't go straight up and straight down," Mr. Norwood said. "We're in a valley and ... I know for a fact we'll come out of the valley."

A supporter of military action against Iraq, Mr. Norwood said the ramifications of not acting now could be devastating.

"I am fearful of attacking Iraq, but I am more fearful of not doing something about Saddam Hussein. What if we do nothing and wait until Saddam Hussein does a dastardly deed that kills millions, and not thousands, of Americans."

Mentioning a desire to lower taxes, Mr. Norwood expressed his desire to see tax relief for Americans who have lost money in the stock market in the past two years.

"People who pay taxes, which is people who are working, those are the people who have lost money, so we need to help those people," he said.

During the campaign, Mr. Irwin has hopped around the 26-county district, plugging his state-based subsidy plan - which takes various programs from the federal level to the state level. Under his plan, Congress would be responsible for only a handful of things, including national defense.

"The state can provide some items better and more tailor-made than the federal government," Mr. Irwin said during a recent public forum in Columbia County.

At that same forum, Mr. Irwin pushed a 16.5 percent national sales tax - enough, he said, to eliminate several federal taxes - and railed against "borrow-and-spend Republicans and tax-and-spend Democrats."

He also talked about the future of Fort Gordon, saying that the federal government's base realignment and closure committee is effective and will make a sound decision on the Army post if it ever comes up. He said many Southern military bases are targeted partly because the federal government poured tax money into such developments.

"Southern states for many years got more than their fair share of federal tax dollars," Mr. Irwin said.

Mr. Irwin acknowledged he was unfamiliar with Savannah River Site's prescribed mission but said he thought it had something to do with manufacturing energy for atomic or nuclear bombs.

"I don't know that we need either one of those," he said.