Much at stake in District 22 Senate race

On Tuesday, Augusta voters will decide which of four candidates will replace Ed Tarver as state senator for District 22, or at least pare the list down to two for a Feb. 2 runoff.

Mr. Tarver was appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia by President Obama, and after his Senate confirmation Nov. 5, Gov. Sonny Perdue called a special election so the district might have a senator when the General Assembly session begins Jan. 11.

Whoever wins will serve out the last year of Mr. Tarver's term and be up for re-election in a July primary and/or a November general election.

On the ballot are Augusta's former House District 122 representative, Augusta's former solicitor general, a doctor of music education and a Libertarian.

Given the distractions of the holiday season and the fact that Augusta voters just went through an election and runoff for three Augusta Commission seats, pundits are predicting low turnout Tuesday. Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey forecasts 10 percent to 20 percent, likely on the lower end.

Still, much is at stake in the race to decide who will be one of the two senators in the seven-member Augusta legislative delegation. It will be a freshman in a minority party regardless, and he or she will be charged with defending Augusta appropriations as budget cuts are fought over in Atlanta. The delegation also will likely handle the "home rule" issue of a Municipal Option Sales Tax that would raise the city's sales tax to 8 cents per dollar to offset property taxes.

To help voters compare the four candidates, The Augusta Chronicle posed questions about these and other issues in writing, and candidates returned their answers via e-mail within a few days.

The responses from Democrats Hardie Davis, Harold V. Jones II and Sandra Suetta Cannon Scott and Libertarian Taylor Bryant are below. Some were edited for clarity and brevity.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

State Senate District 22 candidates on the issues

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Taylor Bryant

Libertarian

If elected, what are the key things you wish to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session?

I will be the voice of lowering taxes, cutting spending and getting legislation passed to increase personal freedom and political equality, such as the repeal or adjustment of the Jim Crow-era ballot access laws.

You would be a freshman senator in a minority party. How would you overcome this challenge to accomplish these goals?

I share many of the Republicans' views on fiscal policy, so I have something in common with the majority, yet I feel Democrats will warm to my social policies. I have to work across the aisle, because I am going to be the only Libertarian in Atlanta.

As the state budget continues to be slashed next year, what would you do to protect the city's interests?

We must focus on vital services, such as infrastructure and our medical center. We must, as a city, figure out ways to save money and reduce spending. Much of this could be handled on a local level if they will take the responsibility to do so. Raising taxes should not be an option.

Should metro Atlanta be prevented from tapping into water supplies from other areas of the state, and if so, how would you work to protect the Savannah River?

Atlanta not having the public works infrastructure should be no worry to Augustans. We have worked hard and spent a mountain of money to make sure we have enough water. Sorry, Atlanta, hands off!

Would you support legislation allowing Augusta voters to decide whether the city should have a Municipal Option Sales Tax, or MOST, raising the sales tax to 8 cents per dollar? Why or why not?

I would only allow a vote on this if it were held at the same time as the general election. These elections held in the middle of summer are designed for low turnout of special interests and cost Richmond County the equal of two teacher salaries. I don't feel that is fair.

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Hardie Davis

Democrat

If elected, what are the key things you wish to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session?

I would focus on moving the vocational and technical high school forward with the Richmond County school board. This school would allow us to put skills in students' hands that would give them hope, opportunities for good jobs and a way to close the achievement gap in our schools.

You would be a freshman senator in a minority party. How would you overcome this challenge to accomplish these goals?

I was a well-respected member of the General Assembly for three years. Therefore, I would not face the same challenges other candidates might experience. I served in the minority party, and it did not prohibit me from securing key committee assignments and bringing money back home to Augusta.

As the state budget continues to be slashed next year, what would you do to protect the city's interests?

I would work with the local legislative delegation to establish priorities of immediate need in the community for education, public safety, transportation and health care. Protecting the city's interest during this legislative session will require solid relationships and influence. Those are intangibles that I would bring to the role of senator if elected.

Should metro Atlanta be prevented from tapping into water supplies from other areas of the state, and if so, how would you work to protect the Savannah River?

Metro Atlanta should be prevented from tapping into water supplies from other areas of the state. A state water management plan was adopted in 2008. As a member of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee, I worked to make sure that interbasin transfer of water resources would not occur.

Would you support legislation allowing Augusta voters to decide whether the city should have a Municipal Option Sales Tax, or MOST, raising the sales tax to 8 cents per dollar? Why or why not?

I would support legislation allowing voters to decide on MOST. Communities like Augusta are looking for ways to replace revenue without raising property taxes. I would also consider placing a circuit breaker in the legislation so if the General Assembly passed a transportation sales tax proposal, local governments could opt out.

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Harold V. Jones II

Democrat

If elected, what are the key things you wish to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session?

We need to prevent further cuts to education. We can use stimulus funds to close the budget shortfall. Second, we need to continue the conversation started by the Republican leadership on the effectiveness of across-the-board tax credits. Third, the delegation needs to increase our visibility on statewide issues.

You would be a freshman senator in a minority party. How would you overcome this challenge to accomplish these goals?

I am a member of a delegation team. The delegation will coordinate our efforts to influence state policy. As an attorney, I have an ability to negotiate with persons that have opposing viewpoints. As a former prosecutor, I have a natural rapport with Republicans who tend to be more pro-law enforcement.

As the state budget continues to be slashed next year, what would you do to protect the city's interests?

The delegation must develop an action plan to protect Augusta's interests. The day after the election, we should have an open meeting to discuss how we will best serve Augusta's needs during the budget crisis. We need to prioritize our needs and develop a plan to accomplish our goals.

Should metro Atlanta be prevented from tapping into water supplies from other areas of the state, and if so, how would you work to protect the Savannah River?

Atlanta should not be allowed to tap into the Savannah River. We must form a working group with other delegations that depend on the river. The water policy study will not prevent interbasin transfers. We need a proactive plan (that includes conservation for Atlanta) to ensure the Savannah River is protected.

Would you support legislation allowing Augusta voters to decide whether the city should have a Municipal Option Sales Tax, or MOST, raising the sales tax to 8 cents per dollar? Why or why not?

The voters should have an opportunity to decide whether they are in favor of a MOST tax. The county may have to furlough workers. We are not in favor of increasing property taxes. The MOST tax, along with targeted budget cuts, is the best way to close our budget shortfall.

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Sandra Suetta Cannon Scott

Democrat

If elected, what are the key things you wish to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session?

1) Find jobs for unemployed and underemployed District 22ers. 2) Find ways to support entrepreneurial opportunities for District 22ers. 3) Ensure that District 22ers receive a fair share of available funds. 4) Listen, observe, learn, analyze and strategize with our delegation so that District 22ers' best interests are protected.

You would be a freshman senator in a minority party. How would you overcome this challenge to accomplish these goals?

Being a freshman senator in a minority party is not a challenge, but an opportunity to stretch one's self to accomplish great works. Knowing who I am and whose I am levels the playing field and equips me with the skills set and mentality to negotiate for District 22ers.

As the state budget continues to be slashed next year, what would you do to protect the city's interests?

As the state budget continues to be slashed, I would make certain that cuts were not disproportionate to District 22ers. As Georgia's second-largest metropolitan area, District 22 should receive budgeted funds that correspond to its size. I'll always follow the money in order to protect District 22ers' interests.

Should metro Atlanta be prevented from tapping into water supplies from other areas of the state, and if so, how would you work to protect the Savannah River?

Yes, metro Atlanta must be prevented from tapping into water supplies from other areas of Georgia generally, and from the CSRA specifically. I would craft a strategy, in conjunction with our delegation, so that we would be on the same sheet of music as we collectively protect District 22's precious resource.

Would you support legislation allowing Augusta voters to decide whether the city should have a Municipal Option Sales Tax, or MOST, raising the sales tax to 8 cents per dollar? Why or why not?

Yes, I would support legislation allowing Augusta voters to decide this matter because such an important change should have direct input via the individual voices of voters. Constituents are more likely to support the outcome if their voices have been directly heard at the polls.

Taylor Bryant

PARTY: Libertarian
AGE: 30
FAMILY: Wife, Amanda; stepsons, Cameron, 13, and Blake, 11
EDUCATION: Diploma from Aiken High School, class of 1997; associate's degree in auto technology from Aiken Technical College
CAREER: European car technician for Gerald Jones Volkswagen Audi in Martinez
LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE: President of Pine Hill Middle School Parent-Teacher Association; public relations director for the Libertarian Party of the CSRA
PLATFORM POINTS: Lower taxes; seeking new industries to reduce unemployment and expand economic opportunities; standing up for individual rights; pushing for more awareness of states' rights and 10th Amendment issues; protecting rights to bear arms; repealing laws restricting Sunday alcohol sales; cutting wasteful spending; streamlining government; selling unused state property
WEB SITE: www.bryantforaugusta.com

Hardie Davis

PARTY: Democrat
AGE: 41
FAMILY: Wife, Evett; son, Benjamin, 8
EDUCATION: Diploma from Hephzibah High School, class of 1987; bachelor of electrical engineering from Georgia Tech; doctorate in ministry from Christian Life School of Theology, Columbus, Ga.
CAREER: Pastor of Abundant Life Worship Center on Mike Padgett Highway
LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE: State representative for House District 122 2007-09; House minority assistant whip; trustee of the University Health Care Foundation; member of board of directors for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce; member of board of trustees for Leadership Georgia; former member of the Augusta Board of Zoning Appeals; former member of Leadership Augusta board of directors; former member of Child Enrichment board of directors
PLATFORM POINTS: Expanding Peachcare and Medicare eligibility for those hit by the financial crisis; providing universal access to health care for children; providing prescription drugs at lower prices, especially for the elderly; restoring cuts to education; providing classroom and technology resources; providing career and technical education classes for middle school pupils; establishing a vocational and technical education high school in Augusta; promoting growth and commercial development, with an emphasis on blighted and underused areas
WEB SITE: www.hardiedavis.com

Harold V. Jones II

PARTY: Democrat
AGE: 40
FAMILY: Wife, Kimberly
EDUCATION: Diploma from Glenn Hills High School, class of 1987; bachelor of arts in political science from South Carolina State University, Orangeburg; juris doctorate from North Carolina Central University Law School, Durham
CAREER: Partner at Shepard, Plunkett, Hamilton & Boudreaux law firm; adjunct professor at Paine College, Voorhees College, Georgia Military College and the University of Phoenix
LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE: Augusta solicitor general 2005-09; former chairman of the Richmond-Burke Youth Council; former president of the Greater Augusta Arts Council; former member of board of directors for Leadership Augusta
PLATFORM POINTS: Fully funding education; increasing teacher pay; putting a moratorium on tax exemptions for corporations; reforming the criminal justice system, including decriminalizing traffic offenses; improving small-business development; protecting water resources; improving the local job base through business development; stressing the importance of minority participation in the state and city's economic development
WEB SITE: www.haroldvjones.com

Sandra Suetta Cannon Scott

PARTY: Democrat
AGE: 56
FAMILY: Foster daughter Chenese Williams, 34, of Raleigh, N.C.; foster sons Tyson Williams, 33, of Washington, D.C., and Tyler Williams, 32, of Durham, N.C.
EDUCATION: Diploma from McCall Senior High School, Tallulah, La., class of 1971; bachelor of music education, Jackson (Miss.) State University; master of music, University of Michigan; doctorate in music education, University of Southern Mississippi; graduate of Harvard University's Institute for Educational Management
CAREER: Former music teacher at Laney High School; adjunct music professor at Aiken Technical College; president and CEO of Scott Consulting, a grant-writing service
LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE: Minister of music at Transformation United Methodist Church on Tobacco Road; former campaign director for Paine College's United Way and United Negro College Fund drives; former Augusta Ballet board member
PLATFORM POINTS: Economic security; focusing on issues of women and children, such as teen pregnancy, domestic violence, rape, homelessness, HIV/AIDS and poverty; access to and resources for military families and veterans, as well as for the disabled, seniors, adults, youth and infants; universal health care -- bringing attention to health care needs of the uninsured, underinsured and underserved insured; access to quality education from pre-K to higher education and beyond; access to technology to close the digital divide; environmental protection of all resources -- water, soil, air and wildlife; reducing the recidivism rate in the adult and juvenile corrections systems