State House Candidates McKillip and Quick Debate Party Allegiance, Again
All the usual suspects surfaced at an Oconee County forum: H.B .954, T-SPLOST and credentials.
Incumbent Rep. Doug McKillip and challenger attorney Regina Quick went head-to-head Tuesday at Oconee Veterans Park, once again debating which candidate for Georgia House District 117 is more conservative.
At Tuesday's forum, organized by citizens Lee Becker and Russ Page, attendees had the chance to ask direct questions of the candidates.
Watch video of the entire forum, including candidate introductions, on Oconee County Observations.
During her opening comments, Quick noted that McKillip served as a Democrat in the Georgia House during his first four years, and compared that to her involvement in local Republican circles.
"I ran against my opponent in 2006 in the general election," Quick said. "He was a Democrat then, and he is not a Republican incumbent in this primary. He won this race as a Democrat."
McKillip said his party switch was due to his becoming a "born again" Christian. He also emphasized his involvement with House Bill 954 — a bill outlawing abortions after 20 weeks in Georgia — as proof of his conservative ideals. Quick's opposition to that bill, he said, is proof of her alleged Democratic leanings.
"My opponent has described that as a very bad law and used all the Democratic talking points against it," McKillip said. "She doesn't like the tax reform bill that we just accomplished as good conservative Republicans and uses all the Democratic talking points against that."
Redistricting was also brought up during the forum, when an audience member asked McKillip if it had been an incentive for him to switch parties. Voters at three precincts in the county -- Athens Academy, Bogart and Malcom Bridge-- now vote in a different district than the other ten.
McKillip said there was no deal connected to the redistricting that led him switch parties. He also said the redistricting was positive.
"I am honored and humbled to run for and ask for the vote from the folks of the Northern third, basically, of Oconee County," he said. "I think it is a benefit to have folks who can go and advocate — two voices if you will, one in one committee and one in the other at the same time advocating for the folks of any particular district. I view it as a positive thing, I look forward to representing the folks of Oconee County and my mom and dad who live here."
Redistricting was good for politicians, but contrary to the wishes of citizens, Quick said.
"It's a bad thing for the people of Oconee County because redistricting needs to be about communities of interest," Quick said. "When Chairman Davis and the commissioners went to the redistricting meetings and asked the redistricting committee for one thing — to keep Oconee County whole — my opponent was secretary of that reapportionment committee. That was an appointment that was made immediately after his switch and he certainly could have had some influence as to how this district was drawn."
Tax Commissioner Race
Tax commissioner candidates Jennifer Riddle and Pamela Hendrix spoke earlier in the evening.
Hendrix said she would probably make few changes to how the Tax Commissioner's Office operates.
"Harriette Browning and her staff, including Jennifer, have a really incredible collection record. They do have a 97 or 98 percent collection rate," she said. "I think there's a good staff in place. I would not make any major changes right away. On the other hand, I think it would be a good idea for me to get in there and look at things. Sometimes you start doing things and you don't realize there could be a better way of doing things."
Riddle said the only major change she might make is to introduce debit or credit cards to the office as a method of payment.
"We are asked every day if we accept debit or credit cards and we currently do not," Riddle said. "That's just something that hasn't ever been pursued. There's a cost associated with that so I would want to look into that. I do know that online renewals for tags is something that is just out there waiting to be opened. That is a change that would occur pretty quickly and that would allow for increased convenience for citizens."
Panel Fields TSPLOST Questions
The forum closed with a panel on TSPLOST, which included McKillip, former Rep. Bob Smith, Rep. Chuck Williams and Sen. Bill Cowsert.
Some audience members expressed concerns about possible repercussions of not passing the TSPLOST. At the present time, Georgia matches local transportation funds by up to 90 percent. Regions who do not pass the T-SPLOST will only be matched by up to 70 percent, Cowsert said.
"It's kind of a carrot-and-stick thing," Cowsert said. "The idea was to encourage you to put your own skin in the game. If your region would pass the tax to accelerate your building projects the state would continue with a very generous 90 percent fund, whereas if you didn't they would reward the people who did put their skin in the game. I think that's a disincentive."
One resident commented that the 70 percent match for regions which did not pass the TSPLOST amounted to blackmail — a statement which was met with much applause by other attendees.
"The state's portion is not a guarantee to begin with," McKillip said. "It could be zero. If the state's budget got tight, it could go to nothing. So saying, well, times are tight we're going to share the pain and the folks locally who don't put in the skin in the game go to 70 those who do go to 90, it's all something over nothing."
For more election coverage, see Elections 2012.