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4th district candidates meet up in forum.

June 24, 2010 18 comments

Well I attended my first candidate forum on Teusday evening at the DeKalb History center. The forum was sponsored by the DeKalb League of Women Voters, and the Champion newspaper. By the time I arrived, they were in the midst of introducing the candidates who were there. In a previous post,  I said Hank Johnson would win this hands down. The forum and other actions since then makes me want to adjust “hands down” to “it is going to be a squeaker”. Johnson still pulls it out, but probably in a runoff. Back to the forum, the following candidates showed up: Victor Amendariz, Liz Carter, Vernon Jones, Cory Ruth and Connie Stokes. Larry Gause and Hank Johnson were no-shows. I must say, it is best to see the candidates in person at least once. You observe t hings about them that you cannot possibly get from a tweet, or a facebook update. My overall take about the forum was that it was civil and light-hearted. no back and forth jabs between candidates, probably becasue the moderator forbade them to do so. The candidate that most impressed me was Cory Ruth. All of his answers to question were to the point. Whether I agree with his answers was not too important to me. After all we know what a Republican believes, and we know what the Democrats believe. For me, last night was a chance to see how the candidate presented themselves, and how they reaceted to their environment. To that point, I had a few qualities I was looking for.

Confidence. Did the candidate seem shaken or sure of their position

Knowledge. Did the candidate have a solid handle on the issues presented to them.

Experience. Not just political, but ability to lead, craft new ideas (Job, business, etc).
Victor Amandariz – He has a great story, son of a successful legal immigrants, successful in his own right, and a straight ” I beleive in the Constitution” guy. His solution to just about every issue raised was less government, more private sector. Though  I agree that government can screw up mightily, I also must recognize that the private sector can muck up stuff as well. His stance on what to do about Section 8 housing was his only highlight for me. He proposed that organizations like Habitat for Humanity should be expanded to provide low-income housing as oppose to the Feds managing a handout. Over all, I was not impressed with Mr. Amendariz. He should consider a run for county commission or  city council. He just ain’t ready for the big stage of Congress.

  • Confidence: He was way sure of his convictions, there were times he was searching for words, but he did a good job overall.
  • Knowledge:  Only because he seems to think that less government solves all problems no matter the issue.
  • Experience:  I cannot recall one time where he referred to an event in his life that would show him as a solid leader.

Liz Carter – Liz was good. she didn’t hit a home run, but she didn’t strike out either. I think she has the best run campaign by far, and she seems at ease and confident talking with folks who were obvious supporters of Stokes and Jones. Though many of here answers were a rehash of the issues on her website, she did provide details at times. On the issue of public transportation, she talked about the need to integrate all of our transport options like rail, bus and other forms so that people on mass transit can move around more quickly and efficiently. She pointed to cities like San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Chicago as examples of cities where mass transit works. One issue where I felt she faltered on was Section 8 housing. The queston was posed by an audience member, who was concerned about the amount of Section 8 housing in the district. I thought this was an excellent question, because, behind foreclosures, Section 8 has been devastating neighborhoods across South DeKalb. Her answer made me feel that she needed an update about Section 8. She gave the typical response about the role of the private sector being better able to handle the issues that come along with Section 8. She followed fellow Republican Amendariz in support for more Habitat for Humanity like projects to help with Section 8 issues. Though her answer to this question was not what I wanted to hear, I still think she will be the Republican candidate, and I also think she will poll well in the general election.

  • Confidence: A, was impressed by her positions on various issues, was not rattled by the vocal Jones and Stokes supporters
  • Knowledge:  Well educated about a myriad of issues. generic response on Section 8 needs revamping.
  • Experience:  Business owner, plus I talked to her Chief of Staff, and she told me they run the campaign like a business. would do the same in Congress probably.

Vernon Jones – I could devote an entire post to Vernon. This was the first time I had seem him in person. His personality is overwhelming, and his ability to stir the crowd and influence those around him were evident last night(after complaining that 60 seconds was not enough to explain a position, the moderator offered the candidates a choice of more time but fewer questions. Vernon in the end stuck with the 60 seconds). He had the most vocal supporters at the forum and there were more than a few people who had their “Vernon Jones for Congress” t-shirts turned inside out. Vernon touted his record as CEO on more than a few occasions. From sidewalks and turn lanes to more open greenspace on both ends of the county, Vernon from the start let the audience know who had the most experience and the most successes in elected office. On the issue of illegal immigratin, Vernon plainly stated that he was against an amnesty program for illegals. he also stated that he supported helping Mexico with it’s economy, and that will help us with our immigration policy. I have heard that before from others, but somehow it gets lost in the conversation. It was refreshing to hear a candidate offer a measure that would truly help with illegal immigration(look to our north if you need any persuasion). Overall, Vernon impressed me. I must confess here that I voted for him both times he ran for CEO. I think he did a respectable job as CEO, though today I wonder if all the projects that he claims as successes are not coming back to haunt the county’s’ finances. He will give Hank a run for his money, and I think he will force Hank into a run-off. That said, the last time Vernon went into a run-off he lost.

  • Confidence: The guy knows what he believes and is not afraid to say it.
  • Knowledge:  He understands a myriad of issues, though I was suprised that he gave a “No Answer” to a questionon about whether he would support and Arizona style immigration bill in Georgia. He admitted to not reading the bill.
  • Experience:  He has the experience to be a congressman, and he has lead a large urban government, something the other candidates cannot claim.

Cory Ruth – As I said earlier, I was most impressed by Mr. Ruth. He explained his positions very well, leaving no doubt as to where he stood. He also made two to three suggestions on how he would handle a particular issue. On Securing our borders he said it was not just about our southern border, he stated that the government was responsible for all of our borders including the northern border, airports and sea-ports. His position was that the focus should be on securing all of our borders, and not focusing all of our attention on just one single issue of Immigration. Of all the candidates, he seemd to be the least political, and seemed to have a genuine desire to solve problems. Though he must know he is fighting and uphill battle, he was as confident as anyone on stage. He never was at a lost for words. I can’t recall a moment where I had to take pause about what he was saying, he was really that good. I think we may hear from him again later on down the road.

  • Confidence:  Really well prepared. Not intimidated in the least.
  • Knowledge:  His quick and concise answers were obvious signs he had studied the issues, and had a solid plan for what he would do.
  • Experience: No mention about past political work, or leadership in organization or business. He did not mention past work that would lead me to belive that leadership has been a primary responsibility.

Connie Stokes – I am finding Connie hard to read. Last night, she showed that she has the knowled and the experience to be a congressperson. She basically reiterated what we already know about her positions. She made a point to mention the work she had done in the state senate, and being a floor leader for former Governor Roy Barnes. She also touts her skills as a county commisoner. On the Section 8 issue, she believes that landlords who own Section 8 property should be held accountable for the upkeep of their properties. On other issues, she towed the line with what would be expected from a Liberal Democrat. She had a sizeable following at the forum, and will definitely siphon votes from Jones and Johnson. She did not hurt herself Tuesady, adn I am sure she will become more visible and more vocal in the next few weeks.

  • Confidence:  Well prepared to explain her positions. Seemed to be searching for words during questions from the audience.
  • Knowledge: Understands issues well, especially those that affect the district directly like unemployment and foreclosures.
  • Experience: Her time in the statehouse, and the county commission, as well as her business leadership makes her a very experienced politician.

Attack of the cloned politicians

May 10, 2010 3 comments

I recently looked at the four republican candidates trying to be the nominee to “yank Hank” from Congress.  I try to do my due diligence as it relates to my elected officials. So there I was with my web browser tabs open for all four candidates. Actually one candidates site was down at the time but I am pretty sure of what he had to say, based on the other three. The three candidates whose sites were up were basically clones of one another when it came down to where they stood on the issues. It was as if they all read the same playbook. All are for the fair tax, which I believe has some merit. Each candidate blasts illegal immigration, and each was very predictable about how they feel about healthcare legislation. They all basically are regurgitating republican talking points that have existed for at least two decades. With that said, how in the world are you supposed to choose a candidate from a group of people who spew the same ideology, with nothing of substance to separate them? Look at these two pieces from two of the campaigns and decide who would do the better job on the issue of immigration:

We have always had immigration. In fact, this legal immigration is and has been an incredible source of prosperity for America. Illegal immigration threatens the foundation of this system. There is no doubt that we need to fix our immigration system, and it must begin by securing the border and fixing the visa and entry process. This should not include amnesty.

The United States has always opened its arms and welcomed those who seek to come to our great country legally. Process and laws have been put in place to protect our borders and our economy, yet at this time those laws are being broken, challenged and there are those who want to grant “amnesty” to those who bypassed those processes and laws.

Immigration made our nation great. The United States has a diverse population with diverse backgrounds and diverse beliefs. However, illegal immigration has eroded Americans’ trust in government, threatened our national security and hurt fellow Americans.

The solution to our nation’s illegal immigration problem must begin with securing our borders. Without secure borders, we cannot begin to have a rational or logical discussion about immigration policy. Technology holds great potential to help in our nation’s security efforts, and I believe we should use every tool at our disposal to ensure our borders are secure.

Securing our borders is just a piece of this complex issue. The issue does not solely rest with the individual; employers have a responsibility in this equation. We must look closely at our current laws and develop an effective visa program and temporary worker program to support legal immigrants who fulfill important roles in our nation’s economy.

Our border must be secured and our immigration laws must to be reviewed, especially during an economic crisis. We the People cannot afford to pay for and support those who do not follow process and who do not pay taxes.

I think this is why people are jaded with politics in this country. The candidates are clones of one another, so you must come up with other reasons when you try to pick a candidate to vote for. I could say I won’t vote for the black guy or the woman, but that would be ignorant on my part. I could check out the debates but those will not be filled with substantive ways of fixing Washington or helping the district, but will become a televised crap throwing contest to see which candidate can make the one-liner that gets the most media coverage, and therefore makes them the de facto front runner. If I sound a bit cynical it’s because I think our political system needs a healthy dose of cynicism from a lot more people. Our election cycles remind me of high school politics many, many years ago. Every year, a kid would promise the masses that they would change the school. Faculty will respect us; the cafeteria will serve better food. There will be free pizza parties before every exam. The masses loved what they heard and voted for the kid with all the popular ideas. Then they realized that he or she couldn’t do much if any of the things promised. In fact, he had become cozy with the faculty and staff and enjoyed the perks of class leader. They no longer needed their fellow students; after all they had their own agenda, an agenda that benefited their friends and associates. Every year this went on until you went off to college and the merry-go-round started all over again. I feel like I am back on that same merry-go-round from a couple of years ago. As I get older I feel less inclined to vote, knowing that the system will continue to head down the wrong road no matter who I vote for. But deep inside of me, I know that if I stop voting there is one more compliant soul that has been beaten and that’s one less voter they have to worry about.