About 50 people, including local- and state-level candidates hopeful of victory in summer and fall races, attended the June 21 monthly meeting for the Columbia County Republican Party.
The featured speaker was Bob Irvin; the candidate vying to unseat Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Max Cleland this fall.
Irvin, who lives in Fulton County, must first defeat Saxby Chambliss in the Aug. 20 primary election to see who gets the Republican nod on Election Day, Nov. 5.
Irvin has served in the Georgia Legislature for 15 years.
At the meeting, which was held at Piccadilly Cafeteria on Washington Road, Irvin said he's proud of being a conservative candidate.
"I'm a fiscal candidate," he said - noting that he wants to replace the Internal Revenue Service with a national retail sales tax.
"It's simpler, fairer, less expensive and less complicated."
He also claims that Chambliss has shied away from a debate, prompting Irvin to create posters stating: "Wanted: Public Debate - $1,000 to first group that can make it happen."
Martinez resident Bob Welk attended the meeting with his wife, Vera.
He was impressed with the candidate for Senate.
"He's very approachable," he said. However, Welk was more critical of fellow Republicans U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood and Chambliss.
"Charlie is ineffective. He needs to be replaced with someone who will read the legislation - take a stand and not just go with the crowd."
Augusta Mayor Bob Young relinquished part of his allotted speaking time for, as he described, "the man with the most important (upcoming) election" - Randy Hall, challenger for state Sen. Charles Walker's District 22 Senate seat.
Hall, an attorney, said Walker hasn't done a good job in educational and economic development.
During the forum, a participant suggested Columbia and Richmond counties unite to promote area-wide economic and job development.
In light of the recent resignation of Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce president Jim West, area GOP leaders think the time is right for more focus on the local economy.
Although Irvin was the guest speaker, party Chairman Alvin G. Starks said his group shows no favoritism for candidates.
"We do not pick candidates for the primary - the voters do," he stressed. "We're neutral."
Chambliss has been invited to previous meetings, but has yet to appear, Starks said.
The next party meeting is scheduled for July 27.
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