Four Republican candidates for statewide office, headlined by former state party chairman Ralph Reed, talked politics and pitched their campaigns over scrambled eggs with the party faithful in Evans Saturday.
Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Ralph Reed greets Everett Greenwood from Martinez at a GOP breakfast at Peppermill Restaurant in Evans on Saturday.
Photo by J. Scott Trubey
The GOP breakfast at Peppermill Restaurant, an event coordinated by the Columbia County Republican Party, attracted about 70 members of the party and concerned voters.
The candidates included two for lieutentant governor, Reed and state Sen. Casey Cagle of Gainesville, and two for agriculture commissioner, state Sen. Brian Kemp of Athens and Gary Black, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council.
"These are the hardworking, grassroots leaders of our party here in Columbia County, and they're critical (to the party)," Reed said of the crowd. "We need to maximize turnout in places like Columbia where we have a strong group of Bush supporters and Republican voters and we need to increase turnout to historic levels."
Candidates were given 10 minutes to speak and take questions from the audience. In general, the candidates stuck to party talking points of tax cuts, small business development and traditional values, and each espoused their expertise and qualifications for the office they seek.
Reed said as lieutenant governor, he would work to solidify the Republican majority in Georgia. He spoke of his belief in strong moral values, his experience operating a small business and his desire to audit state Medicaid rolls, which he said could save taxpayers millions by eliminating ineligible customers such as illegal immigrants.
"I don't believe you can secure the American dream without securing our borders," he said.
Illegal immigration was a topic that came up again during Cagle's questioning.
"I believe in immigration," he said. "I believe all of us and this country were founded on immigration. However, there is a right way and a wrong way. We cannot turn our heads and allow people to come into this state not through proper channels."
He said he helped ensure illegal immigrants could not get driver's licenses and said the state needs to stop encouraging the problem and eliminate government services for those here illegally.
Cagle, an 11-year veteran of the state Senate, also spoke of his experience passing legislation to help generate jobs and his desire to create a zone of biotechnology similar to the Research Triangle in North Carolina.
"We need to be creating opportunities for economic development within our state so people and families can experience the American dream," he said.
Cagle, who touted himself as a fiscal conservative and friend to business, said, if elected, he would continue to make it easier for businesses to operate in Georgia.
The two agriculture commissioner candidates said it was time for longtime commissioner Tommy Irvin to move on.
"I appreciate Tommy Irvin's service to Georgia. He's been in office since I was 6 years old," said Kemp, the owner of a construction company in Athens . "But he's not getting the job done."
Kemp cited Irvin as having no response to threats to agribusiness, an industry that makes up 20 percent of Georgia's economy, he said. As commissioner, he said he would cause Georgia to become a leader in agricultural science and technology.
Black, who grew up in Commerce, Ga., said it's time for the public to have a say in the direction of the agriculture industry.
He said his experience working at the federal level with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is key to getting farmers what they need in the next farm bill scheduled for vote in 2007. He said Georgia isn't taking advantage of its strong agricultural base to push for alternative fuel research and the use of bio-diesel.
Though it was a friendly crowd, Reed said that with the competition he is facing, he cannot get too comfortable.
"There's only one way to run (for office), and that's scared and like you're behind," said the former Bush campaign leader for Georgia.
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