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Candidates talk issues at forum

DULUTH - By the end of the night, the political signs outnumbered the people.

Sugarloaf Parkway was decorated in red, blue and even a hint of green by politicians catering to the Gwinnett crowd during a political forum Wednesday.

Leading Republican candidates for secretary of state and lieutenant governor made the trip to the biggest GOP stronghold in Georgia, but some independents, Democrats and even a Libertarian also trolled for votes.

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the candidates at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, asking questions about ethics, fair elections, business and taxes, even U.S. Rep. John Linder's locally popular FairTax proposal.

While Ralph Reed, a Republican from Duluth, said he attended the rally last month held just yards away, Allen Buckley, a Libertarian opponent in the lieutenant governor's race called the idea a fraud and a sham.

Independent Al Bartell and Democrat Rufus Terrill said they supported a sales tax instead of an income tax but said measures would have to be taken to fill a budgeting gap.

Reed's Republican primary opponent Casey Cagle left before the question session.

All of the candidates talked about education reform to bring school performance up from the bottom of national scores, but Buckley proposed having parents pay to send their children to school.

"This race will set the tone for the future of Georgia," Bartell said.

In the secretary of state's race, Republican Bill Stephens had the GOP to himself since opponent Karen Handel was chairing the Fulton County Commission meeting.

Instead, Handel's husband stepped up to talk about her experience.

Stephens talked about his Senate experience in crafting Georgia's photo ID law and a proposal to create a paper trail to the state's electronic voting system.

Democrats Scott Holcomb and Shyam Reddy also called for an audited paper trail.