Republican Senate primary sees new vs. old

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Two experienced state legislators are each facing opposition from two other candidates in the Republican primary for state Senate.

In the race for Senate District 9, which includes parts of central, eastern and southern Gwinnett, incumbent Sen. Don Balfour has been challenged by a former city councilman and a political newcomer.

In the race for Senate District 40, which is primarily located in DeKalb County but includes the Peachtree Corners area of Gwinnett, a legislator with 12 years of experience in the Georgia House of Representatives and two political newcomers are hoping to succeed retiring Sen. Dan Weber.

Senate District 9

Balfour, a Snellville resident, said he has a record of helping Gwinnett County in a lot of ways.

He's a staunch supporter of Georgia Gwinnett College, which he calls "an unbelievable success story." (His son, Trey, who recently returned from Afghanistan with the 48th Brigade of the Georgia Army National Guard, is a student at the new state college.) He said he also helped Gwinnett Medical Center in its quest to provide open-heart surgery.

"I've got the trust and respect of the Senate and House members. They can trust me, and they do trust me," Balfour said. "When I bring a bill to the floor, they know it will be good not only for Gwinnett County but for the state."

Balfour said his priorities for the upcoming legislative session include cracking down on illegal immigration -- he wants to pass an Arizona-type law and ensure illegal immigrants are not enrolled in the university system -- and cutting the budget some more.

Joe Anderson, who served on the Snellville City Council, said he felt called to run for the seat.

"I think that everyone should be challenged, and the incumbent hadn't been challenged in 18 years in the Republican primary," he said.

Anderson said one of his top priorities would be to enact some ethics reform. For example, he said he thinks state legislators should be subject to the Georgia Open Records Act, which governs which government records are to be open for public inspection. He also said there needs to be a cap on lobby gifts.

Anderson said he also thinks it's important to start a point-of-sale tax collection system that will ensure the state can collect the sales tax that is paid for by residents.

Illegal immigration is another important issue, he said. He wants to work to make sure all businesses are verifying the documentation of their workers.

Travis Bowden, who is new to the political scene, said he's the first Lilburn resident to run for the state Senate seat.

"I have dedication to areas that have not had Senate representation," he said.

Bowden said he decided to run because he felt like eastern Gwinnett County is in a bit of a slump, and he wants to bring jobs back to the area. He said he wants to work with Community Improvement Districts and business leaders to economically revitalize U.S. Highway 78, especially near the Gwinnett-DeKalb border, and focus on deregulating small businesses to help the enterprises flourish and to attract more firms to the area.

If elected, Bowden said one of his first votes will be to override Gov. Sonny Perdue's veto against sunset laws and zero-based budgeting.

"I'm dedicated to finding a way to turn things around," he said. "... I not only will be dedicated toward the district, but accessible."

The winner of the primary election -- or an Aug. 10 runoff if no one receives the majority of the votes -- will face Democrat Rashid Malik in the Nov. 2 general election.

Senate District 40

Fran Millar, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 12 years, said he has a history of performance and achievement that makes him more qualified than the other two candidates in the primary election.

"I felt it was important we had experience going into this race," he said. "I've been able to reach across party lines and accomplish things. I understand the issues."

As a state representative, Millar served as the vice chair of the education committee, and he also served on the rules, health and human services, economic development, and special small business development committees.

Millar said he worked with Weber to create the city of Dunwoody. He said he'll work toward the same for Peachtree Corners, if the voters are interested in pursuing incorporation.

He urged voters to "get past the campaign rhetoric ... and look at what people have done over the years and what they've actually accomplished over the years."

The other two candidates -- Jim Duffie and James Sibold -- could not be reached for comment, but their websites outline their priorities.

In a letter posted on his website, Duffie, a real estate broker from Atlanta, said he will "work intelligently and diligently to help foster a better business environment in our state, to cut government waste and spending, to cut our taxes, to improve education and to ultimately make Georgia a better place to live, work and raise a family."

On his website, Sibold, an attorney and Dunwoody resident, said he'll work to lower taxes to get the economy moving again, advocate for common sense spending at every level of the government, support education and fight illegal immigration.

The winner of the primary or, if necessary, runoff election will face Norcross resident Eric Christ in the general election.