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House candidates focus attacks at state Rep. Cox

DULUTH -- As the only candidate in the U.S. House District 7 race with a political record, state Rep. Clay Cox was the target of political jabs during a debate Saturday before more than 300 people.

With five other people on the stage at a FreedomWorks forum at the Gwinnett Center, the sparks flew between Cox and former Gwinnett GOP Chairman Chuck Efstration, who took issue with Cox co-sponsoring a House resolution asking for a "federal earmark" for a Georgia rail project and budget votes that Efstration said called for a tax increase.

During questions on tax reform and ethics and even immigration, Efstration brought up Cox's record, which the Lilburn man defended as asking for money for a good project, not an earmark. Cox also pointed out that he voted against a controversial hospital bed fee twice and that the budgets he has approved have been balanced and shrinking.

As far as questions on immigration, federal czars and tax reform, there was little dissent.

"We agree on things," said Rob Woodall, the former chief of staff of long-time incumbent John Linder who is seeking to replace him in Washington. "America needs us to choose someone special from this district."

In a straw poll after the debate, Cox lead the voting with 68, followed by Jody Hice's 43, Efstration at 34, Woodall at 29, Tom Kirby with 20 votes and Jef Fincher with 11.