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Incumbent battles to keep seat in Congress

Photo by Picasa 2.5

Photo by Picasa 2.5

LAWRENCEVILLE -- In the race for Georgia's District 4 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, the only way Liz Carter has been able to square off in debate with Hank Johnson is through animated segments created by Carter's own campaign.

Johnson, the Democratic incumbent, has elected to forego participating in any debates.

"My thought was that I don't want to give my opponent a platform to enhance her own election prospects when the public is not demanding a debate or a forum," said the Lithonia resident, who has represented DeKalb County and parts of Gwinnett and Rockdale in Congress for the past four years. "The only people demanding a forum was the candidate herself and her supporters."

Johnson believes his record of service speaks for itself.

"I don't need to have a forum with (my opponent) in order to make my views known to the public because they're already known," he said. "For that reason I decided that it was politically imprudent to participate in these forums instigated by my opponent."

Carter, an Atlanta entrepreneur, said Johnson's voting record does speak for itself -- in the animated debates, viewable on YouTube.com, which the congressman said he had not seen.

"He has missed more than six debates held by bi-partisan groups," Carter said. "He has refused to have an open, honest, candid discussion with the voters. Since he refuses to show up what I did is ... we used his statements and voting record on issues for an animated debate."

Carter said response has been positive.

"People have appreciated getting the information," she said. "When anyone has questions, 'Are you sure that's (accurate)?' we have sent them his voting record and backed up all of his statements."

For Johnson, who became a YouTube sensation himself earlier this year with comments about the island of Guam potentially tipping over, coming face to face with the voters is what's important.

"Shaking hands and talking to people directly, one on one, I find that type of activity is better," he said. "During my tenure as a congressman we have gone directly to the people with numerous town hall meetings, numerous job fairs. Those are the kinds of things that we do to stay in touch with our citizens and our constituents."

Carter argues that Johnson has, for the most part, ignored some those constituents.

"Hank has done very little in the four years (he's been in office)," she said. "He's done more in the past four months on the campaign trail than in the last four years."

Johnson said each of the three counties he represents are of equal importance.

"I look forward to working with the Gwinnett state and local leaders and also whichever candidate wins the 7th district election, to make sure that Gwinnett County, just like DeKalb and just like Rockdale, are provided for by way of federal funding," he said.

It's more federal funding, more stimulus money, that Johnson believes will spark the lagging economy and create much needed jobs.

"I think on a macro level it's going to take more stimulus money from the federal government that would go into a massive infrastructure improvement program to bring this nation's infrastructure up to par," Johnson said.

A recent appointment to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Johnson said, will allow him to work in a bi-partisan way to facilitate such projects, especially in the Atlanta area, which he called the hub of transportation for the Southeast.

It's precisely this idea -- that more money is needed to boost the struggling economy -- that Carter said is flawed.

"We can't continue to throw money at things and think it's going to solve the problem," she said. "(My opponent) believes in more borrowed money, more stimulus, which is going to bankrupt our country, versus getting rid of the fraud, creating efficiency and cutting wasteful spending.

"I'm really tired of seeing just more of our money and more tax dollars and borrowing to try to solve the problem instead of rolling up our sleeves to do something," she said.

Carter's solution for stimulating the economy revolves around small business development.

"We need to be looking at sustainable job growth," she said. "We have to create a business environment that's friendly. We need to make sure that we are having access to and cutting taxes for our micro and small businesses (that) are going to be the Fortune 500 businesses of tomorrow where our kids will be leaders. We also need to bring jobs back here to the U.S. and close the tax incentives for companies who hire abroad instead of hiring here."

One issue the two candidates do agree upon is illegal immigration, that something must be done to address it.

"We need to make sure that legal immigration is the only option, which means that we secure all of our borders," Carter said, adding Gwinnett County is on the "right track" with 287(g), the fast-track deportation program instated in late 2009. Carter hopes DeKalb will follow Gwinnett and now Rockdale in implementing the program.

Johnson agreed that securing the nation's borders to stem the flow of illegal immigrants should be a top priority.

"It's beyond clear that our national immigration policies are not working, but it's impractical to think we could forcibly deport everyone who is within our borders illegally," he said. "I'm for reform that will secure our borders, protect American jobs and provide a path to legal status for undocumented workers who play by the rules."