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7 vie in primary for Senate seats

ELECTION CENTRAL

Visit our special election section for complete coverage of the 2012 primaries, HERE.

Contested primary races for the Georgia State Senate in local districts pit seasoned political veterans against energetic newcomers. If there's a common theme among candidates, it's ethics reform under Georgia's Gold Dome, and the general reining in of big government.

Candidates on both sides of the aisle are vying in the July 31 primary for slots in Districts 9, 47 and 55.

District 9 covers a swath of Gwinnett from the Mountain Park area to Lawrenceville and through Dacula. District 55 straddles the Gwinnett-DeKalb line and covers the southernmost pocket of Gwinnett. Much larger in terms of geography, District 47 covers Barrow and Madison counties, along with portions of Jackson and Clarke counties.

In the event of a runoff in District 9, where three candidates qualified for the primary, voters will be asked to return to the polls Aug. 21.

In District 9, incumbent Don Balfour has served since 1992, making him the longest-serving republican in the Senate.

On his campaign website, Balfour extols his conservative values.

Balfour's website stresses his work to protect Second Amendment rights, discourage illegal immigration, freeze property taxes, restrict the use of eminent domain, and support pro-life measures. He is also pushing for stronger ethics laws, the site states.

Challenger Travis Bowden, a Parkview High grad, has served as the recording secretary and a board member of the Gwinnett County Republican Party, as well as chairman and founder of the Gwinnett Young Republicans, among other roles at the statehouse.

If elected, Bowden says his top goal is to reduce government spending and shrink government itself.

"I will be tireless in finding wasteful programs to cut from the budget," Bowden said.

Publishing company owner Steve Ramey brands himself a Constitutional Conservative, stressing lower taxes, smaller government and less government intrusion in the lives of citizens. Ramey says he's distinguished himself by vowing to accept no gifts from lobbyists, if elected.

"I will have monthly town hall meetings with constituents, will make every effort to save jobs for Georgia citizens, work to reduce corporate taxes in Georgia to attract more companies and help guide our public school system," Ramey said.

The primary winner will face Democrat Scott Drake, a Lawrenceville attorney, in the November general election.

In District 47, incumbent Frank Ginn touts his experience managing government affairs not only at the state level, but as manager of the cities of Sugar Hill and Royston and Franklin County. He believes the efforts to market Georgia as a fertile state to root businesses should be ramped up.

"One of the things that goes from community to community in our state is some of the issues like marketing that entails jobs, natural resources, transportation and economic development," Ginn said. "(We need to) improve our state's marketability."

Challenger Daniel Yearwood, the current Barrow County Commission Chairman, counts ethics as the top issue he wants to tackle, should he be elected in November. He'd aim for better government as opposed to bigger government. He takes a pro-life stance and is determined to protect the Second Amendment, he said.

"We must hold our elected officials accountable," said Yearwood.

The primary winner in District 47 will face Athens research counselor Tim Riley in November.

Two Democrats are squaring off in the race for District 55, with no Republican challenger in November.

Incumbent Gloria Butler has held the seat since 1998. She prides herself on having the courage to speak out on the tough issues, and she's written or helped write more than 100 pieces of legislation since 1999, she said.

"My votes prove that I am an advocate for women's rights, a fighter for youth and education, and a servant to DeKalb and Gwinnett counties," Butler said.

Challenger Mark Williams, a high school counselor, counts education and public safety among his chief priorities. If elected, Williams said he'll strive for openness with constituents and aim for accountable leadership.

"The fact that I live on the Gwinnett side and work on the DeKalb side of (District) 55 puts me in a unique position to understand the needs of the entire district," Williams said. "You won't just see me during election time."

Candidate Bios and Q&As

District 9

Don Balfour (i)

Party: Republican

Age: 55

Education: Bob Jones University, bachelor's degree in accounting; Fairleigh Dickinson University, master's of business administration

Occupation: Businessman

Political Experience: State Senate since 1992

Family: Wife Ginny; one son

What is your political philosophy, and how will it drive your role in office?

Balfour could not be reached for comment. On his campaign website, he extols his conservative values.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Balfour’s website stresses his work to protect Second Amendment rights, strengthen efforts to discourage illegal immigration, freeze property taxes, restrict the use of eminent domain, and his work on pro-life measures. He is also pushing for stronger ethics laws, the site states.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

Balfour is the longest serving Republican in the State Senate. He is Chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, serves on the Appropriations Committee, Education Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee.

Travis Bowden

Party: Republican

Age: 30

Education: Parkview High School; Georgia State University, bachelor's degree in political science

Occupation: Businessman

Political Experience: District Director and Capitol Aide to former State Rep. Melvin Everson; Chairman of the Georgia Republican Liberty Caucus; Southern Regional Director for the National Republican Liberty Caucus; former Recording Secretary and Board Member of the Gwinnett County Republican Party; Chairman and Founder of the Gwinnett Young Republicans

Family: Single

What is your political philosophy, and how will it drive your role in office?

Georgia needs jobs and to control its spending and taxation. I will work with local leaders to recruit industry, and I will personally fight to cut taxes and wasteful spending. I will be a relentless servant for the people every day I am in office.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle. Government spending in Georgia has drained taxpayers for years. Government must shrink in Georgia, and I will be tireless in finding wasteful programs to cut from the budget. Cutting taxes and shrinking government will be major concerns for me as an elected official. Georgia must reduce its burden on taxpayers.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

The people who matter the most are the people in the district, and no one else. I will fight to return jobs to the district and to cut spending — I have the experience to do both. I will never lose sight of the people in the district and their concerns.

Steve Ramey

Party: Republican

Age: 62

Education: Some college

Occupation: Publishing company, owner

Political Experience: None

Family: Wife Nancy; five children

What is your political philosophy, and how will it drive your role in office?

I am a Constitutional Conservative. I believe in lower taxes, smaller government and less government intrusion into the lives of citizens. I will diligently work for ethics reform in Georgia.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

It is difficult to name just one when so many are prevalent. Add jobs for Georgians, promote States Rights to limit federal advancement in decision making for Georgia, stop illegal immigration and give the people, not just corporate entities, representation.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I have declared not to take lobbyists gifts. I will have monthly town hall meetings with constituents, will make every effort to save jobs for Georgia citizens, work to reduce corporate taxes in Georgia to attract more companies and help guide our public school system to provide an adequate workforce for new companies to hire.

District 47

Frank Ginn (i)

Party: Republican

Age: 50

Education: University of Georgia, bachelor's degree in ag engineering

Occupation: Engineer

Political Experience: One term in State Senate; government manager of two cities (Sugar Hill and Royston) and one county (Franklin)

Family: Wife Robin; daughter, Catherine

What is your political philosophy, and how will it drive your role in office?

Government exists to serve the public, and to only provide services which (citizens) can’t do individually. As we look at issues, we’re here to promote the wise use of your tax dollars. When people look at government, I think people make the best decisions for themselves at home. I’d like to limit the power of the federal government just like I’d like to limit the power the state has.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

One of the things that goes from community to community in our state is some of the issues like marketing that entails jobs, natural resources, transportation and economic development — and that all goes into jobs. (We need to) improve our state’s marketability … We’ve got a great governor that’s pushing to make Georgia the most attractive place to do business in the world. I like to tell people we live in the best part of the best state in the best country in the world.

What sets you apart from your competitor?

I’m not here to run down or run over anybody else that’s running. I want people to look at my education and experience. My decision-making ability and my ability to work with others to accomplish a goal.

Daniel Yearwood

Party: Republican

Age: 62

Education: Winder Barrow High School; some college

Occupation: Businessman

Political Experience: Current Barrow County Commission Chairman

Family: Wife Deborah; two children; four grandchildren

What is your political philosophy, and how will it drive your role in office?

We the people. Ethics first. We must hold our elected officials accountable. Pro life, anti-tax. Second Amendment — U.S. Constitution is the law.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Ethics.

What sets you apart from your competitor?

Better government, not bigger; lower taxes not raise them. Pro life. Life begins at conception.

District 55

Gloria Butler (i)

Party: Democrat

Age: 70

Education: Bethune Cookman College, bachelor's degree in business administration

Occupation: State Senator

Political Experience: Elected 1998 to Georgia State Senate

Family: Two daughters; two grandchildren; one great-grandson

What is your political philosophy, and how will it drive your role in office?

I have always put the citizens of the 55th Senate District first. I have the courage to speak out on the tough issues and have established myself as a respected and trustworthy legislator. My votes prove that I am an advocate for women’s rights, a fighter for youth and education, and a servant to DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Continue to focus on building strong families; creating an educated workforce; and stand up for working families who are struggling to pay their mortgage, buy health insurance, and put food on their tables.

What sets you apart from your competitor?

I am experienced. I am a champion for democratic values and principles. I have served in a leadership position since being elected in 1998: Deputy Whip for 12 years, and Finance Director of Fund-raising for the Senate Democratic Caucus. I have authored and coauthored over 100 pieces of legislation since 1999. I am committed and dedicated to making life better for the residents of the 55th Senate District.

Mark Williams

Party: Democrat

Age: 43

Education: Morehouse College, BA in accounting; Auburn University, degree in Med School counseling

Occupation: High school counselor

Political Experience: None

Family: Wife Lisa; son Isaiah, 5

What is your political philosophy, and how will it drive your role in office?

To serve the interest of the people and not special interests. This will ensure my visibility in the community.

Name your top goal or issue you want to tackle.

Education, public safety, and responsible and accountable leadership are all equally important to me.

What sets you apart from your competitor?

My visibility in the community. My willingness to engage all constituents in District 55. The fact that I live on the Gwinnett side and work on the Dekalb side of (District) 55 puts me in a unique position to understand the needs of the entire district. Lastly, you won’t just see me during election time.

Comments

HonestIngine 2 years, 4 months ago

If they hold a political office now, then vote them out.... plain and simple....Don't make the same mistake....

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DavidBrown 2 years, 4 months ago

I was ecstatic when I was moved out of Don Balfour's district, into Gloria Butler's district.

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teelee 2 years, 4 months ago

Did she provide you with food stamps, free health care and help you pay your mortgage?

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teelee 2 years, 4 months ago

Don Balfour is one of the few representatives I ever had that would actually send real letters to you and help introduce legislation that was asked for. Thanks again Senator Balfour for the smoke free restaurants that me and my family now enjoy in the state of Georgia because of your efforts and your co-sponsorship of that bill. Twenty years on the job and no drama just hard work.

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jack 2 years, 4 months ago

From the AJC: During debate on a bill this year, Balfour pointed out that lawmakers have found ways to circumvent the intent of some laws they pass, with no electoral consequences.

“We have been doing this for 20 years, and I still keep getting re-elected,” he said.

Just hard work.

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BuzzG 2 years, 4 months ago

All the Republicans represent themselves to be conservative. They all talk the talk, but who will walk the walk.

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