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Hopefuls qualify for District 24 State Senate seat

Five candidates qualified for the special election to fill Jim Whitehead's vacated District 24 Senate seat last week. Three Republicans and two Democrats turned in their paperwork and paid the $400 qualifying fee to state election officials.

Those who qualified for the race are Appling Republican Bill Jackson, Appling Republican Brett McGuire, Martinez Republican Lee Benedict, Columbia County Democrat Scott Nichols and Elberton Democrat Barbara Giles McLendon.

The office became vacant last month when Sen. Whitehead resigned to run for Congress. He hopes to fill the remaining term of the late Rep. Charlie Norwood who died after a prolonged battle with cancer and lung disease.

Mr. Jackson spent 16 years in the state House and said he has the legislative experience to move in quickly and serve out the second year in the two-year term.

"Nobody has to train me," he said, adding that he would address the district's growing infrastructure needs as a legislator. "I'm ready to go immediately. I have friendships and contacts there built over many years."Mr. McGuire, a retired plant manager of Solo Cup in Augusta, said he would focus on transportation funding in the seven-county Senate district and protecting water resources from being transferred to rapidly expanding metro Atlanta if he is elected.

"It all boils down to economic development," said Mr. McGuire, who formerly served as Sen. Whitehead's campaign manager and currently sits on the Columbia County planning commission. "We've got to have an educated work force and have the resources."

Mr. Benedict said he has been frustrated with this year's legislative session and the bickering between the chambers and Gov. Sonny Perdue over the state budget.

"If you're public servants, then do it or step aside," said Mr. Benedict, a learning specialist at Butler High School. He added that he wants to see the bill requiring seatbelt use in pickup trucks finally pass because the state loses out on $20 million in federal highway funding by not having the law.

Mr. Nichols, chairman of the Columbia County Democratic Party, also said the gridlock in Atlanta where Republicans control the governor's office and Legislature is frustrating voters.

"I talk to people, and they're tired of the same old, same old," said Mr. Nichols, a senior project manager for Terracon Consulting Engineers and Scientists. He added that his main campaign issue will be to change the state's law on developer impact fees so that the money also could be used for new school construction.

Ms. McLendon, a retired educator, also qualified to run for the Senate during the June 19 election. If necessary, a runoff date is scheduled for July 17. Because it is a special election, all of the candidates will be on the same ballot with their political party listed next to their names.

The 24th Senate District covers all of Columbia, Glascock, Lincoln, McDuffie and Wilkes counties as well as parts of Elbert and Warren counties. To see updates of candidates in the race, visit the Georgia Secretary of State Web site: www.sos.state.ga.us/elections/Qualifying_Candidates.htm.



Web posted on Thursday, May 17, 2007













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