Two candidates who see the economy as a top concern for Georgia are making their last pitches this week to potential constituents in what is the newly redrawn state House District 103 seat.
“We really can’t do anything unless we have money, so bringing in new businesses, especially large ones, is very, very important,” said Ken Russell, a Charleston, S.C., native and FBI retiree.
“We’ve got a friendly government, a government that wants to make businesses very happy,” he added. “I’m very keen at working on that.”
His opponent, Timothy Barr, said: “Obviously, right now, we need to look at our economy in a big way. I experience that daily with owning my own company and everybody has to make a living somehow, so that needs to be No. 1.”
Barr, who owns a construction company, added that he believes “we need to look at some restructuring, in a serious way, of our tax code in Georgia.”
District 103 was redrawn as part of statewide redistricting efforts that followed the release of U.S. census data, a process repeated every 10 years. The district includes the southernmost part of Hall County and a small section of northeastern Gwinnett County.
Barr, a Lawrenceville resident, said that his political pursuit began with the growing of his own family.
“We took a look down the road to where are we going to be in 25, 50 years, and that’s what really got us to thinking about our involvement (in government),” he said.
“Our country is at a place where our generation needs to be involved in looking out for our generation and the next, and building a road that sees us in prosperity.”
Russell, who lives in Flowery Branch and has been involved in previous campaigns, said he realized he “enjoyed banging on doors, talking to people, putting signs up, everything.”
He also said he had heard at GOP meetings that “everybody ought to run for something once” and that stuck with him.
“That made an impression on me. It really is a civic obligation to run for office,” Russell said. With more candidates, “hopefully, you’ll get a better pool.”
Both candidates favor a fair tax, or a consumer-based tax that would replace the income tax.
“Besides that, we need regulation reform and education reform especially,” Russell said. “We’ve got a state where (more than half) of the budget goes to education and we are consistently ranked in the lower two or (three) spots. The question begs: Are we getting our bang for a buck?”
He believes in more local control for school systems.
“That way, more money will reach the students,” Russell said.
Examining the state income tax is a big issue for Barr.
“It’s not going to be an easy process. We’re going to have to do a lot of research,” he said, citing Florida and Tennessee’s absence of such a tax. “Texas is doing very well without it, so there are some examples we can take from.”
Barr said he is concerned about transportation issues within the House district, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s statewide vote on the proposed 1 percent transportation sales tax.
Overall, Barr, making his first run for office, said he believes he should be the voter’s choice because of several factors.
“A lot of people look at my youth and say, ‘Well, you’re kind of young,’” he said. “But I would tell them I believe my generation and my children have so much freedom to lose in our lifetime, and I have the passion and drive to stand up for our freedoms and liberties.”
Russell said: “Obviously, I think I’m the best candidate. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
Also a Vietnam War veteran and former owner of a private investigative firm, he added, “I think I have some advantages. The majority of my career was spent … in service to our country.”