The Valdosta Daily Times
Buttons, bumper stickers and balloons lined the walls of the Valdosta State University Continuing Education Center Tuesday night,introducing a group of candidates to a host of constituents and television cameras seated and standing around the room.
Fifteen of the 16 candidates to appear on Lowndes County ballots Nov. 6 made a showing to the Meet the Candidates event, hosted by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce as a combined meet-and-greet and speech-delivery venue.
For the first hour, voters were allowed to mill about the room to visit candidate tables where they could ask whatever they wished.
“This format allows people to meet one-on-one with the candidates without the pressure of getting up in front of a group that you would see in a forum,” said J. Kevin McCraney, Vice Chair for the Chamber’s Government Affairs Council. “It’s a good way to get folks out and get them educated about the candidates.
Valdosta real estate broker and former legislator Ron Borders served as the master of ceremonies for the event, enforcing the three-minute limit within which each candidate was required to issue their speech.
Solicitor General incumbent Justin Cabral (R) began the series of speeches. He shared his experience as a career prosecutor.“Elections come to differences in choices,” Cabral stated. “I ask you to vote for the candidate with the most experience, who has tried the most cases, and who is the only prosecutor of this race.”His opponent, Jason Cain (D) challenged Cabral’s experience with his own serving in a multitude of capacities—a juvenile court judge, a district attorney, owner of a private practice and as a public defender.
“I’ve seen the courtroom from three different sides,” Cain said. “It’s my opinion that I’m a better-rounded candidate. You don’t need someone who has the most experience as a prosecutor.”
Lowndes County Sheriff incumbent Chris Prine (D) addressed the audience as a career law enforcement officer for 40 years and the Sheriff of four, reminding voters of his initiative to designate one officer to specifically monitor sex offenders, and his experience with the Georgia State Patrol. “My interest is in the safety of Lowndes County and the citizens of Lowndes County,” Prine said.
J.D. Yeager (R), his opponent, told the audience he shared the sheriff’s passion for safety, but that his experience with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office made him the better choice. “I’ve moved through every position, every rank in every division in the Sheriff’s Office,” Yeager said. “I’m disappointed, frankly, in the services we are providing today. If you give me your support, I will take the department back to where we had it.”
Bill Slaughter (R) and Gretchen Quarterman (D) faced off for the vacant Lowndes County Board of Commissioners Chairman's race.
Slaughter announced he was the CEO of an air conditioning company, and that he “wants to work hard” for Lowndes County, specifically for business development. “Lowndes County needs to continue as a pro-business county,” Slaughter said. “If we’re going to be attracting more businesses, we will need good infrastructure.”
Quarterman’s primary concern was advertisement of County-led enterprises and efforts and transparency in county government. She reminded the audience that the County provides services outside
“The reason I’m the better candidate is because I ask a lot of
questions,” Quarterman said. “So if you like to ask questions, you’ll
John Gates (R) was the first to present in the race for Lowndes County
Board of Commissioners, Super District 4. Gates told the audience he was a proponent of children’s programs, having brought the Toys for Tots program to Lowndes County. He also announced an affinity for public transportation programs. “Why don’t we have public transportation?” Gates asked. “A lot of people can’t afford transportation; they’re on welfare. Public transportation is going to help people out of work to get to work.”
Demarcus Marshall (D) called himself a “working man” and an “average citizen,” and shared that he grew up in the Hudson Dockett area in Valdosta. His priorities include more parks and recreation on the north side of town, ways to promote tourism, and “more specifics” in SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) referendum items, he said. “Not everybody can get to base,” Marshall said. “Kids need stuff to do. I also believe we need to engage in modern-age companies.” State Senate, District 8 incumbent Tim Golden (R), remarked he was a supporter of the Hope Scholarship, the Drugs Don’t Work program, the phasing out of sales tax for energy distributors, sales tax holidays and other job creation and education issues during his time in office.
“Job creation is important,” Golden said. “We have an unacceptably high unemployment rate in this state.”
Bikram Mohanty (D) took the stage for a little longer than his allotted three minutes. He remarked he was an American by choice, and that it was “the best choice I have made in my life.”
Mohanty, who has lived in Lowndes County for 19 years and is an occupational therapist, said he would push for a long-term solution to the quickly depleting Hope Scholarship fund, and that the answer could be in the preservation of “responsible casino gambling.”
State Representative, District 174 incumbent Ellis Black (R) was not present at the event.
His challenger, Teresa Lawrence (D), told the audience her goal was “that all voices are heard, and that all needs are met.”
“The education system needs to work harder to help kids stay in school and prepare them for college,” Lawrence said. “And we need a solution to the migrant worker issue.”
State Representative, District 175 incumbent Amy Carter (R) she is and has been a career educator, and that while juggling her career and job as an elected official is difficult, she has been successful in both arenas.
Carter served as one of three floor leaders for the Governor of Georgia, making her the first floor leader from Lowndes County and the fourth female in Georgia history, she said.
While Carter claimed she works to “sell South Georgia to the governor,” J.C. Cunningham (D), her challenger, said “South Georgia is not getting its fair share of representation that it deserves.”
“Our legislators pass bills and allow tax credits for wealthy corporations with one hand and cut education with the other hand,” Cunningham said. “Unemployment is up. The Hope Scholarship no longer helps the folks it's meant to help. The state ranks last in job growth, women are treated like cattle and now they want to put guns on school campuses. We need to protect the future of our most vital resource—our children.”
The candidates for the newly created State Representative District 177, Glenn Gregory (R) and Dexter Sharper (D), finished out the list.
Gregory, who was born in 1950—“a long time ago,” he said, began his speech announcing he was proud to be an American. He told the audience he was the only career architect running for a seat in the legislature, and that he will work to represent the interests of both Democrats and Republicans equally.
Gregory is a proponent of economic development and education, he said. He called himself a “problem-solver,” and said that in spite of the new faces seen in government each election year, he will “work with whoever is elected.”
Sharper, wearing a t-shirt and athletic pants, delivered a loose and colorful speech. He began by asking the audience to align their postures after the long hour and sang a few bars of “Amazing Grace.”
“I’m a casual guy, and I’m here to work with people,” he said. "I’m here to make sure people get what they need.”
Sharper shared that he is a paramedic, that he served on the Valdosta City Council and as Mayor Pro-Tem, and called himself a “proactive person.”
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