VALDOSTA -- District 8 State Senates candidates Rusty Griffin and incumbent Tim Golden met Wednesday for a debate at Lowndes High School.

Michael White, a teacher at LHS, and his law class put together the debate, the first debate the two had been in. Members of the local media asked the questions.

"This is a fabulous opportunity for the students to see this debate," White said. "It gives the students the ability to meet their senator candidates, and hopefully encourage those that can, to get out and vote."

Golden and Griffin both made opening remarks.

Golden, a Democrat, said his main priority is education, and has been very proud of the strides Valdosta State University, Valdosta Technical College and Southwest Technical College in Thomasville have been making. He also cited being proud of the lowered unemployment rates in his district.

Griffin, a Republican, told audience of students how he had lived in the area his whole life and been in the agriculture /chemical business for more than 36 years. He is not a professional politician, he said, but has a lot of experience with the community and was good at solving problems. He also said with the amount of Republicans in state office, a Republican voice was needed from this area.

Media members asked questions of the two, mostly surrounding education. Griffin said HOPE was a priority and important to the state, and the Senate needed a voice from rural Georgia working to keep HOPE and working to keep VSU a major voice.

Golden said HOPE was very important, and the scholarship would be around a long time. VSU, he said, was also important and needed to be kept as a major voice in the area and the state.

Both candidates agreed that overcrowding in schools remains a problem. Golden said an amendment for smaller class sizes was brought up in the last legislative session, but was not passed. He also suggested parapros in classes for grades K-3 to help teachers.

Griffin said classes were not up to standards, and the senate needed to make sure adequate help for teachers and more classrooms were very important.

Getting the 18-24 age group to vote was a issue both candidates felt was an important part of their campaigns. Griffin and Golden both said having debates at schools would help get students involved.

At the end of the debate, White encouraged students to vote and get involved with the electoral process.

"This was a special event," he said. "This was the only high school who had this opportunity with these gentlemen. Remember in November that they came to see you, because they care what you think."

To contact reporter Michelle Taylor, please call 229-244-3400, ext. 245.

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