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Posted: July 19, 2010 12:58 p.m.

CCoSC hosts political forum

By Lee Sandow/

House District 111: (L-R) Bruce Williamson, Timmy Shelnutt and Lee Rowell

The Concerned Citizens of Social Circle organized a political forum that was held at Social Circle First Baptist church on Thursday evening. Five candidates seeking the Senate District 17 seat were present, as were three candidates for House District 111.

Nicholas Day (D-Covington), Ester Fleming (R-Oxford), Todd Hilton (R-Covington), Rick Jeffares (R-Locust Grove) and Jim Nichols (D-Stockbridge) are seeking the Senate seat previously held by John Douglas (R-Social Circle). Lee Rowell (R-Monroe), Timmy Shelnutt (R-Loganville) and Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) are seeking election for the seat previously held by Jeff May (R-Monroe).

Each candidate was given time to introduce themselves and present the platforms they were running on. They were then questioned on key issues, including education, illegal immigration and what they would bring to their office if elected. The forum was moderated by General Manager of The Covington News Pat Cavanaugh.

Senate District 17

Nicholas Day

Day, a retired businessman, stated that he would come out of retirement to serve the community in this time of need. He stated that his primary concern would be doing away with lobbyists and special interest groups, stating he believed in "by the people and for the people."

Day believes illegal immigrants should be sent home upon apprehension, and stated that he believed the Supreme Court should rule that a child born to an illegal immigrant in the U.S. should not be granted citizenship. In regards to education, he stated that schools have become a "detention hall," and that children don’t understand what it is to be nice. He stated that schools should teach manners and discipline as well as academics.

Ester Fleming

Ester Fleming has worked for the government as a commissioner in Newton County for 14 years, and has a self-described "tough background." His primary concern is wasted expenditures, and he said he would do everything possible to balance the budget while never raising taxes.

Fleming "agrees with the good state of Arizona" that illegal immigrants are killing the U.S. He advocates collecting illegal immigrants and deporting them. He believes tough cuts still need to be made to education, but that none should come from the classroom and no more teachers should be cut.

Todd Hilton

Hilton has been an educator for 13 years, and served as an assistant principal. His primary platform is standing up for our children’s education and the education system itself. "I’m tired of standing back and watching others," he said.

Hilton believes better security is needed to prevent illegal immigrants from ever entering America, but that he welcomes immigrants – so long as they enter legally. He passionately defended the education system during that question, claiming too many politicians use education as a political means, when it should only be about the students. "It’s time to let teachers teach again," he said, regarding the amount of standardized tests students must take.

Rick Jeffares

Jeffares stated proudly that he is pro-life, pro-second amendment and knows how money works and how it should be treated and spent. He strongly opposes the current healthcare reform law. His experience in government includes Henry County Board of Commissioners and City Manager of Locust Grove.

Jeffares stated that in order to combat illegal immigration, harsh fines need to be levied against any business owner caught employing an illegal immigrant. He stated that schools have become too much of a daycare and need more parental involvement. He said he will favor no cuts to the education budget.

Jim Nichols

Nichols stated he is "not happy with the way this state is going," citing that the Republican legislature had done nothing and is "running the state into the ground" and that Democrats failed as an opposition party. He stated the budget cuts need work, and that previously the state "took a hacksaw to the budget."

Nichols believes anyone caught hiring an illegal immigrant should be jailed, not just fined. He stated that if the jobs were not there, illegal immigrants would stop coming. He believes that "we are letting our kids down" by cutting education the way it has been cut, and stressed his desire to see education opportunities improve.

House District 111

Lee Rowell

Rowell is a small business owner who strongly believes in less government and a revamp on the current tax code. He stated that he would bring a much-needed voice of common sense to the table. Rowell also told the Concerned Citizens that he had "never gone to a drag race."

He stated that employers should be required to check on the legal status of a worker for their employment. He also stated he was "appalled" that the President of Mexico had recently addressed Congress on the issue. He believes educators need a "teacher’s bill of rights" and the current education laws leave teachers’ hands tied.

Timmy Shelnutt

"I know what hard work is all about," Shelnutt said, "We’ve got to change our future… that’s why I’m running." He stated that he would maintain contact with anyone in his jurisdiction that contacted him with a concern.

Shelnutt said he applauds Arizona for using their rights as a state to fight the illegal immigration problem, and would encourage Georgia to do the same. Shelnutt said he would find a away to give education more funding without raising taxes.

Bruce Williamson

Williamson has worked for years and owned several community banks. He supports a fairer tax system that more equally taxes. He stated his knowledge of money and numbers would "make a difference."

Williamson supports amending the constitution to remove citizenship from children born to illegals in the United States. He also supports making employers verify immigration status. In education, he supports more control on the local level. "The one size fits all approach doesn’t work… we need flexibility," he said.

The event was organized by the Concerned Citizens of Social Circle, a community group who act as watchdogs and keep the community informed about local goings-on. CCoSC founder Jenny Cole said the event was organized to help Social Circle residents meet their candidates and to inform their vote.

"We encourage everyone to vote if you haven’t already," Cole said. "If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain."

The CCoSC will hold their next meeting on July 24.

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