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Posted: November 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Seasoned senator to face long-time educator

Incumbent pitted against newcomer in Dist. 17 race

 Two-term incumbent Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) is challenged by Democrat Rudy Cox, a man with 32 years of experience in the education sector, for the District 17 Georgia Senate seat.
Extolling his years of experience representing Newton County (four years in the Senate plus two years in the House of Representatives) Douglas said by reelecting him, voters will get a committee chairman (he chairs the Veteran, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee) and someone who already has a good working relationship with the other members of Newton County legislative delegation.
 "I'm familiar with the workings of government. Over the last four years in the Senate, I have worked hard to establish a good rapport with the voters in the district," Douglas said. "It seems to be working so far because they keep reelecting me, which I greatly appreciate."
 Cox said his years in education (he has taught secondary education and is currently a college professor) have taught him how to work with people who may not see eye-to-eye with him on various issues.
"I work in an atmosphere where you always have to make decisions on the fly on a daily basis," he said. "I'm accustomed to working with people where... we agree to disagree. I am a people's person."
If elected, Cox said he would focus on improving transportation, law enforcement, the economy and health care. Pressed for specifics about how he would make improvements in these areas he responded "I'd have to be there [in the General Assembly] in order to see the things that are not working."
One thing that Cox, who lives in McDonough, definitely believes is not working is No Child Left Behind.
"I would like to change those kinds of things in terms of the school systems because No Child Left Behind is too punitive," Cox said. "You're penalizing students and teachers at the same time and we're beginning to lose teachers."
Douglas acknowledged the problems the General Assembly has had in the past two years of not passing any major legislation and blamed it on a rivalry between the House and the Senate, which are both Republican-controlled.
"I don't think the problem has been party infighting as much as it has been infighting between the House and the Senate," Douglas said, adding "I found that in all of my five county delegations at the individual level we worked together very well. I would like to see the House and the Senate as a whole get along better. We do have significant economic problems that we have to overcome."
One proposal Douglas said he would support is a resolution that narrowly failed last year, the T-LOST, which would allow for the levying of a 1 cent sales tax locally to raise funds for transportation infrastructure.
"The formula in the original bill that the Senate passed - 80 percent of that money would have stayed in Newton County, 10 percent would have come back in state related projects and 10 percent would have gone to the state," Douglas said of the measure which he voted in support of. "We just lost a number of transportation projects [from the Georgia Department of Transportation]. We have to fix that."
Douglas said there would be cuts "across the board" next year when the state tries to balance its budget, which has a shortfall for fiscal year 2009 of between $1.5 billion and $1.75 billion.
"We have to live within our means. I think everyone's going to have to share in the belt-tightening," he said."
Both candidates said they would vote to keep the statewide Homeowner Tax Relief Grant, which Gov. Sonny Perdue has proposed eliminating in order to balance the state's budget. Newton County was expecting to see $1.8 million from the grant next year.
"Why would we want to eliminate something when we know we have a need for funding? What we need to do is try to develop funding," Cox said.
Cox, who holds a doctorate in education, has lived in District 17, which includes all of Newton County and portions of Henry, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton Counties, since he was a small boy. He has a B.S. in business and masters in personnel from Tuskegee University and earned a doctorate from Clark University.
He spent 10 years as a secondary education teacher in Coweta County. He has taught courses on education administration at Argosy University and is currently employed by Troy University where he teaches foundation-level courses. Cox and his wife, DeBarra, have three daughters.
"I'll make myself visible [to my constituents] not only now while campaigning," Cox promised. "I want to make sure that their voices are heard."
Prior to serving in the General Assembly, Douglas served on the Newton County Board of Education, representing District 3. A retired U.S. Army Major, he is currently the field representative of the Peace Officers Association of Georgia. He is a graduate of Mercer University where he earned a M.A. in Contemporary American Society.
Douglas has been named a Legislator of the Year by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Association of Emergency Services and The National Guard Association of the United States. He and his wife, Susan, have one daughter and have lived in the district since 1996.
"We're on a good track here and we need to continue on," Douglas said. "I appreciate the chance to represent the 17th District and it's been a great honor to do that. I hope the voters will renew my contract."
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