In what has been one of the more acrimonious primary races for Newton County voters, state senate Republican candidates John Douglas and Mike Crotts wound down the last few days before general voting begins with a flurry of last minute endorsements, rallies and accusations.
Douglas, who is seeking his third term representing District 17, unfurled a last minute endorsement from Gov. Sonny Perdue, his highest-profile endorsement to date. His campaign will hold early voting rallies today in Covington, Social Circle and Hampton.
Meanwhile, Crotts defended himself against accusations that nearly a year after buying a house in Covington, he still resides mainly in his McDonough home, which is outside the district.
"They need to get over that," Crotts said of his accusers. "If they thought [I didn't live in the district], why didn't they file a complaint when I qualified? I live in the Newton County house. My driver's license is [registered] there; my cars are there."
Crotts continues to maintain he was wrongfully disqualified from running in 2006 by former Secretary of State Cathy Cox for living outside of the district.
"After she ruled, I voted two times in Rockdale and I got called for jury duty and I got a check [for my jury time,]" Crotts said. While accusing Crotts of engaging in "gutter politics" over his calls for an investigation into a March e-mail Douglas sent to Conyers Mayor Randy Mills, Douglas took up the charge that Crotts only maintains the façade of living in the county.
"My opponent doesn't live in the district, and I think that should be a pretty serious consideration in spite of what he says," Douglas said.
In the controversial e-mail, Douglas told Mills he would work to secure the passage of a tourism bill for the city in exchange for, among other things, a promise that City Manager Tony Lucas would remain neutral during the primary campaign with Crotts. No investigation into the legality of Douglas' actions has taken place.
Asked what his working relationship with Conyers, which has gone through several low points in the last two years, would be like if he is re-elected, Douglas answered, "Conyers is not in my district. They have their own senator and their own representative and I hope that they will utilize [them] just like Covington and Newton County utilize me."
If re-elected Douglas said he would focus his energies on seeing the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which failed passage in the last session, successfully passed in 2009. Additionally, he promised to work to institute a flat state sales tax for gasoline and to remove the current method, which raises the tax as fuel prices increase.
Douglas also said he would support legislative efforts to eliminate the state income tax and replace it with a 5 cent sales tax increase.
"I'm a FairTax guy. I believe the FairTax is the way to go for the nation and the state," Douglas said.
If re-elected to the state senate (he previously served six terms there), Crotts said he would firstly focus his energies on strengthening the state's education system.
"Our future is based on our children," Crotts said. "If we don't make sure that they are competitive with world countries, then we all lose."
Crotts said he would also sponsor legislation that would waive homestead tax exemptions for all seniors over the age of 65, regardless of income level. Should a senior choose to waive their homestead exemption for five years, they would be exempt from all property taxes on their primary residence and up to one acre of land once they turn 70 he said.
Crotts said he believes a majority of Georgians would support the tax exemption for seniors, even if it means higher property taxes for themselves "because of the sacrifices they made for us."
Securing existing jobs and bringing new ones to the state, through tax incentives if necessary, is the third issue Crotts said he would focus his energies on.
Prior to his election to the Georgia Senate in 2004, Douglas served in the state House of Representatives for one term. He also served on the Newton County Board of Education from 1998-2002. He is currently chairman of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and secretary of the Science and Technology Committee.
Douglas received his B.S. from North Georgia College and State University, and a master's from Mercer University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1977-1994 and is an active member of American Legion Post 32. He and his wife, Susan, have one daughter. They are active members of Salem United Methodist Church.
"I think that in me, the district has a senator who has put more effort and work into being your senator than anybody probably has in a number of years," Douglas said. "I get out. I deliberately make myself accessible at all hours of the day and night."
While in the senate, Crotts for a time was the ranking Republican senator before redistricting in 2004 eliminated his district and a failed Congressional run cost him his seat at the state capitol. He served on six standing committees, was the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee and was the vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
He also saw two constitutional amendments he introduced - one making English the official language of the state and one prohibiting same-sex marriage, approved in voter referendums. Crotts is the owner of Crotts Realty and Insurance Company, one of the largest private real estate companies in the Southeast.
Crotts has an associate's degree in distributive education from DeKalb College. He and his wife, Phyllis, have one son and attend the City of David Covenant Church. He is a former chairman of the Standards and Ethics Committee of the Board of Realtors.
"In my time I passed two statewide constitutional amendments, which requires two thirds votes out of both houses," Crotts said, adding that passage of both amendments was proof of his ability to work across the political aisle. "I had twice the experience that Douglas has and I think that because of that and the committees that I served on, I have the ability to make more things happen for the district than he does."
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