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Candidates discuss the issues in campaign forum
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Newton County’s future political leaders espoused their ideas on the issues Tuesday night at a combined forum put on by The News and the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

Candidates for the county’s state and local races answered questions about budgets, community involvement, economic development, education and transportation. The questions were developed jointly by The News and the chamber and each candidate was asked three questions.

Below are a few highlights from the night:

State Senate 17

Despite being a Democratic candidate, Jim Nichols said the political gridlock at the state capitol can’t be relieved until more third-party candidates become involved. He said election reform is needed to increase political competition. The Georgia State University undergraduate student will face Republican Rick Jeffares, owner of a water preservation company, who couldn’t attend.

State Representative, District 110

Republican candidate Andy Welch headlined his pro-business stance with a plan to eliminate state income tax and replace it with sales tax. The Henry County based local government lawyer argued the change would be more attractive to both prospective businesses and families.

Democrat Rudy Cox, a Henry County educator, did not attend.

State Representative, District 95

Democrat Pam Dickerson continued to emphasize her desire to see smaller class sizes for schools and said she would also work to protect the value of resident’s homes by fighting legislation that uses foreclosure sales to determine home prices.

Republican Rodney Upton is running on a platform of family, freedom and fiscal responsibility and focused on stalwart conservative issues, including promoting a free market and scaling back the size of government.

Board of Commissioner, District 2

The two commission candidates were asked whether they would support putting alcohol by the drink to a public referendum, and while both said "yes," they had differing feelings on the issue.

Democrat Lanier Sims said he would support having a referendum as soon as possible, because Newton County’s economy suffers from its lack of retails sales. He said he neither supports nor opposes alcohol sales, but wants to let the pubic decide.

Republican Rickie Corley also supported a referendum, but said he believed a lot more research needs to be done. He said an ordinance would have to be very strict to prevent the formation of bars and prevent higher incidences of drunk driving.

Board of Education, District 3

Democrat Shakila Henderson-Baker and Republican Kevin Wade both focused on community involvement. Wade suggested the school system expand the Fairview parental-involvement theme model, while Henderson-Baker said expanding mentoring programs at various organizations was the key. She said Newton County has 12,000 economically-disadvantaged children who need positive additional support.

She also supported new Superintendent Gary Mathews’ efforts to reach out to the Rockdale County School System, which had all its schools pass AYP this year.

Board of Education, District 5

Republican Abigail Morgan-Coggin said she was running to become more involved, as she has two school-aged children. She suggested working to help businesses partner with the future career academy to help prepare students for a career out of high school.

Democrat Sharon Sawyer suggested the school system devote more effort to early childhood and work to improve education during students’ most formative period.

For a more detailed description of the candidates’ thoughts, read Friday’s edition of The Covington News.