Donna Sheldon visited Covington Friday to share her plan to shake up the federal government, and topping her list was implementing term limits and balancing the budget.
An 11-year state representative, Sheldon is among six Republicans and one Democrat seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, who is giving up his seat to run for the U.S. Senate.
Fellow Republican candidates include Jody Hice, a pastor and 2010 candidate for Georiga’s 7th Congressional District before redistricting; businessman and retired Army officer Stephen Simpson; trucking executive Mike Collins; attorney Gary Gerrard; and Brian Slowinski, former chairman of the Columbia County Republican Party. Currently, the lone Democratic candidate is Athens attorney Ken Dious.
Sheldon recently resigned from the Georgia House, where she served as a top Republican leader as the majority caucus chairwoman. She owns a gift shop and a contract wastewater operation business.
The tour that brought her through Covington is to promote her idea to implement federal term limits.
"The Congressmen in office have been there too long. I want to introduce and fight for a constitutional amendment for term limits," Sheldon told The News Friday. "The longest serving Congressman has been in office 57 years, (13 years) before we landed on the moon."
Sheldon said the specifics of term limits are open for negotiation, but in a previous interview with Georgia’s Morning News with Zoller and Bryant, she said 12-year terms for both representatives — six two-year terms — and senators — two six-year terms — would be a good starting point.
"The Founding Fathers fully intended for our legislators and representatives to be citizen legislators," Sheldon said. "If (legislators) knew they would have to live under the laws they passed, we would have better and fewer laws.
"People have said we have to have major change. Just electing a new congressman is not a major change. I’ve said I’ll be the face for term limits," she said.
Though she’s served in the Georgia house for 11 years, Sheldon said Georgia representatives are truly part time — spending 40 days out of the year in session — and have other full-time jobs. She said knowing they had limited terms would make Washington’s lawmakers more efficient with their time.
The other issue she’s pushing is forcing the federal government to pass a balanced budget.
"The federal government has refused to even pass a budget, much less a balanced budget," Sheldon said. "As a business owner and state representative, I’ve had to live within a budget. I know it can be done, and it infuriates me that the federal government refuses to do it and pile debt on my kids and grandkids."
The federal government had a budget deficit of $680 billion for fiscal year 2013 — which ran from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013. States are not allowed to have annual budget deficits.
When asked about the most important cuts the state made to balance its budget, Sheldon listed reductions in employees and eliminating some programs and cutting nearly every program.
"But the good thing is that the cuts required the government to look at what government is responsible to provide for citizens … not what we want, but what we’re required to do," Sheldon said.
She said residents in the 10th congressional district — which includes the eastern half of Newton County and all or parts of 24 other counties — generally want less from the federal government, including taxation. She said she’s heard that people are able to contribute less to local nonprofit organizations because of their tax burden.
When asked what makes her the best candidate among GOP contenders, Sheldon said her state legislative experience allowed her to serve in a leadership capacity, and she had to work to bring groups together to pass laws and a budget. She also said she has a proven conservative voting record.
On her website, Sheldon lists implementing the Fair Tax — replacing income tax with a higher sales tax — and stopping the implementation of Obamacare as priorities.
Changes to election cycle
The election cycle has been moved up for 2014. Qualifying for seats in Georgia will take place March 3, and the primary election will be May 20, instead of in July. While the dates only apply to federal seats, the Georgia General Assembly is expected to vote to apply the May 20 date to state and local races as well, to avoid the hassle and expense of holding two separate elections.