Candidates speak on race for State Senate District 52
by Matt Shinall
Oct 31, 2010 | 1314 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Election day will see many seats decided locally and across the country, one of which will be for Georgia State Senate District 52 between State Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, and Democrat Mike Burton.

Loudermilk, a Georgia native, moved around during his military career, including time in Alaska, before returning to north Georgia. He has served in the state House for the past six years after years of service in the U.S. Air Force and the ownership of two small businesses, a computer networking firm and a flight school in Rome.

Burton is a career educator with more than 40 years in various areas of the field. He taught in K-12 before working at the Georgia School of the Deaf, where he eventually moved to an administrative position before working at Georgia Highlands College for 20 years in administration and rehabilitation services. He now owns a software business producing education software and has also managed a 200-acre farm and built homes during the summers.

Mike Burton

A newcomer to the political scene, Burton was motivated by the bickering and gridlock he has seen in the Legislature, believing that he possesses the ability and experience necessary to successfully reach across the aisle and bridge gaps.

His primary target is education, explaining that most other issues revolve around it. He expounded on this as he noted that the largest concern he has heard from those in the district is the need for jobs and securing the economy.

"Well, of course, everyone is interested in jobs and I have a number of ideas of ways we could create jobs and protect the environment, while at the same time help fund education. But the critical issue that I've found in this campaign is probably the education issue," Burton said. "If we don't have a quality public education system, businesses will not relocate here and create jobs. So I think the most important thing for creating jobs is education, and that's what I'm really emphasizing."

An example of what Burton wants to see as a means to generating revenue for schools and jobs for residents was motivated by his passion for environmental issues and a visit to a local manufacturing facility. He said that while touring the plant, he was informed that solar panels atop the building provide the business' energy needs while producing enough to sell on the weekends with a four-year payout. His proposal is that schools could use similar efforts and sell the excess energy produced during the summer.

For more immediate needs of the education system, Burton would like to see items prioritized to focus resources on critical areas, specifically teachers. To do this he proposes a suspension of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for money collected in its stead to be used for a temporary, two-year education fund.

"What I have proposed is that we do what I call a neutral tax. We have done a great job with SPLOST money, building some of the finest school buildings in the world in our area -- they're better than most colleges. But I have never seen a building teach anybody anything. It's kind of ironic to me that we have all these great buildings, yet we can't afford to put teachers in the classroom and we're increasing our class size," Burton said.

Other areas he is passionate about is universal wireless Internet to give all students a better chance and incentivize growth. He also feels strongly about the need for public transportation, such as light rail, to reduce the need for foreign oil and create jobs.

Environmentally, Burton emphasized the need to protect local resources, specifically water, from outside forces, citing Atlanta's desire to take water from the Coosa River Basin and the Etowah River. On a similar note, he raised concern over out-of-state consumption when the ability to produce goods, specifically produce, is had locally. To do this, he would like to see an efficient website created that would serve as a link for producers, including family farms, with consumers such as restaurants, schools and hospitals.

"The idea that we have to send 18-wheelers 3,000 miles to California to bring us a head of lettuce just seems absurd to me. We need ways to give incentives to local farmers," Burton said. "I know people in this area, retired people and young people both, trying to make a living doing family farms, and you can't sell out of your front yard, you need a system."

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Barry Loudermilk

Running on the Republican ticket, Loudermilk too has heard a large public concern over the need for jobs but feels that the biggest concern of those in his district is the government itself. He feels that by lessening the impact of government in people's lives and in business, that recovery will naturally take place.

"Of course the jobs and the economy are a concern of everyone, but I think the biggest concern that we're having is more of the encroachment of the federal government, the unconstitutional growth of the federal government, which is causing a lot of the other symptoms such as jobs and the economy. The most consistent complaint that I'm getting throughout the district is that we, as a state and a nation, need to return back to the principles of our Founding Fathers, which is a limited government that is small in size and limited in scope. And it just needs to get out of the way and let small business and free enterprise recover the economy," Loudermilk said.

Adding to that sentiment, Loudermilk invoked a quote attributed to several of America's early leaders, including Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Payne, as well as author Henry David Thoreau.

"'The government governs best that governs least.' And I think the best thing we can do is reduce the impact that government has on businesses and individuals by reducing tax burden, reducing regulatory burden that punishes wise investment and hard work such as the income tax, ad valorem tax, these type of taxes basically punish you for being prosperous, and that's the last thing we need right now, is to be punished for creating jobs or for creating wealth," Loudermilk said.

Policies created on a national level have slowed America's economic growth, Loudermilk said as he referred to several instances, some of which he feels are unconstitutional, that have hindered the country's security. Specifically citing health care reform and cap and trade, he added that corporations are hoarding stockpiles of cash in lieu of investment and expansion because of uncertainties produced by what he calls "bad policy."

Loudermilk attributed these political circumstances to aiding his motivation to leave the House and run for state Senate.

"When Senator [Preston] Smith called and told me that he was not going to run for re-election, the family and I talked about it, prayed about it and we wanted to make sure that we continued to have a solid conservative that represented the values of this district in the senate, and the driving factor was really just to make sure that we continued having good pro-business, conservative representation in the senate," Loudermilk said.

Specific issues Loudermilk feels passionate about include those he considers personal freedoms. In the past year, he has notably fought against the use of red light cameras, even being called to testify in Washington before a congressional transportation subcommittee.

"I've always been very passionate about personal privacy issues: rights and liberties of the individual. One particular issue that I have fought for the six years I have been in the House, which I will continue to fight in the Senate, is repeal the law that allows local health clinics to distribute contraceptives to children without the parents' knowledge or consent, which is a violation of the parents' right to choose the best health care for their children," Loudermilk said.

The race for senate seat 52 will be determined by voters Tuesday, an opportunity Loudermilk asks citizens to take full advantage of.

"I encourage everyone to go out and vote. It's a right that many, and some people I knew and served with, have sacrificed and died so that individuals would have that right to go out and choose who their representatives would be," Loudermilk said.

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