In their first public debate, candidates for the District 7 seat in the state House of Representatives met last week in Dawsonville.
Incumbent David Ralston touted his experience in the legislature, which includes serving the last three years as speaker of the House. Challenger and fellow Republican Sam "Coach" Snider chided career politicians, saying he prayed he never becomes one.
"Serving this county for the past 12 years has been one of the most humbling and satisfying and greatest honors that I've had in my lifetime," Ralston said. "I don't try to bring Atlanta back up here. I try to bring the values that we hold dear and I try to take those to Atlanta."
Snider agreed that representing the values voters hold dear is important, but questioned whether Ralston remains in touch with the views of local constituents.
"I continue to live there, I work there and I know a lot of people and I get to hear from them as I go door to door about what's important to them," he said. "It is my opinion that we are no longer represented at the same level that we might have been earlier on."
Questions for the candidates ranged from the state's failed 1-cent sales tax referendum to fund transportation projects in 2012 to the reduction of regulations on business and the impact of agritourism on the state. The most divisive issue appeared to be the Savannah harbor.
"When that harbor is deepened, it will produce immediately over 1,500 jobs in Gilmer, Fannin and the portion of Dawson that is in the 7th House District," Ralston said.
Snider countered that those jobs are better suited to be taken on by the private sector, rather than the government.
"But ... how much can private business take care of that," he said. "When a private business needs more, he goes to work. He continues to produce more jobs. I, as a conservative, believe less government and less taxation is probably the better solution."
The election likely will be determined in the May 20 primary as no Democrats qualified for the race.
Of Dawson County's 12,905 registered voters, 1,178 are in District 7, which spans west from the Emma community at Crane Road on Hwy. 136 and Afton Road on Elliott Family Parkway.