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Hopefuls make pitch to voters
Forum offers look at state, local races
-A-Candidate Forum pic 1
Ninth District State Representative Amos Amerson challenged opponent Steve Gooch's experience at the state level during a debate at Dawson County High School last week. The 9th District is made up of Lumpkin and parts of Forsyth and Dawson County. - photo by Michele Hester
State Representative Amos Amerson brought up Steve Gooch's lack of experience and highlighted his own political career last Thursday during a candidate forum at the high school.
In response, Gooch pledged to be a friend to Dawson County, not only at the state level. He also pledged to be just a phone call away. "You'll see me, you'll see my face and you'll see me in person," Gooch said, citing Amerson's lack of attention to Dawson County.
Gooch said he would serve all three counties in the 9th House district, which includes part of Dawson and Forsyth counties, as well as Lumpkin, where both men live.
"I spend a great deal of time in Dawson County and a lot of time in Forsyth County," said Gooch, who is the current commission chair for Lumpkin County.
Amerson said it will be a challenge to serve the region. "But by the same token, it's not that difficult. I've been very fortunate that all of you have been responsive to the articles I have written," he said.
Amerson profiled his six years of keeping his constituents informed through newspaper articles highlighting issues concerning Georgians, particularly high taxes.
"Georgia's taxes on timberland exceed the taxes of any state around us," Amerson said. "Timber companies and individuals who own large tracts of timber are being forced to sell the timber because of the high taxes."
Amerson said he supported conservation easements that would reduce taxes on land that produces large quantities of timber. "I believe that is the way to go for greenspace. Why should we tax the people of Georgia, then the governor go out and buy greenspace with your tax money when all we have to do is lower taxes on the people who already have that greenspace?"
Gooch, who adopted the first land use and greenspace conservation subdivision ordinances in Lumpkin County, said taxes are most definitely an issue affecting voters, along with transportation, trauma care and education. "When I took office (in Lumpkin County), I inherited a critical situation with finances. In the last eight years, we've made a lot of improvements and changes in our government," he said. "I've worked hard as chairman of the board of commissioners for the last four years. Now I think I can put my experience, education, knowledge and contacts to work for you folks in Atlanta."
Local candidates also had an opportunity to greet the public during the forum and address issues relevant to their perspective offices.
Dawson County Chief Magistrate Judge candidates Dan Pichon, Lisa Thurmond and Marsha Freeman Waller discussed challenges facing the Magistrate's office, which will be vacated by Judge Johnny Holtzclaw, who chose not to seek a second term.
Thurmond, the sitting associate magistrate judge, said the greatest challenge would be to find a qualified associate magistrate judge to fill her current position.
For Waller, being on call 24 hours a day seven days a week would be a challenge initially. "But the solution is that I will be available," she said.
Pichon said getting up to speed is the greatest challenge. "I'll be sitting in Johnny's pocket, as much as he'll let me and seeing how the office works," he said.
Judge Jennifer Burt, who has presided over probate court for almost 12 years, and her opponent attorney Henry Young debated the need for a qualified attorney to run the Dawson County Probate Court.
Young said he could save the county money by bringing DUI cases back to Probate Court, rather than Superior Court, where they are now determined. He also would like to implement educational programs to promote safer teen driving.  
District 2 county commission candidates Terri Tragesser (incumbent) and opponent James Swafford, as well as district 4 commission candidates Julie Hughes Nix (incumbent) and opponent Thayer Spencer also weighed in
on local issues. The commission candidates cited a need for a better relationship with the city government, plans for constructing the new courthouse, fiscal responsibility, balanced growth, preserving the environment and road and infrastructure improvements as top concerns.
The Republican Primary is set for July 15. Early voting will begin the week of July 7.
The last day to register to vote in the primary is June 16.
E-mail Michele Hester at