Area voters got an early taste of the 2014 Republican primary election Thursday night at the Richmond Hill City Center when 10 candidates outlined their political platforms to more than 100 people who gathered to hear their views.
Sponsored by the Bryan County Republican Party, the political forum featured state Rep. Ron Stephens, incumbent in the Georgia House District 164; Jesse Petrea, Carl Smith, and Martin Sullivan, all aspiring to hold the District 166 Georgia House of Representatives seat; state Rep. Ben Watson of District 166, state Sen. Buddy Carter of District 1, Darwin Carter, Jeff Chapman and Bob Johnson, all vying for the U.S. House of Representatives District 1 seat.
Those Republican candidates who emerge victorious from the May 20 primary election will face a challenge from the Democrats in the 2014 general election.
Bryan County Republican Party Chairman Russ Carpenter said it was time to make an intelligent and informed decision about those Republican hopefuls seeking to serve the public.
“We have to let people know that the Republican Party is mainstream and represents the people in a way that separates it from the Democratic Party. Giving those Republicans seeking re-election or first-time candidates a chance to outline their positions is an important part of the political party,” Carpenter, who also serves on the Richmond Hill City Council, said.
Moderated by Sonny Dixon from WTOC news, each candidate was allotted 10 minutes to outline their political platform.
There was widespread agreement among most of the candidates that some of the most serious issues facing Bryan County voters include the long-delayed widening of Highway 144 and moving forward with the Belfast Keller/I-95 interchange, the creation of jobs and maintaining a highly trained workforce.
Other issues needing attention are more funding for mental health issues, crime and education.
Because of time constraints, the candidates were not able to fully outline the solutions to each issue but passed out information about how to contact them for more information.
Sullivan, who is seeking the District 166 seat in the state House being vacated by Watson, told those gathered that he would bring Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden to Richmond Hill and drive him down Highway 144 during rush hour traffic to show him how dire the traffic situation in the south end of Bryan County had become.
Either that, Sullivan said, or he would go to the commissioner’s office to make the case for speeding up the widening.
Also in attendance at the forum were Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler and City Council members Van Hunter, John Fesperman and Jan Bass.
Members of the Richmond Hill High School Junior Republican Party also attended and, although too young to vote in next year’s primary and general election, got a taste of the grassroots political process.