“I could not take it anymore,” Crawford said referring to the Democratic Party’s swaying to left.
Crawford, who described himself at pro-life, pro-gun and pro-traditional marriage, said he had misgivings for years but make the change after Democrats added gay rights marriage to its platform at the Democratic National Convention in late summer.
“I could not support that and could not be a part of that,” he said.
His opponent, Trey Kelley, stated that he was the Republican candidate for the post and has proved his conservative stances throughout his life and especially in recent years with involvement within the Republican Party and in the community.
The two men participated Thursday night in a community forum sponsored by the Farm Bureau of Polk County. The forum was held at the Rockmart Community Center on Goodyear Street.
Kelley said he knows of one thing that would solve many of Polk County’s problems.
“Jobs can solve a lot of problems in our district right now,” Kelley said. “Jobs will come once we get government out of the way.”
Part of that idea involves reducing taxes, helping education create a skilled labor force, and adding to law enforcement. He said recent cuts to crime labs, the GBI and state trooper positions have led to an increase in crime.
Crawford said he has already been working on these issues and names several bills he has sponsored which are either in play or on the ballot. One was on the July primary ballot and another is on the Nov. 6 ballot, he said.
Those measures would eliminate property taxes for low-income seniors and also allow for an additional homestead exemption of property assessments grow more than 10 percent.
Crawford said he had also supported tax credits that bring new companies to the state, although he said they still need some refining to work exactly as legislators intended.
“We need to sharpen our pencils a little bit to give these credits and let them take full benefits from it,” Crawford said.
The two candidates differ on the charter school amendment. Kelley said he would personally vote for it while Crawford said it would set up a board in Atlanta, which would tell local systems how to run their communities.
Kelley, however, made a distinct point that the state has got to help its public schools succeed and the graduation rate is too low.
Kelley also said the budget is going to present a challenge to the state over the next few years, especially if the Affordable Health Care Act is fully implemented.
“It can bankrupt the state. It’s going to present some challenges,” Kelley said, adding that state leaders need to budget using priorities just like he and his wife do at home.
“That’s the way it works in real life and that’s the way our government should work.”
One issue both men addressed was transportation.
“I want to fund worthy programs,” Kelley said. “I want to cut the administrative cost at the DOT. We need to prioritize projects and fund them accordingly.”
Crawford said the failure of the special purpose local option sales tax for transportation, T-SPLOST, at the polls means the state has to find another way.
He said a penny of the four-cent gas tax goes to the general fund when it should go to transportation. Crawford also supports regional transportation initiatives.
“A few years ago, there was a bill to have continuous counties come together and see if a they want a special sales tax for transportation. That’s another tool in the tool box,” he said.
Kelley said a key component of his goals for the state is to phase out income tax in a graduated system.
“When you look at Tennessee and Florida, who have no income tax, they puts Georgia in a huge disadvantage,” he said.
He said part of his plan is for no one over the age of 65 to pay any property tax.
Both men also addressed agriculture in Georgia, with both agreeing it plays a vital role in the state.
“Our farmers are just small business owners who, like everyone else, are in tough economic times right now,” Kelley said. “I will make it a better district to do business.”
Crawford said he knows about agriculture first-hand because he picked cotton on his grandfather’s farm.
“If you really want to understand agriculture, you walk in a field behind a mule one row at a time and you’ll get it,” he said.