(APN) All five Democratic Candidates for Lieutenant Governor spoke at a recent forum at the Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, on June 6, 2006, on topics such as education, transportation, immigration, and faith-based government programs. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Georgia and moderated by Tom Regan of WSB-TV.
Neither of the Republicans decided to show up. Casey Cagle was a surprising no-show after criticizing his fellow Republican opponent, lobbyist Ralph Reed, for ducking "public scrutiny, meeting only with carefully selected audiences."
The Lieutenant Governor position is very important. Besides the obvious role of assuming the duties of Governor in the event of his or her death or incapacitation, the Lieutenant Governor is President of the State Senate. He or she helps determine Legislative Committee Chairmanships and Memberships. While he or she cannot vote or sponsor legislation, the Lieutenant Governor works with advocates in the Senate to introduce legislation. As the second highest elected official in the state, he or she has a great deal of influence on state policy and the establishment of spending priorities.
Each attendee gave a brief opening statement followed by questions from Mr. Regan. Their responses were limited to two minutes.
By evening's end, it was clear there are three viable Democratic candidates: Hecht, Martin, and Miles (in alphabetical order).
Greg Hecht, currently a Jonesboro businessman, has served as a State Senator, State Representative and Assistant District Attorney.
Hecht's delivery was practiced and his answers were polished. His platform statements were well-researched and politically savvy. Hecht gives the impression of an indefatigably hard worker.
Atlanta Progressive News has learned Hecht's campaign is heavy in DC-based consultants, some who make decisions about the campaign.
Jim Martin is the most experienced candidate having served 18 years in the Georgia legislature and as a leader in the Democratic Party. Confident and laid-back, he warned against the danger posed by current Republican leadership. Martin comes across as knowledgeable, concerned, and capable.
Steen Miles is the most fiery. Her honesty and frankness are a refreshing change from more typically restrained political-speak. Miles said she has the best chance of defeating Reed. As a former TV news reporter, she has the better name recognition.
As previously reported in the Atlanta Progressive News, Ralph Reed's campaign is heavily funded by corporate executives of one of the most usurious credit card companies in the nation, Columbus Bank and Trust's Compucredit, which runs Aspire Visa. The potential of Reed becoming Lt. Governor has alarmed numerous Democrats, who see Reed as aligned with the religious Right and the Abramoff corruption scandal.
The other two candidates are less likely to garner many votes in July's primary.
Griffin Lotson, from Darien, is heavily involved in President Bush's Faith Based Initiative Program. He works as a consultant instructing others how to establish non-profits. Many are formed with the purpose of jumping on the gravy train of federal faith based initiative dollars. The best response he could offer to several questions was that a committee should be formed to study the problem.
Rufus Terrill is an Atlanta businessman and a well-intentioned, but inexperienced, candidate. When asked if he supported an amendment to the Georgia constitution allowing state funds to be given to religious organizations, Terrill lauded the work done by the city's churches in caring for the poor but naively sees no problem with the concept as long as religious organizations don't use tax-payer dollars to proselytize.
Faith Based Government Programs