MILTON, Ga. – Incumbent state Sen. Chip Rogers and challenger North Fulton Chamber CEO and President Brandon Beach squared off July 10 in a standing-room-only Crooked Creek clubhouse and put their cases forward for the District 21 senate seat.
Former Secretary of State Karen Handel and Atlanta Journal-Constitution political analyst Jim Galloway served as moderators.
The two Republican conservative candidates were largely in agreement on issues close to GOP and Tea Party hearts, supporting such issues as gun rights, a new Milton County and a pro-life stance. But they broke cleanly over school vouchers and charter schools, video gambling and the TSPLOST.
In the matter of charter schools and school vouchers, Rogers said he envisioned a system that was more like the free market in which parents got choices for their children’s education. He supports state chartered schools that were not supported by the local boards of education. To that end, school vouchers should have been “passed yesterday.”
“The consequences of that will be we’ll finally have a market-based system with the best education and school systems to deliver a product to children that they want and desire – and not a system based on where you live,” Rogers said.
Beach does not support charter schools, saying it is more big government forced on the citizens.
“I don’t believe in a Washington style government and everyday I see folks at the Gold Dome trying to control our lives,” he said. “Let local elected leaders make decisions. The local school board knows best, we don’t need a state mandate.”
Beach disagreed on vouchers saying they were not the answer but better schools are, such as the ones in North Fulton and Cherokee counties.
“We need to replicate the good schools we have,” said Beach. “My kids went to public school, and my wife taught at Milton High School. We don’t need vouchers. We need good public education with parental involvement.”
On the ballot this year is a measure that would approve video gambling, something Rogers said he would give his vote.
“If a person earns their own money, they have the right to spend it any way they want. And it’s not my business,” Rogers said.
If someone wants to build a video gambling venue, that is the free market at work, he added.
Beach said he was not against gambling but would not support video gambling.
“If someone wants to build a casino and have blackjack and roulette, that might be one thing. But video gambling preys on a sector of the community that can least afford it,” Beach said.
On the TSPLOST, Beach said he was not only in favor of it, but said it was a necessity. He pointed out a recent study showed Georgia would need $60 billion to fix all of its transportation needs.
“We need transportation infrastructure here to move goods, infrastructure and people,” he said.
Beach said the TSPLOST would bring jobs and help local transportation.
“I don’t like all that transit in there,” Beach said. “But a penny is dedicated to 157 projects you know you’re going to get delivered, and I can support that. My opponent supported it twice, but now he said he doesn’t like the project list.”
Then as a jab at the incumbent, he added, “We’ve been going down for the legislature for 10 years now asking for a transportation bill [and received nothing.]”
Rogers said he is opposed to the TSPLOST, though he voted for the passage of legislation to put it on the ballot – he wanted the people to decide, he said.
But he recently came out against it.
“I’m going to go vote against it because I think it is a terrible idea. To suggest that the TSPLOST should pass is to suggest that government doesn’t quite have enough of our money,” Rogers said.
He called it an $8 billion tax and said it would kill jobs. Rogers said he would not vote for the measure.