The Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce forums this week offered an opportunity for political opponents to speak their minds and respond to each other's remarks.
But that can only happen if both candidates participate. In two of the races, for House District 71 and U.S. Congress District 3, only the challengers were present for Tuesday's forum at Central Educational Center.
Samuel A nder s i s challenging incumbent David Stover for the House District 71 post in the May 22 Republican primary, and Philip Singleton is running against first term U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson.
Neither Ferguson nor Stover came to CEC on Tuesday, though Ferguson did send a recorded message stating he was in Washington handling Congressional business.
Singleton said he was studying for a medical career at Georgia State University when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred. Nine days later, he joined the U.S. Army, and served for 15 years.
In the mi l itary, he was trained in strategic and joint planning and earned two masters degrees – one in international relations and one in aeronautical science.
Singleton said he is disheartened by the divisive political climate in Washington and came home to Fayette County to run for Congress. ' Service is a calling, and I felt called by God to continue serving,' he said.
'I'm not taking any PAC money. It's about integrity. It's about servant leadership,' Singleton said.
Singleton said one of his goals in Congress is to 'serve for a short period of time, the way I believe the founders intended.'
Singleton said that while the United States has a strong economic outlook, the national debt is a problem. He said the recent actions of Congress, cutting taxes while approving 'the largest government spending the history of the United States,' is troubling, particularly with 'a full Republican House and a full Republican Senate.' Singleton sa id the budget is 'a national security issue .' The nation is facing 'almost uncontrolled growth of government,' he said. 'We have to get that under control.'
Singleton also touched on guns, health care and immigration.
'We have a culture problem, not a gun problem. The increase in gun violence can be attributed to changes in our culture,' he said.
With regard to the opioid epidemic and other health problems, Singleton said he favors local control. He said the opioid problem in south Georgia is different from the same problem in Los Angeles.
The opioid crisis is 'a significant problem that can't be ignored,' he said, and help needs to be given to local officials to deal with the problem.
Singleton said there are 'laws in place' to address illegal immigration. He said the Republican Party is supposed to be one that is in favor of legal immigration. He talked about the hurdles he faced in helping a fellow soldier from Micronesia complete the process to become a U.S. citizen.
'We need to make it significantly easier,' Singleton said. It is time to 'fix our legal immigration system and make that work.'
Anders said his focus is on how the state spends the money it takes in. 'My biggest concern is how we spend it. My focus has always been, how are we spending the money,' he said.
He said education funding should be focused on common sense spending at the school level. 'You always have to prioritize how the money is being spent,' he said.
Terming the opioid epidemic 'a big, big crisis,' Anders said there is a need for counseling for those addicted, teaching aimed at prevention and support to help law enforcement 'be able to do their job in removing that from the streets.'
Anders criticized Stover for being absent 30 percent of the time during the past session. Being absent is 'not just a vote of no,' he said. 'That's probably one of the biggest reasons I'm running. … If you don't show up to vote, then there's no voice.'