WARNER ROBINS -- The Robins Regional Chamber of Commerces annual Middle Georgia Regional HobNob has become an election tradition, but this year organizers faced a special challenge.
The event, which was held at Middle Georgia Technical College and attended by more than 150 people, is intended to give voters a chance to meet candidates for elected office, but Houston County has no opposed local races. That left somewhat of a dearth of candidates to speak at the event Tuesday, but the slate this year included a new twist.
For the first time, speakers were invited to give positions for and against a ballot question, and it turned out to be the most impassioned discussion of the evening.
Houston County School Superintendent Robin Hines urged a no vote on a constitutional amendment that would reinstate a state agency with the power to overrule local school boards that reject attempts to create charter schools. He said it would draw money away from the public school system and reduce local control.
We are going to have to fill the void of the money that is going to be lost, Hines said. The tax increase will be coming if this passes.
Bibb County resident Charles Rutland, who has been active in efforts to get the amendment passed, said it would give an alternative to parents when the local school system is failing.
The state of public education is not currently where we want it, he said. If you vote against this, you are voting to maintain the status quo.
Only four candidates for office spoke.
Georgia House District 144 Rep. Bubber Epps, a Republican, touted his business experience and his four years in office. His opponent, Democrat Mary Ann Whipple-Lue, cited her experience as a Wilkinson County school board member.
Both said job creation is a top priority.
We know growth is taking place, Epps said. Its slow growth but its something the state can build on.
Whipple-Lue also said improving education is a priority for her.
People, we are in an education crisis, she said.
Senate District 26 Republican candidate Bobby Gale spoke. He is running against David Lucas, who defeated incumbent Miriam Paris in the Democratic primary. Lucas did not attend the HobNob.
Gale said he believes in respecting the Constitution and human life, limited government and personal responsibility.
One statewide candidate spoke. Libertarian David Staples is challenging Republican incumbent Stan Wise for a seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission. Wise did not attend.
Staples questioned Wises ethics, saying most of Wises campaign contributions come from representatives of utilities the commission regulates.
Staples said voters he encounters know little about the Public Service Commission.
Its not exactly dinner-table conversation for most of us, but it is important, he said.
He said he believes in free-market competition and open and transparent government.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.