Talton loses state House seat

Telegraph staffMay 20, 2014 

Errors in the spelling of Heath Clark's name, and incorrectly totaled results for the Clark-Willie Talton race, have been replaced in this version of the story.

Election returns were not final until just after midnight, but they showed state Rep. Willie Talton losing to challenger Heath Clark in the House District 147 race, with 1,544 votes for Clark to Talton's 1,339.

Talton, R-Warner Robins, was the only midstate House incumbent to fall in Tuesday’s primary elections, with voters easily sending four other lawmakers back.

None of them face opposition in the November general election. All results are unofficial state tallies, counting absentee ballots but not provisional votes.

House District 143

State Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, will return to the Legislature to represent east and north Macon’s House District 143.

He took some 3,200 votes to challenger Lonzy Edwards’ rougly 1,600.

Beverly, first elected in 2011, campaigned heavily on his Macon-Bibb economic relief initiatives under the Gold Dome. Though a member of the minority party, he passed a bill creating a body that will seek financial incentives to lure companies to Macon’s poorest neighborhoods, and he lobbied hard for the creation of the Macon-Bibb Office of Small Business Affairs.

Beverly also pledged to return next year to a failed proposal for property tax relief for low-income home owner-occupiers in gentrifying Macon neighborhoods.

Edwards, a former county commissioner, touted economic development in a broad view, saying he would seek cooperation among midstate counties and help improve the quality of eduction to attract investment. The lawyer accused Beverly of creating unnecessary bureaucracy in his poverty-reduction plans.

On election night, Edwards said he was glad he was able to raise the issues he did: “Education for our children, the issue of jobs for people in our community and the issue of leadership in our community.”

House District 142

State Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, bested challenger and former Macon City Council member Gerald Harvey to represent District 142, which covers much of south Bibb and west Macon. She took nearly 2,372 votes to his 1,738.

Randall, a representative since 1999, told voters she would spend the next term on regional cooperation. First, she would help recruit neighboring counties to join together and ask voters for a penny sales tax for big transportation builds that cross county lines or that are important to the whole region.

“I’d like to think that people are pleased with the level of leadership I’ve provided,” said Randall. She chaired the eight-member Macon-Bibb team of state lawmakers during tough negotiations over consolidation, and she plans to continue making sure the area is at the top of the priority list for her county colleagues.

Harvey criticized the Legislature and the governor for failing to fully fund K-12 schools, for not expanding Medicaid to more Georgia residents and for spending time on a much-debated bill he called “ludicrous” on carrying guns in churches, bars and government buildings.[SoftReturn]House District 141

Voters of north Macon-Bibb and much of Monroe County handed incumbent state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, a big victory with about 86 percent of the votes Tuesday.

Peake, vice chair of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee and a House member since 2007, added to his usual platform of tax reduction a bit of a personal quest for legalizing Georgia access to cannabidiol oil, a cannabis-derived liquid used to treat severe pediatric seizures. He nearly passed a very popular bill to do so, inspired by 4-year-old constituent Haleigh Cox, but House-Senate wrangling killed the measure. He aims to recycle it, maybe even for a broader range of ailments, as his first bill in 2015.

“I look forward to finishing the mission we started last session for Georgia families,” Peake said, adding that the results show his voters support the initiative.

Challenger Brad Moriarty campaigned on big tax-chopping ideas, saying he’d like to be rid of both property tax and income tax.

House District 147

Warner Robins voters had to wait late to see if the first black Republican elected to the state House since Reconstruction was going to be replaced by someone new to the business. Heath Clark drew 53.6 percent of the vote, ousting state Rep. Willie Talton from an office he’d held since 2005. Campaigning this year, he told voters he was glad that the state was able to spend more on K-12 education, though he would also like to see teacher raises and less of what he called “bureaucracy” intruding on teachers. He promised to work on ways to make the state more attractive to investors.

Clark, new to electioneering, criticized the current Legislature for a budget that included things like $17 million toward a new parking deck for the under-construction new Falcons stadium in Atlanta. He promised to look for ways to cut spending and taxes both.

House District 148

State Rep. Buddy Harden, R-Cordele, easily fended off challenger Randy Heady to represent south Houston plus all of Crisp, Pulaski and Wilcox counties.

Harden credited his success largely to working on job creation, with him helping usher along the creation of an inland port, a facility designed to help freight get between south and southwestern Georgia and the Savannah ports.

“I think I’ve been able to represent the people in a manner that they appreciate, and we have been able to do a lot for every county in the district,” Harden said. “We were able to create some jobs in an area where jobs were badly needed. But it’s really the people working together down here that just made it work.”

Harden said he’d also helped pass a bill in the House that bridged a divide between environmentalists and farmers needing water for irrigation. He is vice chairman of both the Agriculture and Natural Resources and Environment committees.

Harden, a retired pharmacist who took office in 2009, told voters he wanted to reduce the cost of prescriptions by getting middlemen out of transactions.

Head, a political newcomer, slammed state education cuts.

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