Houston & Peach

Political Notebook: GOP gubernatorial field getting more crowded

State Sen. Eric Johnson, a GOP candidate for governor, stopped in Macon on Monday to meet with at least one prominent fundraiser.

He also visited The Telegraph and shared his thoughts on a few issues.

On the topic of commuter rail, the Savannah-area legislator said generally that “if it improves traffic flow, then it’s OK to subsidize it because we subsidize roads, too.” Johnson said he’s OK with the state subsidizing infrastructure costs, but operation costs are the concern. That’s what has held up the Atlanta-to-Macon line — a disagreement over which government or governments will subsidize daily operations.

And since existing tracks already are used for freight, Johnson said it’s going to be difficult to put a lot of passenger traffic on the lines. In the long run, he said, we’d probably need dedicated tracks.

Education: Johnson is the voucher candidate. He led a successful push in 2007 to allow disabled students to get vouchers to attend private schools. He said he likes anything where the money follows the student.

“(I support) well-funded public schools, charter schools, home schooling and, yes, vouchers,” he said. “We have cut (public) education more than I would prefer, but money is not the solution. ... Free market competition for that child ... will do more for that child than more money will.”

ANOTHER REPUBLICAN IN GOVERNOR’S RACE

State Sen. Jeff Chapman surprised some folks this week when he threw his hat into the ring for the Georgia governor’s race.

He’s the seventh Republican to announce, and there are five Democrats, a Libertarian and a handful of folks who have filed paperwork to run but haven’t shown any significant fundraising or other signs of campaign life.

But Chapman, who represents the Brunswick area, said he needed to get involved. He’s in his sixth year at the Legislature and is perhaps best known for taking on state leaders and powerful business interests over the remake of Jekyll Island.

“With all due respect, I can do a better job representing the people’s interest (than the current candidates),” Chapman said Friday.

Chapman recently wrote a piece on state water usage, calling for a more aggressive push to fix leaky pipes in the metro Atlanta area, state tax credits to help people retrofit their homes with more efficient appliances and a review of existing reservoirs and dams to make sure they’re providing as much water as possible.

“We can run out and say, ‘We need to start digging holes in the ground’ (for new water storage),” Chapman said Friday. “But that takes years. ... You land the planes closest to the airport first.”

Chapman is a former Glynn County commissioner and has been a major advocate for Jekyll Island, which the state is helping a private developer remake with a $50 million state bond issue. Chapman has complained about a lack of openness in that process and pushed back against the need for public funding.

Said Chapman: “That same line of thinking (I used on the Jekyll Island deal) I would use on all issues: Accountability. Openness of government. Fairness.”

SCOTT TO WALK AGAIN

Tifton-area state Rep. Austin Scott, yet another Republican candidate for governor, is going to do another walk through Georgia.

Scott wrapped up a 1,000-plus-mile walk around the state’s borders last Saturday. He said he enjoyed walking state highways and meeting local people, despite the heat.

Next up, Scott said he plans to walk U.S. 41, which would bring him through Macon and much of the midstate.

LAND HO!

Call it the land that everyone and no one wanted.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is claiming a chunk of a tendril of land for its Sardis Road reconstruction efforts — but the neighbors are hoping they’ll finally get back the land they’ve wanted.

“I’ve been keeping that claim near 40 years,” said one of the neighbors, John Jones, who came with family members to ask county commissioners to split up the property.

Bibb County Engineer Ken Sheets said the planning and zoning board required the 60-foot easement in the 1960s, but nothing was ever done with it — no roads, no drainage, no nothin’.

Sheets told commissioners he didn’t know whether the land even belonged to the county, which means it might not be able to give it away.

“You couldn’t find out who owned that property now,” he said. “The most you could give them was a limited quit-claim deed.”

The DOT just took another 15 feet of the property for Sardis Road — taking out all of Jones’ trees and half his front yard in the process.

Jones said the county would benefit from the property getting taxed.

Residents will ready the paperwork to split up the parcel between four neighboring lots.

Telegraph staff writers Travis Fain and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.

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