Will the Real Republican Stand Up? Quick and McKillip Raise Their Hands
All the usual suspects surfaced at an Oconee County forum: H.B .954, T-SPLOST and credentials for Doug McKillip and Regina Quick.
Who's the real Republican? The one who joined the party in 2010 after a religious conversion and who now "renounces" his former Democratic party membership? Or the one who voted in Democratic primaries and attended a Democratic Party fundraiser in Athens?
Answering that question was the focus of a debate between Incumbent Rep. Doug McKillip and challenger Regina Quick during a Tuesday night forum in Oconee County.
Republican credentials were also the focus of a Clarke County GOP Forum held earlier this week. The question of which candidate is an authentic Republican has also been made the focus in previous Oconee political forums and on Quick's Facebook page.
During her opening comments, Quick noted that McKillip served as a Democrat in the Georgia House during his first four years, and compared that to her involvement in local Republican circles.
"I ran against my opponent in 2006 in the general election," Quick said. "He was a Democrat then, and he is not a Republican incumbent in this primary. He won this race as a Democrat."
McKillip said that his party switch was due to his becoming a "born again" Christian. He also returned to a familiar topic, emphasizing his involvement with House Bill 954 — a bill outlawing abortions after 20 weeks in Georgia — as proof of his conservative ideals. Quick's opposition to that bill as proof of her alleged Democratic leanings, he said.
"My opponent has described that as a very bad law and used all the Democratic talking points against it," McKillip said. "She doesn't like the tax reform bill that we just accomplished as good conservative Republicans and uses all the Democratic talking points against that."
The redistricting of Oconee County also came up in the Oconee forum. An audience member asked McKillip how he thought the redistricting would affect the county, and whether the redistricting had been an incentive for him to switch parties.
McKillip said there was no deal connected to the redistricting that led him switch parties. However, he said the redistricting was positive.
"I am honored and humbled to run for and ask for the vote from the folks of the Northern third, basically, of Oconee County," he said. "I think it is a benefit to have folks who can go and advocate — two voices if you will, one in one committee and one in the other at the same time advocating for the folks of any particular district. I view it as a positive thing, I look forward to representing the folks of Oconee County and my mom and dad who live here."
Quick replied that the redistricting was good for politicians, but contrary to the wishes of citizens. Some county citizens have expressed concerns about the effect of splitting the county into two districts.
"It's a bad thing for the people of Oconee County because redistricting needs to be about communities of interest," Quick said. "When Chairman Davis and the commissioners went to the redistricting meetings and asked the redistricting committee for one thing — to keep Oconee County whole — my opponent was secretary of that reapportionment committee. That was an appointment that was made immediately after his switch and he certainly could have had some influence as to how this district was drawn."
The forum closed with a panel on T-SPLOST, which included McKillip, former Representative Bob Smith, Representative Chuck Williams and Senator Bill Cowsert, all Republicans.
Some audience members expressed concerns about possible repercussions of not passing the T-SPLOST. At the present time, Georgia matches local transportation funds by up to 80 percent. Regions which do not pass the T-SPLOST will only be matched by up to 70 percent, Cowsert said.
"It's kind of a carrot-and-stick thing," Cowsert said. "The idea was to encourage you to put your own skin in the game. If your region would pass the tax to accelerate your building projects, the state would continue with a very generous 90 percent fund, whereas if you didn't they would reward the people who did put their skin in the game. I think that's a disincentive."
A resident later commented that the 70 percent match for regions which did not pass the TSPLOST amounted to blackmail — a statement which the other people in the audience applauded.
"The state's portion is not a guarantee to begin with," McKillip said. "It could be zero. If the state's budget got tight, it could go to nothing. So saying, well, times are tight we're going to share the pain and the folks locally who don't put in the skin in the game go to 70 those who do go to 90, it's all something over nothing."