The two opponents, vying for Georgia House District 1 representative, were unusually cordial and respectful to each other and spoke about their own life experiences and beliefs instead of their opponent’s shortcomings, a rather rare sight in modern politics.
The event was held at the Rossville Civic Center and moderated by Bobby Daniels of Oakwood Baptist Church.
Voters will determine the winner in a runoff race between the two men on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Deffenbaugh, a former Dade County commissioner and Lookout Mountain resident, sought to “encourage your heart and encourage your being” upon introducing himself and discussing a “Constitution that is Christian-based” and his determination “to build relationships with those people in Atlanta.”
Painter, a senior software engineer at Thomas Reuters and resident of Chattanooga Valley, stated his plan toward reclaiming a better future for the next generation, while realizing that “at times you have to go home and not get your way.”
“Sadly, the young people, my son’s age, do not have the same opportunities that I had when I was twenty-something,” Painter said.
Both men were bleak on economic recovery in the next few years.
“My philosophy on government is pretty straight forward — less is best,” Painter said, followed by a quote from Democrat Tip O’Neal that “all politics is local.”
He recognized the Walker County partnership with Dade County for “sharing 911 resources for the common good.”
The second question asked about a bill “capping gifts to legislators at $100,” which Deffenbaugh would agree to the limit or a ban on gifts, stating that “I don’t think that a hundred dollars is going to buy my vote.”
“No one is going to have to pay to talk to me,” Painter said, favoring an elimination of gifts.
Deffenbaugh is interested in the education, finance and personnel committees and seeks to better understand state budgets and make certain the Capitol is aware of the potential in northwest Georgia.
Painter hopes to eliminate “overbearing regulations” at the state level and is already involved with the Small Business Development and Job Creation committee. He will focus on making it more difficult for legislators to raise taxes to avoid “knee-jerk reactions” and to require the assessor’s office to provide documentation to homeowners 30 days prior taxes being due.
Deffenbaugh defined the recent TSPLOST proposal as having unintended consequences and “a positive attitude about it. I think the timing was downright terrible, in a down-turned economy, that people should vote themselves a one percent tax. It seemed like it was doomed to failure.”
Painter wants to repeal the transportation penalties imposed upon regions by the legislators when the measure failed and blamed the mismanagement partly on the “ever changing leadership at (GDOT).”
“People have just lost a trust in government,” Painter said. “I am looking to regain that trust.”
Another question described a “flight of businesses out of our area” in northwest Georgia. Deffenbaugh blamed the close proximity to Tennessee, which does not have an income tax, a 6 percent advantage to paychecks.
Painter wants to phase out the state income tax following the “Oklahoma Model” which set state income taxes to 3.5 percent, to be reduced further in years to come.
He spoke with a business owner that moved from Walker County to Chattanooga.
The owner plans to reinvest the 6.5 percent savings into his labeling company, according to Painter.
Deffenbaugh claimed that 40 percent of ninth-graders would not graduate from local public schools. “I think that is a real tragedy,” he said, but then said, “Our school system has functioned well, it could stand some changes, but any of us could stand changes. Our (governing) body in Atlanta certainly could use some changes and I hope to bring some there.” The adjusted graduation rate for Walker County Schools is 68.14 percent for 2012, due to new criteria set by Georgia Department of Education for 2013, which sought a waiver to No Child Left Behind legislation recently, according to GDOE statistics.
He is a supporter of charter schools and opposed to any federal role in education.
“The exceptional child is sometimes left behind and forced to end up being a problem child in the classroom,” Deffenbaugh said. “I have a grandson who goes to a charter school. They can learn, according to the teacher, in two or three days what it takes the standard teacher five days to teach them.”
Painter also favors the charter school amendment, which could allow a state committee to develop charter schools. “I am going to be voting for it, even though my wife is a public school teacher, in the sense that competition, like John (Deffenbaugh) and I have, is healthy,” Painter said. He finds flaws with an absolute standard that doesn’t account for students with special needs.
The amendment would bypass local school board input and not be accountable to the Georgia Department of Education, according to the amendment.
Three questions were allowed from audience members, which sought positions on the Second Amendment, the Fair Tax concept and abolishing No Child Left Behind legislation.