Billy vs Buddy
UPDATE (Buddy Wins Landslide)
State Senate Election Results
State Senate – District 1
Buddy Carter – R
Billy Hair – R
Updated Nov-04-2009 04:43 AM 100% reporting (61 of 61 precincts)
Savannah Morning News -November 1st, 2009
Author: Larry Peterson
When the votes are counted Tuesday, the State Senate’s 1st District might have seen its first seriously contested election since 1992.
One thing is certain: It will be the first election there since 1994 with no incumbent on the ballot.
Not that the candidates are political rookies: Buddy Carter recently was in the state House and Billy Hair chaired the Chatham County Commission for eight years.
Carter and Hair are Republicans, which is no coincidence.
Shifting boundaries and political loyalties have made the lst – which takes in Bryan County and parts of Chatham and Liberty counties – a GOP bastion.
In 1992, Democrat Tom Coleman barely hung on to his seat with 52 percent of the vote.
But Republican Eric Johnson, elected after Coleman retired in 1994, had only two Democratic opponents; neither drew more than 29 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, GOP President George W. Bush carried the 1st by 2-to-1 margins in 2000 and 2004; Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue did even better in 2006.
Johnson quit Sept. 15 to focus on his 2010 quest for governor, triggering a special election in the 1st on Tuesday.
Carter had a head start in the race, which began as a marathon and turned into a sprint.
Eying the 2010 elections, he began gearing up to run early this year, when Johnson signaled his intention to run for statewide office.
By the time Johnson stepped aside, Carter was fundraising and building an organization.
Both he and Hair have spoken to GOP groups. Their members are considered the people mostly likely to vote Tuesday.
They also have used radio, newspapers or mailings to advertise. But Hair is playing catch-up when it comes to the money needed to pay for such items.
On Oct. 19, the end of the campaign finance reporting period, Carter had raised nearly $152,000 and had almost $41,000 in the bank.
In contrast, Hair had rounded up just less than $17,000, and had only a little more than $2,000 on hand.
The reports showed that, especially when it came to campaign mailings, he had been heavily outgunned.
He said he would try to make up the difference with volunteers and door-to-door campaigning.
Even though some cities and towns in the 1st will hold elections Tuesday, low turnout – predictions range from 10 percent to 20 percent – is expected.
Chatham County GOP chairman Frank Murray noted there have been no debates, few forums and little buzz among party activists.
“From what I can see,” Murray said, “things have been pretty low-key.”
Carter: Wants to play leadership role
Buddy Carter knows well the history of the 1st State Senate District.
The last two lawmakers to fill the now-vacant seat were Republican Eric Johnson and, before that, Democrat Tom Coleman.
Each served about a decade and a half, held key leadership posts, and steered massive state spending to the district and Chatham County.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” Carter said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to carry on that tradition.
“I want to be part of the leadership so I can work with my colleagues to get things done for the district and the rest of the state.”
Until he stepped aside to seek the Senate seat, the former Pooler mayor was finishing his third term in the state House.
Based on that stint, he has the support of many of his GOP legislative colleagues.
“He’s been very effective,” said Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah. “He knows all the senators and the lieutenant governor, who presides over the Senate.
“People trust Buddy. He has built the rapport he needs so he can start helping the district the day he walks in the door.”
When he first announced his quest for the Senate seat, Carter summarized his key issues as the “four T’s.”
They included taxes – the state budget, transportation, trauma – the system for treating critically injured people, and thirst – or water.
More recently, he’s added a fifth T: teaching – or education.
But Carter has stressed the first T – taxes.
He co-authored a law – similar to Chatham County’s – that sharply limits increases in property tax assessments in Effingham County.
He says he’s been working with legislators such as Stephens, co-author of the Chatham County measure, to apply the concept statewide.
Carter stresses that he has never voted for a tax increase, either as mayor or in the House.
But he doesn’t rule out the possibility of some sort of increase as the state tries to deal with its budget crunch.
Carter rejects the criticisms that his opponent, Billy Hair, has made concerning the legislature’s role in the state budget process.
He said Hair may not understand how different being one of 236 state lawmakers is from the executive jobs Hair has held.
But, like Hair, he is reluctant to be pinned down on just how money can be found to fund essential programs without raising taxes.
“These are difficult questions,” he said, “and that is why it’s important to have people in office who know what they’re doing.”
Hair: State issues match his resume
Ask Billy Hair why he’s running for the state Senate, and he has a ready answer.
“If you look at the issues facing the state,” said the former Chatham County Commission chairman, “there’s an almost perfect match between them and my resume.”
As Hair sees them, the top challenges are budgeting, transportation and education.
Chairing the commission for eight years, the Skidaway Island resident said, gave him a firm grasp of such issues.
For example, he said, he was immersed in transportation issues and worked with the state Department of Transportation “on almost a daily basis.”
Former Savannah Mayor Floyd Adams said he and Hair teamed up to bring the area road money.
“Billy understood that intergovernmental cooperation pays big dividends,” said Adams, now a local school board member.
Hair also said his stints as president of Savannah Technical College and vice president of Augusta Technical College steeped him in educational concerns.
And both sets of jobs, plus his educational and professional background in business qualify “eminently,” as he puts it, in budgeting.
That is the issue that he’s been stressing in his special election campaign.
“There is no reason we should be in the financial shape we’re in,” the candidate said, referring to the state’s ongoing budget crisis.
Hair faults a system of across-the-board spending cuts that, he said the state has used – with some exceptions – to tighten its belt.
That approach, he argues, equates essential programs such as mental health and education and non-essential programs such as parks.
“There is no way we should be furloughing teachers and mental health workers,” Hair said.
As an alternative approach, he supports “zero-based budgeting” that requires each department to justify what it plans to do.
That would leave enough money in “the normal revenue stream” of existing taxes to fund even big-ticket transportation projects, he said.
So Hair opposes various proposals to let people vote whether to add a penny to sales taxes to fund major highways, roads and related work.
Voters are tired of such measures, and they’ll “fail miserably” if they are put on the ballot, Hair said.
Hair is reluctant to name which programs he considers non-essential.
But he says that, once they are identified, user fees should be levied to pay for them, or they should be cut or eliminated.
Former Savannah mayor Adams gives Hair high marks.
“He’s a good man,” Adams said. “He listens to people. …
“He can articulate those issues in Atlanta in a way that will foster cooperation and serve the district.”
Former Chatham County Commission Chairman Billy Hair says he’ll run for the state senate seat Eric Johnson is giving up to run for lieutenant governor.
Hair, a Republican, will vie in the July 2010 GOP primary election in the 1st District. It includes Bryan County and parts of Chatham and Liberty counties.
The only other declared candidate is State Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, who entered the race last month.
Hair, who served two terms as commission chairman and was the first GOP chairman, said he is “eminently qualified” to be a senator.
As chairman, he said he had extensive experience with transportation issues and worked with the state Department of Transportation “on almost a daily basis.”
As an early advocate of a regional approach to transportation planning, Hair said, “I was for it before it was cool.”
He said his long stint as president of Savannah Technical College gives him a strong background on education issues.
Hair said he is preparing a detailed platform but doesn’t want to discuss specifics until he formally launches his campaign sometime this spring.
But he said he questions whether the state’s budget shortfall, estimated at more than $2.2 billion, can be resolved without a tax increase.
The state’s entire tax structure needs to be re-evaluated and overhauled, he added.
He said he plans to offer proposals on taxes, health care and other issues.
Winning the GOP primary could be a stiffer test than the November general election. The district has lopsidedly Republican voting habits, and Johnson, a Savannah lawmaker, has faced little opposition during his 14 years in the Senate.
Chatham County Republican Chairman Frank Murray, who isn’t taking sides, said Hair is a serious contender.
“Billy’s known and has support out there,” Murray said. “I think it’s going to be a very interesting race. Both he and Buddy have name recognition and can raise money.”
Carter, who has hired Savannah political consultant David Simons and lined up widespread support, had said he hoped a strong, early start would shoo away competition.
“I still feel I’m off to a good start,” he said Thursday. “I look forward to a good debate on the issues. Right now, I’m focused on Atlanta and doing my best for my constituents.”
The Billy Hair File
Education: B.A. in finance, MBA, University of South Carolina; doctorate in education, University of Georgia
Occupation: Owns three aviation companies
Professional background: President of Savannah Technical College, 1982-94; earlier was vice president, Augusta Technical College
Political Experience: Chairman of the Chatham County Commission, 1996-2004; also served on the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority
Earl L. “Buddy” Carter was born and raised in Port Wentworth. He attended public schools in Chatham County and graduated in 1975 from Groves High School. From there he went to Young Harris College where he received an Associate of Science Degree. He then transfered to the University of Georgia where he recieved his Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy in 1980.
Buddy worked as a staff Pharmacist and Pharmacy Manager at Rupert Heller’s Prescriptions on Hwy 80 in Garden City from 1980 until November of 1988. On November 28, 1988 he opened his first Retail Pharmacy, Carter’s Pharmacy, Inc. in Pooler. In 1992 he opened another business, Carter’s Institutional Pharmacy, Inc., a business servicing nursing homes, personal care homes and hospices. In 1996 he opened his second retail pharmacy in Lifeline Medical Center in Garden City.
In February of 1997, Buddy sold his Institutional Pharmacy, then servicing approximately 2000 nursing home beds throughout south Georgia, to Omnicare, Inc. Omnicare, Inc., located in Cincinnati, Ohio, is the largest provider of nursing home medications in the world. Today, Buddy still manages the Institutional Pharmacy for Omnicare and he continues to own and operate the two retail Pharamacies in Pooler and Garden City.
On September 9, 1978, Buddy married his college sweetheart, the former Amy Coppage from Waycross. Amy is a Registered Physical Therapist, having graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy degree. Buddy and Amy have 3 teenage sons- Joel, a rising Sophomore at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, Barrett, a rising Senior at Savannah Country Day School, and Travis, a rising Freshman at Savannah Country Day School.
The Carter family has lived in Pooler since 1980 and now reside at 406 Purple Finch Dr.
By Denise Etheridge, Sunday, Oct. 30
Candidates for State Senate District 1, Buddy Carter and Dr. Billy Hair, will finally face off in a special election Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Carter recently resigned his seat as a state representative for District 159 to run for the Georgia Senate. He served as the mayor of Pooler for five terms and was chairman of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center. He owns several pharmacies across metro Savannah.
Hair is a former Chatham County Commission chairman and formerly served as president for Savannah Technical College. He is a Vietnam War veteran. Hair also owns three businesses in South Georgia, including Productivity Air.
Q. How much control would you give local school boards?
A. The short answer to this is – as much as possible. As a former mayor of nine years I truly believe in local control, especially when it comes to the education of our children. No one knows better what our children’s educational needs are than local folks.
Q. Would you oppose budget cuts to schools?
A. None of us want to cut school budgets and we do our best not to do this. During the recent budget cuts, education was cut only two percent and Medicaid only three percent while all other departments were cut five percent. Education accounts for 56 percent of our state’s yearly budget. Our teachers are the highest paid in the Southeast and among the highest paid in the nation. This is an indication of the emphasis we place on education in our state.
Q. Discuss the SPLOST you would establish to fund transportation infrastructure.
A. Currently the proposal receiving the most consideration is for a statewide one percent sales tax to be split between regional and statewide projects. This would be in the form of a referendum for voters to decide if they want the extra one percent to be imposed for transportation projects. I would support this only if the voters decide they want it and only if the regional program is included.
Q. What types of transportation projects would you like to see?
A. We need to move past the mindset of building only roads and bridges and look at light rail and mass transit in our metro areas. All of these should be considered.
Q. Discuss funding a state-wide trauma network. Where would trauma centers be located in the state?
A. Please, please see my Web site about trauma (one of the five T’s in my platform) at http://www.friendsofbuddycarter.com. Currently we have four Level 1 trauma centers and 14 total trauma centers. I have co-sponsored legislation that would add a $10 fee to car tags that would be dedicated to trauma funding. We need more trauma centers everywhere in the state especially in Southwest Georgia.
Q. Should the state fund mental health services?
A. Absolutely. For the past three years I have served on the Appropriations Committee and was Secretary of the Human Resources Subcommittee that dealt with mental health services. I have fought to maintain and increase funding for mental health services and will continue to do so. I also fought along with other local legislators in the successful effort to keep Georgia Regional Hospital open in Savannah.
Dr. Billy Hair:
Q. How much control would you give to local school boards?
A. The state department of education should be responsible for establishing a basic curriculum, teacher certification, and accountability for state dollars sent to local school systems. All other decisions should be made by local school boards. They are closer to their citizens and know best what is good for their school system. The local citizens will be able to hold local school boards accountable for their results.
Q. How would you make it easier to establish charter schools?
A. At the present time there are two types of charters; those chartered by local school boards and those chartered by the state. I believe that all charters should come from local school boards of education unless the local system refuses to give charters. Then and only then should the state charter schools and take money away from local school districts to support the charter school. One way to encourage school systems to give charters would be to give incentives for performance of students. This would either make them have more charter schools or eliminate the need for charter schools by improving all schools in their districts.
Q. How would you improve the state’s transportation infrastructure?
A. First, I would support the elimination of the position of planning director created by the legislature last year. This would end a flawed system. The reason this system was created was to give the governor and legislature the power to determine transportation needs. This greatly politicizes the transportation process. The reason the old system of the department of transportation was created the way it was (served) to put a firewall between legitimate transportation needs and politics; now that firewall has been removed. This new system also means that communities with smaller legislative delegations and those with less seniority will not get their rightful share of transportation dollars based on their need. The old system was much better because it left transportation planning to the professionals in the department of transportation and not turn it over to politicians who will make political decisions and not transportation ones.
I also believe we need to have regional transportation planning. No longer can a single community think only about their needs but how their decisions might affect their neighbors.
I also am very skeptical about another transportation sales tax. I believe we have reached the limit on sales taxes in the state of Georgia and if we are not careful will jeopardize the ones we already have.
Q. You support transportation dollars going to cities and counties for infrastructure improvement. Why?
A. The state had for many years a program called LARP (Local Assistance Road Program) that was highly successful. It has been virtually eliminated. We need to reestablish this program and ensure its adequate funding. Local city and county officials know far better than the state what local roads need to be improved. We need to return a larger portion of the gasoline tax to local governments because that is where the tax is generated.
Q. Discuss funding a state-wide trauma network. Where would trauma centers be located?
A. We need to fund the existing trauma centers fully and establish new centers in Southwest Georgia and North Georgia. The funding stream should be consistent and permanent. We need to fund these centers with a funding stream as close to possible to the people who cause the need for the care the most. The super speeder fine is a start since a larger percentage of the need comes from automobile accidents. But we need to look at other sources of funding that are directly related to the need for these services and not fund this service from income taxes or general revenue.
Q. Why should the state fund mental health services?
A. Mental health is a critical and often ignored part of our health care system in Georgia. We are currently serving a huge number of patients through our jail and corrections system. We also need to look at establishing a more efficient system of serving these patients with normal medical needs. We have a triage system that separates a patient’s needs with the type of care given. We don’t treat heart patients the same as we do broken arms. However in the mental health area we have basically a one-size-fits-all system. We send depressed patients to the same hospital as we do with those who have much more serious mental problems. The milder cases that only need medication are quickly released, wind up on the streets, commit minor offenses and are put in jail and the cycle starts all over again. We need to establish separate mental health clinics to dispense medications for mild cases and use the much more costly mental hospital system for the severest cases. If the state does not pick up the cost of these facilities then it becomes another unfunded mandate from the state.
Savannah “Red” Predicted Buddy Carter “slippin in”: