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Kingston vs. Gillespie: Fight for southeast Georgia 

Interviews with Jack Kingston and Bill Gillespie follow:

Jack Kingston has represented Georgia's First District for 15 years.

The biggest concern voters are expressing this election year is the state of the economy. Kingston is confident that it will rebound.

“We have the desire out there and it’s universal enough everyone can be motivated to do it,” the Republican says. “We’ve got a critical mass. In my opinion, Washington has not done a good job with this.”

One step to resolving the credit crisis would be to offer a ten percent credit to home buyers. “The nice part about it is with a 10 percent tax credit, a house at $150,000 would go for $135,000, which makes the price more reasonable for first-time buyers,” Kingston says. “It’s a market solution that could happen in Hinesville, Savannah, Hardeeville, but you don’t have to have a central federal agency saying what you need to do.”

Businesses should be given faster depreciation credits, Kingston says. “If a restaurant’s equipment depreciates very quickly, we would let the restaurant depreciate its assets faster, which means it will replace the equipment sooner,” he says. “That would create demand. We can apply accelerated depreciation to a lot of businesses, which would also stimulate growth and the economy.”

Making health care more affordable and accessible also would stimulate the economy, Kingston says. “If we let people purchase health insurance out of state, it would make the industry more competitive,” he says. “We have mandated so many benefits. A policy for a person aged 18 might cost $1,000 in Kentucky, and $5,000 in New Jersey. If we let people in New Jersey buy that policy in Kentucky, it will increase competition and bring the cost down.”

Kingston says giving tax credits, as presidential candidate John McCain has proposed, would be helpful. Energy prices also must be addressed, he says.

“Part of the recession was brought about by high energy costs and the rapid acceleration in price,” Kingston says. “It is very important to look for alternative fuels.”

Georgia should be a leader in this, Kingston says. “Some of the research going on at the University of Georgia is looking at watermelons, sorghum, sweet potatoes, all as potential sources of fuel and ethanol,” he says.

“We should give tax credits for conservation, which helps create a demand for alternative fuels. I’m worried if gas goes down, people will forget about alternatives,” Kingston says.

“I think we have to have a strong commitment to alternative fuel, but at the same time it’s going to be five to 10 years before we’re all able to buy hybrids and have the needed infrastructure in place. Until then, we need to utilize American oil reserves. Whether it’s in Alaska or offshore, it should be utilized.”

Kingston supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “Alaska is twice the size of Texas and ANWR is the size of South Carolina,” he says. “What people don’t realize is that the proposed drilling area is about 2,000 acres, about the size of the Savannah airport. I believe it can be done in an environmentally sensible way.”

Congress should look for ways to offset well-intended but non-efficient regulations that drive up costs, Kingston says. As an example, he cites the cleaning soap his wife orders by mail.

Every time the soap comes, it has a nozzle with it, even though it’s not really needed. Kingston says the reason the company does that is because an EPA regulation requires it to send the nozzle.

“That’s the way the packing was approved,” he says. “In order to not put it in, they would have to get a new permit, which costs lots of money.”

To save money and conserve fuel, Kingston thinks mail delivery should be limited to weekdays. “Generation X doesn’t use mail, they use text messages,” he says. “They buy online, bank online, and yet we spend up to $86 million a day delivering mail.

“If we want to conserve, that would be a good step in right direction,” Kingston says. “Give the postal service Saturday off. It’s a wonderful thing, but mail service today is more business than personal. Most people get flyers, commercial stuff and bills.”

Kingston supports the use of nuclear power. “It’s clean, it’s safe,” he says. “In America, one of five houses run on nuclear energy,” Kingston says. “In France, it’s four out of five.”

Changes need to be made in Iraq, Kingston says. “There are three legs to the triangle of success in Iraq,” he says. “The first is to make sure the Iraqis are trained.

“Second, they’ve got to have a military level of competence and a political level of competence. When I was over there, I met with the deputy prime minister who said before to get the Sunnis and Shiites to sit in the same room was miraculous, and now they’re passing legislation together.

“The third leg would be the economic process,” Kingston says. “The fostering of small businesses, the presence of the World Bank there, job creation, rebuilding the infrastructure, getting the ports working. I think we’re closing in on this.

“There has been some measure of success and withdrawing and ratcheting down is a reality,” he says. “President Bush has started to pull back a little bit. I’m far more comfortable having the military generals in Iraq make the decisions rather than poll-reading politicians in Washington.”

No Child Left Behind has been a mixed bag, Kingston says. “I represent 25 different counties and go to schools all over,” he says. “I talk to teachers and principals and they say it has given them the excuse to do things that they needed to do -- get tougher on teacher evaluations, on testing.

“I think we can improve some things in No Child Left Behind, but it would probably be irresponsible for the government to pull out of it.”

Changes must be made in Social Security, Kingston says. “Someone who is 25 today is going to be paying Social Security at a very high rate as opposed to my dad,” Kingston says. “When he retired in 1980, he got all his money back in three years.”

When Baby Boomers retire, it will take about 17 years for a complete return, Kingston says. “But for a 25-year-old, forget it, because the system is going to be broke,” he says. cs

BILL GILLESPIE is in the midst of his first political campaign. And he's starting off big by running for Congress — he wants the office currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston.

Gillespie, a Democrat, served 23 years in the U.S. Army, retiring last year as a lieutenant colonel and a disabled veteran. In 2003, he served in Iraq with the Third Infantry Division, earning a Bronze Star.

“I was one of those idealists who joined the Army to honor and serve my country.” Gillespie says. “I went through multiple deployments. I understand public service, I understand leadership.”

Gillespie says he’s running for Congress for two main reasons. “We’re involved in a very divisive war in Iraq,” he says. “The other reason is the poverty and lack of opportunity that exists in Georgia on the other side of Interstate 95.”

Economic development can be encouraged by aggressively recruiting new jobs for South Georgia, Gillespie says. He also wants to expand the Creative Coast initiative to all of South Georgia, support the tourism industry and create the South Georgia Alternative Energy Alliance.

“Some part of America is going to capitalize on our country’s move to alternative energy,” Gillespie says. “I want this to be South Georgia.”

Developing alternative energy would involve public and private partners, Gillespie says. Farmers can produce biofuels from switchgrass, peanut shells and timber, he says.

“There are certain places in Alaska where I think we should drill,” he says. There are places in Alaska that are already leased and the infrastructure is in place where they could drill. There are places in the gulf, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, where the infrastructure is already there.

“I’m not an advocate for drilling off the coast of Georgia,” Gillespie says. “We have the Gulf Stream, Gray’s Reef, pristine federal and state wildlife management areas. I don’t think it would be good economically, and we don’t have the infrastructure.”

The “die has already been cast” when it comes to nuclear energy, Gillespie says. “Nuclear plants are going to be built,” he says. “There is no clean way to store the waste, no safe way to store the waste. It affects water quality. But nuclear is on the table and is going be with us for the next 20 to 30 years. The waste will be with us forever.”

Gillespie wants to lower taxes for both citizens and small businesses. “This election is about the economy and who has the best policies to take care of people, not just big business,” he says.

“I think we’ve squandered opportunities here in southeast Georgia. We need to market ourselves. We’ve lost so many good-paying jobs in paper mills, chemical plants, the lumber mills. At one time, almost everyone in Chatham County worked there, and they were quality jobs that paid five times more than service jobs.”

Georgia could become a leader in alternative energy, Gillespie says. “We should be the number one center for biodiesel,” he says. “If it doesn’t happen in Georgia, it’s going to move to Alabama or South Carolina.”

Coastal Georgia also could have the largest wind farm in operation, Gillespie says. “We have the right wind speed, the right consistency,” he says. “Mr. Kingston stifled that from happening because Chevron wasn’t ready or we could have it happening already.”

Public transportation should be improved in Georgia, Gillespie says. “It’s time for light rail, bullet trains to Atlanta and other big cities,” he says. “That would help put people back to work.”

Gillespie said he reluctantly supports the $700 billion bailout. “I understand economics and markets,” he says. “The market runs on confidence and the free flow of credit. But there were certain things that are very disturbing that got us to this point.”

Chief among those was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act, enacted in 1999 to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which prohibited banks from offering investment, commercial and insurance services. The idea was to open up competition among banks, securities companies and insurance companies.

“The 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act stripped away all governmental controls,” Gillespie says. “I think we need to reinstate that oversight. I support the Barack Obama plan. We have to give the middle class tax credits. We need do everything we can to ensure small businesses and the start-up entrepreneurs can make it in this market.”

America should empower the Iraqis by withdrawing from Iraq, Gillespie says. With the correct withdrawal plan, he says it could happen in 18 months.

“We’ve trained Iraqi soldiers and its time to empower them,” he says. “They want a solution, they want us to leave. We took our eyes off the ball and the errors that were made in the first six months were so bad we haven’t been able to recover from them.”

A U.S. military presence in the Middle East should be maintained to ensure stabilization, Gillespie says. A Federal Terrorism Court should be developed to punish terrorists, he says.

The war on Iraq also pulled personnel from Afghanistan, Gillespie says. “Afghanistan is the real point of lawlessness and rogue nations,” he says. “It is the central hub for Al Qaeda. We need additional U.S. troops there.”

Gillespie says, “Under an Obama presidency, we will have better relationships with the UN, our strategic partners and NATO. I think we will regain our prominence.”

As a disabled veteran, Gillespie says he knows how important it is to help a wounded veteran transfer into the workplace. “Our veterans deserve the best health care in the world,” he says. “But it takes months to get into a VA hospital, and the clinics tend be underfunded. The issue is that if the VA can’t provide timely health care, we should be able to get them somewhere else for treatment. We need to provide them with an insurance card so they can get timely health care in a local facility.”

Social Security needs reforms, but not privatization, Gillespie says. “Mr. Kingston would like to privatize Social Security,” he says. “If it was privatized now, we would have lost a third of the Social Security funds.” cs

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