If you feed them, they will come.

Virtually every candidate running for a local or regional post in Whitfield County showed up at the Dalton-Whitfield Senior Center Thursday night. They spoke to a crowd of about 100 at a picnic hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area.

The audience heard first from candidates for the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners.

Barbara Vaughn, Democratic candidate for District 3, emphasized her roots in the community.

“I understand the people of Whitfield County. I may not always agree with you, but I will always listen to you,” she said.

Randy Waskul, a Republican candidate for District 3, noted that he is a relative newcomer to Whitfield County.

“I’m a new face, but this is my home. It’s where I live and where I plan on staying,” he said.

Waskul also spoke of the need for more planning by the board.

“We can look forward, or we can look backward. But we can’t stand still,” he said. Republican Odell Cochran, the incumbent in the District 3 race, pointed to some of the things the board has accomplished in his four years as a member: building a new jail, expanding the courthouse and expanding water across the county.

“To be a good commissioner, one must have a passion for fairness,” he said.

Incumbent Republican Mike Cowan also cited those accomplishments.

“We’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s a lot more to do. If re-elected, I want to help us come together as a community to deal with the issues we will face in the future,” he said.

Cowan is unopposed in the July 18 primary for District 1. He will face Democrat Pat Hicks in the November general election.

The audience also heard from the four candidates in the July 18 special election to fill the unexpired term of former clerk of Superior Court Betty Nelson. Nelson retired last year, citing health reasons.

Democrat Susan Miller emphasized her experience in business.

“This office should not be for Republicans or Democrats. Everyone should be treated equally and fairly and get the information they need in a reasonable time,” she said.

Incumbent Republican Ann Berry noted that she had worked in the clerk’s office for 20 years, including 11 as chief deputy clerk, before being appointed to replace Nelson until the election is held.

Democrat Cheryl Phipps also emphasized her experience in business, including 25 years as bookkeeper, office manager and corporate officer.

Republican Melica Kendrick noted that she had worked 15 years in the clerk’s office.

Two candidates for the at-large seat on the Whitfield County Board of Education, currently held by Holly Ridley, also spoke.

John Thomas and Louis Fordham will face each other in the Republican primary.

Fordham said he had been preparing himself to serve on the board for the past 15 years, being active in local PTAs and school councils as well as serving as chairman of the board of the Whitfield County Career Academy.

Thomas said he opposes merging the county school system with Dalton Public Schools.

“I don’t see a time, even in the next 10 years, that Whitfield County Schools needs to merge with Dalton,” he said.

State Rep. Roger Williams, R-Dalton, and state Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, briefed the crowd on the accomplishments of the General Assembly during the latest session. Those accomplishments included bills restricting eminent domain, requiring photographic ID for voting and barring adult illegal immigrants from many state benefits.

Thomas and Williams are unopposed this year.

Democrat Jeannie Babb Taylor, a candidate for state House of Representatives District 3, also spoke.

She said Georgia currently ranks first in foreclosures and that the state’s unemployment rate is the highest in a decade.

She will face the winner of the Republican primary between L.C. Cripps and incumbent Ron Forster.

Two Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives District 9 also spoke.

Bob Longwith said he had a background in municipal public works and spoke out against cloud seeding of the oceans.

John Bradbury, a truck driver and former teacher, criticized mounting federal debt.

“I don’t want to represent PACs. I don’t want to represent the party line. I don’t want to represent special interests. We need representation in Washington for people like you,” he said.

They will face each other in the Democratic primary. The winner will face incumbent Republican Nathan Deal in November.

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