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Candidates tout their experience
Former senators running for Congress, state office
Hudgens Stephens
Former state Sens. Ralph Hudgens, left, and Bill Stephens greet one another Tuesday at the Forsyth County Republican Party meeting. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Two former state senators told local Republicans their legislative experience has prepared them for higher office.

Ralph Hudgens, a candidate for state commissioner of insurance and safety fire, and Bill Stephens, who is running for the District 9 U.S. House seat, spoke Tuesday night to the Forsyth County Republican Party.

“My motto is ‘experience is the difference,’” Hudgens said. “I’ve got experience managing an agency ... I’ve got business experience. I know what it means to make a payroll.”

Stephens, who represented parts of Forsyth during his eight years in the state Senate, is the lone candidate from the county in the District 9 congressional race.

Stephens, who qualified for both the May 11 special election and July 20 primary election, said he opposes any tax increase and supports term limits.

“The laws that apply to you and to me, ought to apply to Congress as well,” he said.

Next week’s special election is to fill the term left by Nathan Deal, who stepped down to focus on his gubernatorial bid. There are eight candidates.

The July 20 primary, which features seven Republican hopefuls, will be for a two-year term that begins in January. No Democrats or Independents qualified last week.

The primary also features the insurance commissioner race and many other state and local contests.

Hudgens, from Madison County, served six years in the state House and eight in the state Senate. He also chaired the Senate Insurance Committee for several years.

He touted his time in the General Assembly as a way to “get something done legislatively because of the relationships I have.”

Hudgens is one of 10 candidates running for the seat, including Maria Sheffield, who attended the meeting Tuesday.

Also in the hunt are Forsyth County resident Gerry Purcell and District 24 state Rep. Tom Knox of Cumming.

A runoff election, a near certainty given the crowded field, is set for Aug. 10.

As a businessman, Hudgens said he understands the importance of the insurance commissioner.

“I feel this office’s responsibility is to protect you, the consumer, to protect me, the consumer, and to make sure that the insurance companies don’t take advantage of you,” he said.

With five sons, one of whom is working toward becoming a Navy pilot, Stephens said his family was a motivating factor in his decision to run.

He disagrees with the federal bailouts of companies that were coined too big to fail, and is frustrated with federal government “taking charge of everything.”

“What concerns me more than all of that is the lack of moral leadership in Washington,” he said. “Scandal after scandal, disrespect for human life, moving away from personal responsibility,”

Stephens also found fault with what he said was Washington’s habit of “ignoring critical issues like the immigration issues, which I think has two simple solutions: One, close the borders and two, enforce the laws that are on the books.”

Stephens talked about his Senate experience, noting he served in the Republican minority under a Democratic governor, but enjoyed the change when Gov. Sonny Perdue was elected.

When Republicans took over the Senate, Stephens said he became the first Republican administration floor leader in Georgia in 134 years, and was later elected to two terms as majority leader.

“I think it’s important that your congressman ... knows what it’s like to lead others,” he said. “I have done that. I know what it’s like to take on the status quo.”

Before the two men spoke, several candidates for other offices or their campaign representatives had about a minute to introduce themselves.

The local GOP has offered this format for some time, giving exposure to two candidates a month while still allowing others to have some exposure.

Member Lee Dailey said he likes the format.

“It gives an opportunity for a broader view of the candidates, as opposed to having just one,” he said.

Dailey said Tuesday’s speakers were unlikely to sway his political choices, but “it could offer the opportunity to do that.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed comments some of them made tonight that I might not have voted for, but I certainly will consider them now,” he said.