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Debate shifts to House seat
Few differences for three candidates
Douglas Wright addresses the audience during Tuesday's debate. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Regardless of who is elected, it appears District 24 will have a conservative representative in the state House of Representatives.

In fact, the three Republican candidates vying for the seat being vacated by Tom Knox gave so many similar responses during a debate Tuesday night, the real challenge became distinguishing themselves from the others.

Mike Dudgeon, Anna McManus and Douglas Wright fielded a series of questions during the second of three Forsyth County Republican Party debates.

The three face off in the July 20 Republican primary. A runoff election, if necessary, would be Aug. 10.

Because no Democrats are seeking the position, whoever wins the primary will become the district’s next representative.

Tuesday night’s forum for District 24 was moderated by Mika Kawana, finance director for the Georgia Republican Party.

Wright pointed to his work at the state level in Maine, where he served as a campaign field coordinator, legislative aide and assistant press secretary for the governor.

McManus said her more than 20 years as a Republican Party leader in Forsyth gives her insight into the local issues and relationships with the community and legislators.

Dudgeon said serving on the Forsyth County Board of Education has given him first-hand experience making difficult decisions such as budget cuts.

While there were some variations, the three candidates generally support using the 10th Amendment when needed and would back zero-based budgeting.

All three also said they would support an Arizona-type immigration law in Georgia and were open to offering incentives to attract businesses, at least on a case-by-case basis.

Dudgeon, a chief technology officer, compared it to playing with nuclear weapons.

“Basically all the other states are giving out incentives and as long as everyone else is doing it, if Georgia doesn’t do it, then we become a competitive disadvantage,” he said. “In an ideal world, no, we would not be giving out any incentives.

“I really don’t like the idea of doing it. Is it a necessity? Is it a reality? Is it something that practically has to be done? Yes.”
Education, water, transportation and quality of life were among the top priorities the three candidates listed, with a focus on improving the economy.

When asked how they would tackle Georgia’s water problem, McManus offered a three-tier solution.

“We have to practice conservation, we have to promote and construct reservoirs, either private or public/private partnerships, and then we also need to negotiate with the state of Tennessee,” said McManus, an insurance agent/consultant.

“Tennessee has plenty of water. They have enough water for the next thousand years, and we all have something to bring to the table. What we also have to remember about water is that it’s not just about water, it’s about economic development.”

For balancing the state’s budget, Wright said one of the problems in state government is “any time you want to do budget cuts ... every one of the departments, the secretaries, anything like that, they hand up the football team.”

“Nobody wants to cut the football team from the budget,” said Wright, a stay-at-home father. “So the zero-based budget would have to make everybody, every year, justify the programs, justify why they exist and it would stop the repetitive funding of programs that are no longer needed.

“It gives the state the opportunity to start from scratch every year.”

Forsyth County’s other four state legislative posts — two seats each in the House and Senate — are also up for election this year, though three of the incumbents did not draw any opposition.

The state Senate race in District 51, which includes some of Forsyth, pits Republican Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega businessman, against Democrat Joseph Mann of Mineral Bluff.

The seat was vacated by Chip Pearson of Dawsonville.

Knox is running for state insurance and fire safety commissioner in the July 20 primary.