What They Aren’t Telling You

April 24, 2014 10:46 am

by Scarlet Hawk · 5 comments

While I prefer debates more, I enjoy attending candidate forums.  Weird; I know. Nathan posted about the HD 54 forum hosted by the Atlanta Young Republicans, and I attended it last night.  The event was well attended, moderated by the lovely Michelle Carver, and three of the four Republican candidates appeared: Beth Beskin, Loretta Lepore, and John McCloskey.  Angelic Moore was unable to attend.  Between the buzzwords, the rehearsed answers, and the soft questions, forums are the electorate’s chance to try to discern how the candidates differ.  You wanna know what is MY favorite part of these forums?  It’s what the candidates don’t say.  Those little parts of resumes that are left off, the subliminal agendas that you see a foreshadowing of, and the voting record of which the candidate doesn’t wish to speak…  These are the gaffs that make my little black heart beat faster. 

Beth Beskin kicked off the opening statements with talk of her legal background and her family.  She has said many times that she is a moderate Republican.  She underlined that with her stated support of education and said later that when speaking to Democrats they want the same things Republicans do: reduced waste, security, and better education.  Amazing isn’t it? Democrats have a brain as well! Who’d a thunk?

However, Beskin perked my interest with her pointed statement about Atlanta Public Schools’ pension plan problem, her evasiveness on city movements of Fulton County and the question of Grady funding.  The former point leads me to believe she has an agenda with the pension issue.  The municipal question derived a statement indicating she would not mind seeing the issue of South Fulton cities become a ballot issue.  This is a popular answer among Republicans- not one that I disagree with, but evasive of the larger problem with which Beskin shall have to deal: Milton County.  This question never came up in the forum, and is one the Speaker Pro-Tem has been jonesing for throughout her tenure.

The latter question was posed by Deborah Moscato, of the Buckhead Republican Women’s Club and asked each candidate where they stood on funding for Grady- regional funding or Atlanta specific.  Bravo, Deborah!  Beskin made a nod to her husband more than once in the forum as her source of information on healthcare issues as he is an orthopedic surgeon-not sure how this applies to anything.  She made the general pandering of anti-Obamacare that all Republicans do but basically didn’t really address the question.  I would have loved to have heard her response to rural healthcare.  As one of the few ITP House members, if elected, she will have to decide on the funding for hospitals around the state that redistribute money from ITP to OTP.  This has been a problem since buck was a calf, and I’ve yet to see any candidates this election cycle take it head-on.

McCloskey was refreshing to me.  His printed materials (props, The Stoneridge Group) and mailers paint him as the red-meat Republican white-dude.  He actually came across in the forum as a less boxed candidate than his mailers present him to be.  He talked about coaching basketball at his church and his legal background as well.  He supported regional funding for Grady, and supported the Fair Tax, just like Beskin.  However, he left out the fact that he’s legal counsel for the title pawn industry and that while he claims to be a “staunch” conservative, he’s never voted in a Republican primary.  Money can buy you great consultants and pretty mailers, but it can’t change a past voting record.

The one I will hate to have my client face in the general? Loretta Lepore.  (Full disclosure: I am consulting the Independent candidate’s race for the General Election).  While the other two candidates were talking about pie-in-the-sky tax reform, Lepore offered a realistic middle ground that speaks to her understanding of business, consensus building, and her years of working in the party.  Alternatively, her opponents offer Pollyanna approaches to complex issues: Beskin promises to work to eliminate the state income tax, despite the fact that Republicans already hold the Governor’s office, Lt. Governor’s office, and a majority in both chambers and haven’t yet been able to accomplish it. Good luck with that campaign promise.

Lepore on the other hand answered the Fair Tax question honestly and told the audience that when you have to balance the budget, and you cut one tax, the revenue then has to come from another source, unless you want to cut quality services and/or programs.  Any Reagan Republican should remember “user fee” replacement taxes in the 80’s.  The General Assembly used that tactic in the 2010 session with the omnibus DDS bill that upped the price of birth certificates, permits, you-name-it-they-taxed-it fee.  But the General Assembly told Georgia they cut taxes-and Georgia bought it.  I would encourage the voters of HD 54 to look at the reality of the claims these candidates are making with more discernment than Georgia did following 2010.

Lepore presented herself as a straight shooter; probably to her detriment.  She also didn’t talk about her work in Perdue’s office, the time she has dedicated to the GOP, and how many Republicans she has personally helped in politics around the state.  She’s put in the time and has made the effort.  Beskin may have won the straw poll, but HD 54 is a unique district in that it is fiscally conservative but socially liberal.  The Republicans in this district are solidly country club Republicans; no TEA partiers here.  The voters there are highly educated, affluent, and generally older than the crowd that was present at the AYR event.  Perhaps Beskin’s buzzwords can fool the younger crowd and McCloskey’s mailers can make up for voters who don’t research his voting record.   I’m not so sure about the educated voter in HD 54.

Lepore is the one that would be difficult to topple in a General.   The others are promising the world to get the Primary.  Read between the lines.  What they aren’t telling you matters.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

South Fulton Guy April 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

Funny how candidates mentioning Milton County has become the third rail.

Is it because they are walking the fence to get elected or has the general consensus now changed to “Fix Fulton” through a county commission take over and folks just don’t want to tick off die hard Miltonites…

Scarlet Hawk April 24, 2014 at 11:42 am

As a resident of the city of Atlanta, I personally always pay attention to where Fulton County candidates stand on the issue of Milton. I think the commission take over is probably what Milton supporters are hoping for, but not sure how realistic that dream may be. In this particular race I think it also matters b/c they’re House candidates and will have to work with or go against the Speaker Pro-Tem on that issue.

northside101 April 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm

54 is indeed a country-club, non-fundamentalist district—not the type where you want to harp a Bible-Belt agenda. Sunday retail alcohol sales? House 54 gave 85%+ approval in 2011. Abortion? House 54 voted 56% against the “Personhood” provision in the July 2012 GOP primary (advisory question) and (under current boundaries) way back in 1996 handily backed Isakson (who was then openly pro-choice on abortion, unlike today) over Guy Millner in that year’s GOP Senate runoff (though Millner won statewide in the primary before losing in the general). Gambling? Pretty safe bet 54 backed the state lottery in 1992 (given its easy win in Fulton County) Religion? Largest church (membership) in the district is not Baptist, or even Protestant for that matter—Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King (10,000+ members), and also home to the nation’s largest Presbyterian congregation (Peachtree Pres) and one of the largest (perhaps at times the largest) Episcopal congregations, Cathedral of St. Philip. Rick Santorum (who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 1992 as a culture warrior)? A mere 8 percent in the district in the presidential primary (compared with 59 for the more businesslike Romney).

bbeskin April 25, 2014 at 11:18 am

Thank you Peach Pundit for covering the HD 54 forum Wednesday night. I am a Republican candidate in the race and I participated in the forum. I take issue with several points Ms. Hawk makes in her commentary. I first question, though, why you post as commentary a report that is so clearly advocacy: because Ms. Hawk is a paid consultant for the person who is collecting signatures to run in this race as an Independent, her posting must be filtered through that lens. I don’t recall mentioning “more diverse energy options”, by which I assume Ms. Hawk means alternative forms of energy. Does she have a recording? Of course I mentioned my two degrees in geology. I never talked about my husband, Jim Beskin, being an oncologist; he’s an orthopedic surgeon with Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic. She created the implication that I consider myself a moderate Republican by saying “She has said many times . . .”. I think that’s bad journalism.

I will not analyze every point in the article, because no one would read it. I am happy, though, that Ms. Hawk pointed out Mr. McCloskey does not vote in Republican primaries. My research shows he did vote in one – the 2008 presidential primary – but I think Ms. Hawk generally got that point right.

Beth Beskin
Republican Candidate for Georgia State House District 54

Scarlet Hawk April 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Mrs. Beskin,

Thanks so much for your corrections and I apologize for my misunderstanding of your words. I have made the corrections you identified in the post and will be happy to make further if there is anything else I have represented incorrectly. I mentioned your inclusion of energy issues as a positive, not a negative. I guess you interpreted that differently and so I have removed them from the above post so that (even though I meant that as a positive reflection of your campaign) it doesn’t mislead the reader.

I am consulting Bill Bozarth’s campaign, and have been for some time now. I disclosed that in my post in order to fully inform the reader. I also have been a politically active person since I was able to vote. I’ve written about other forums in my home county of Walton and I will write about others as I attend them. If you see that as advocacy, then so be it. I see it as informing whoever wishes to read of what my opinion is- and I have never represented it other than that.

You are welcome to continue to comment on every point I have made to provide clarification, as a matter of fact, I encourage you to do so. You have unlimited opportunity to correct me.

I would appreciate you addressing the policy points I presented. These are the biggest points of my post and will matter most to the readers.