Interviews with Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin follow:
Sen. Saxby Chambliss says he's not just counting the days, he's counting the hours until Nov. 5. By then, he'll probably know the outcome of a very heated race against Democratic opponent Jim Martin -- unless there's a run-off.
Chambliss himself was elected to the Senate in 2002 after defeating incumbent Max Cleland. He was first elected to Congress in 1994 to represent Georgia’s 8th congressional district.
Currently, Chambliss is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Rules Committee, and he is the Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
The current economic crisis can be overcome, Chambliss says. “We’re going to get out of this,” he says. “The question is, is this particular plan the right one? Do we do it both short and long term?
“Even those of us who didn’t vote for it hope it works,” Chambliss says. “We’ve got to get the economy turned around. We do have the opportunity for that to happen, plus get all that money back. At the end of the day, I don’t think it will cost a dime because we will get paid back.”
Chambliss says he himself is middle class, and understands the hardships facing people today. “I have a vested interest, and want to identify the problems the middle class has,” he says.
“I know other parents are working hard to get enough money to educate their children and set money aside for retirement,” Chambliss says. “I want to make sure to keep taxes low.
“We have a candidate for president who would tax everyone making more than $250,000,” he says. “That will affect the middle class because they work for those people. I want to provide tax relief for all hardworking Americans.
“We can move people from lower income levels to the middle class by providing jobs,” Chambliss says. “I think the way we’re going to help the middle class people through this crisis is just by getting the economy back on track. I want to make sure jobs are secure and unclog the credit crunch.”
Federal spending needs to be addressed, Chambliss says. “We spend too much taxpayer money in Washington,” he says. “We spend in ways I disagree with and in ways I wish we wouldn’t at times.
“The nature of the best governmental system in the world is that we can’t agree on everything,” Chambliss says. “If I could write the budget the way I want to, I think I would do it in a responsible way, but we have 535 different ideas of ways to spend.
“At the end of the day, we do spend too much money,” he says. “I think a lot is spent unnecessarily. We made a commitment during the 1994 campaign to balance the budget. We had to make some hard, tough choices, but we did balance the budget and saw the economy flourish. We can return to that.”
The war in Iraq is winding down, Chambliss says. “It’s now to the point where we’re turning over more and more responsibility to the Iraqis, both militarily and from the government standpoint,” he says. “We just turned another province over to them.
“Iraq is taking over more and more fiscal responsibility,” Chambliss says. “Their legislative body is finally being more responsive and responsible. They’ve called for an election and participation by all three sects, all of which is critically important.”
The sooner the Iraqis take charge, the sooner we bring American troops home, Chambliss says. “We’ve got great leadership in our military,” he says. “The decision to pull out of Iraq should not be made in the halls of Congress, it needs to be made by the military. We can’t afford to give back any of the gains and victories we’ve had.”
More American troops should be committed to Afghanistan, Chambliss says. “It’s a different operation in Afghanistan because it’s a NATO operation,” he says. “But the U.S. military is still the premiere fighting group in the world. While some of our colleagues in Afghanistan are good fighters, none compare to American soldiers. That’s why we have put more of them on the ground to finish the job in Afghanistan.”
The War on Terror is being won, Chambliss says. “I think we’re winning, just by virtue of the fact we haven’t suffered another attack on U.S. soil,” he says.
Issues at home must be addressed as well, Chambliss says. “We don’t need universal health care, which is what the Democrats propose,” he says. “Not unless you like the government telling you which doctors to go to and when can go. That is a fundamental decision that must be made by the individual.
“A lot of bright minds are working on different proposals on whether or not we ought to offer tax deductions rather than tax credits,” Chambliss says. “I think we could cover a broader scope if we have tax credits, but that still needs fine tuning.”
No Child Left Behind needs fixing, Chambliss says. “There have been some good things but bad results from it,” he says. “My wife is a retired teacher and my daughter is a fourth grade teacher, so I know firsthand from them what works and doesn’t work.
“We need to focus on letting good teachers teach kids and not make the main focus testing,” Chambliss says. “We need to make sure children have encouragement and opportunities to produce.”
The United States must be the leader in dealing with global warming, Chambliss says. “But it is foolish to step out without even worse polluters joining with us,” he says. “We have to strike a very delicate balance between the business community and the amount of carbons.”
“We have make sure we’re not leaving this world and particularly our country in worse shape than what we inherited it,” he says. “Our children and grandchildren deserve better than that.”
The development of all types of alternate fuels is critically important, not just ethanol and biodiesel, Chambliss says. “What we need are alternatively powered vehicles that run on natural gas or are battery powered.
“I’m a big fan of producing electricity from nuclear power,” he says. “It is the cheapest, most efficient way to manufacture electricity, but we have to be able to recycle the waste.” cs
JIM MARTIN is a busy man these days. In the race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the Democrat has not only closed the gap, it seems he could actually pull off a win in this thing.
That means putting in even longer hours, making more campaign stops, doing more interviews with reporters to pull off the kind of upset that put his opponent in the Senate back in 2002.
Even Martin is astonished by his success. “It’s incredible to me that people across this state are taking charge of government by early voting, by talking about the issues,” he says. “They want someone in Washington to stand up for meaningful change.”
In 1983, Martin was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives and spent 18 years there. He helped to create PeachCare and served as the chairman of a number of committees.
In 2001, Martin was appointed to head the Georgia Department of Human Resources. He was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006.
Martin says he’s running for the U.S. Senate because he understands the toll the failed policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have taken on families in Georgia.
“It’s disgusting how they’ve operated the last four years,” he says. “I can help to put our country back on track.”
It’s important to lower taxes for middle class Americans, Martin says. He also advocates strong consumer protection laws to protect citizens from banks and credit card, insurance and oil companies.
Corporate welfare must be stopped, and Congress must become more fiscally responsible, Martin says. Research should be encouraged to fuel economic growth, resulting in more jobs, he says.
The economy can be put back on track, Martin says. “This is a powerful country and an economically powerful country,” he says. “But its financial institutions have been unregulated, and this has been allowed to go on for the last eight years.
“We have a strong industrial base,” Martin says. “There will be plenty of new jobs in technology, manufacturing and maintenance of equipment, all of which will get the country moving again.”
Martin, who is a Vietnam veteran, says the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy is a failure and cannot be continued. “It’s costing $10 billion each month while there are serious needs here at home,” he says.
The Iraqi government must start taking responsibility for its own country, Martin says. Then American troops should be brought home with tactical decisions about how to do that being made by military commanders on the ground.
Martin supports maintaining a military presence in the Middle East. He also thinks greater focus must be placed on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I believe we’ve been on the wrong course in our international affairs,” Martin says. “We need to be sure the terrorist threat against our country is a real one and defend ourselves against that threat.”
America nearly won the war in Afghanistan, Martin says. “We almost caught bin Laden,” he says. “Then we invaded Iraq and now we’re stuck in Iraq spending $10 billion a month in tax dollars. Our soldiers have done an excellent job, but the question now is, how do we go about leaving Iraq and start spending that money in this country?”
Accessible and affordable health care for everyone can be achieved, and health care for children should be a top priority, Martin says. “We already spend twice as much as any other industrialized nation for health care,” Public/private partnerships could help make high quality health care available at a reasonable price, Martin says. “The person doing that has to be able to stand up to special interests involved in Medicare Part D,” he says. “We have to stand up to the special interests, the drug companies, insurance companies and say we’re spending way too much for health care in this country and make sure there’s comprehensive health care at a reasonable cost at a high quality.”
Martin also belives benefits for veterans should be booster. He believes benefits also should be expanded to members of the military reserves and the National Guard.
Education is vitally important to prepare Georgians for jobs in the global economy, Martin says.
He believes control of public education should be by state governments and local school boards, but says the federal government must help states and school systems so they can overcome problems. Federal funding should be available for early childhood education, supporting children with special needs and school systems that are struggling.
No Child Left Behind has focused on micromanaging teachers and students, rather than assisting parents and teachers, Martin says. “The federal government hasn’t adequately funded partnerships with state government and local schools,” he says. “It should be funding 40 percent of the cost for children in special education.”
On the environment, Martin says we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address global climate change. Past energy policies are stifling the development of new energy resources, he says.
“I think global warming exists,” Martin says. “We need to be very proactive in moving away from a carbon burning economy and go to one that uses alternative energy. This can’t happen immediately. I believe greenhouse emissions are a problem, but we need to be smart about how we address them.
“The influence of Big Oil has prevented us from doing what needs be done to develop hydro, solar and thermal power,” Martin says. “There needs be a level playing field in Washington so all types of technology can receive appropriate tax credits where it has been demonstrated they will help eliminate dependence on foreign oil.”
In the meantime, the country should increase domestic oil production, Martin says. “We should drill in places where it is environmentally safe to do so. We need to drill as a temporary solution, but at the end of the day, we have to move away from our dependence on oil.” cs