Phelps, Rep. Kaiser Respond to APN HD59 Questionnaire

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(APN) ATLANTA — William Phelps and State Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta) have provided their responses to the Atlanta Progressive News Candidate Questionnaire for State House District 59.

Charter schools, as noted below, emerged as a major issue of contention between the candidates.  Phelps criticized Rep. Kaiser for co-sponsoring HR 1162, calling it a “grave mistake.”  Kaiser did not directly answer APN’s question about whether the State of Georgia should be able to grant charters for charter schools, instead indicating her support for “PUBLIC” charter schools.  Reading between the lines, Kaiser is trying to characterize charter schools as public schools, without really answering the question.

Kaiser was indeed one of the top six co-sponsors of HR 1162, APN can confirm.

Kaiser, 45, defeated former State Rep. Douglas Dean (D-Atlanta) in 2006, and has served since then.  The already diverse District has been redrawn within the last year, and now includes more areas of South Fulton.

Phelps, 28, previously served in the Marines in the US Invasion of Afghanistan, and he is currently a disabled veteran.  

Phelps is also one of several openly homosexual candidates running for State House this year.  However, Georgia Equality has endorsed Rep. Kaiser.

“Beyond are candidates going to be supportive of our issues, we also look at who is going to be the most effective person to advance our issues, and does the person have a track record of support, and how viable is the candidacy?  Certainly we are always pleased when open candidates are running, but our mission as an organization is to pass legislation and policies.  We felt because of Margaret’s strong record on our legislation, her involvement and support of the LGBT community over the last several years, and her experience and connections that have been established down at the Legislature, that she was candidate that we continue to support,” Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, told APN.

In our first round of questionnaires, we previously published responses from eight out of nine candidates in HD 53, 56, 57, and 58, including: State Reps. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta), Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), Ralph Long (D-Atlanta); former State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta); and Jason Esteves, Robert Patillo, and Ken Britt.

More recently, we sent out a second round, to nine candidates in HD 59, 62, and 63.  To date, we have received responses from Kaiser and Phelps in 59, Kip Carr in 62, and TJ Copeland in 63.  

Thus far, Marvin Arrington, Jr., in 62 confirmed receipt of the questionnaire but has not responded; Benny Crane in 62 has not confirmed receipt; and LaDawn B. Jones (“LBJ”) has declined response, citing inadequate time to do research she felt was necessary to answer the questions.

Also, thus far, Ronnie Mabra’s campaign confirmed receipt but has not responded in 63; and Linda Pritchett has not confirmed receipt.

In our US House District 5 Democratic Primary coverage, US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has still yet to respond to a questionnaire, while challenger Michael Johnson sat down for an interview weeks ago.  Lewis Campaign spokeswoman Beverly Isom, told APN today that responses have been prepared and are awaiting approval from Lewis’s Congressional Office.

Kaiser and Phelps’s responses are provided below:

(1) DO YOU SUPPORT OR OPPOSE NUCLEAR POWER?

KAISER: I think the existing technology and present financing mechanism are not supportable.

PHELPS: Yes!  I believe that nuclear power in America has the overall potential to be a great asset to our overall energy issue.

(2) BALLOT ACCESS MEANS MAKING IT EASIER FOR INDEPENDENT AND MINOR PARTY CANDIDATES TO GET ON THE BALLOT IN GEORGIA.  THE CURRENT PETITIONING REQUIREMENTS ARE ONE PERCENT STATEWIDE, FIVE PERCENT FOR JURISDICTIONS (IE- COUNTY, STATE HOUSE DISTRICT, US HOUSE DISTRICT).  WOULD YOU SUPPORT LOWERING THE PETITION REQUIREMENTS AND IF SO, TO WHAT LEVEL?

KAISER: Yes, 1% statewide.

PHELPS: No I do not support lowering the petition requirements.

(3) DO YOU SUPPORT ADDING A VOTER-VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL TO ELECTRONIC VOTING IN GEORGIA?

KAISER: Yes.

PHELPS: Yes.

(4) WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON CHARTER SCHOOLS?  SHOULD THE GEORGIA CONSTITUTION BE AMENDED TO ALLOW THE STATE TO OVERRIDE LOCALLY-ELECTED SCHOOL BOARDS’ DECISIONS WHEN IT COMES TO THE CREATION OF CHARTER SCHOOLS?  WHY OR WHY NOT?

KAISER: I support PUBLIC charter schools and have been active in the creation of the community charter school in my neighborhood.  I support measures to replicate our positive experiences for PUBLIC charter schools.

PHELPS: My opponent co- sponsored HB 1162 [sic: it’s actually HR], which is a grave mistake. The state should in NO way be allowed to override local school board decisions.  I live in South Fulton and I have contact with my School Board Member and I believe they (Fulton County School Board) are doing a tremendous job.  I think that Rep. Kaiser has it wrong and this is one of the reasons I am running against her.

(5) WOULD YOU SUPPORT LEGALIZING MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA?

KAISER: Yes, MEDICAL should be medical.

PHELPS: Yes.

(6) DO YOU SUPPORT ENDING THE CURRENT PRACTICE PERMITTING UNLIMITED GIFTS FROM LOBBYISTS TO STATE LEGISLATORS?

KAISER: Yes, of course, and have voted to do so.

PHELPS: Yes.

(6b) HAVE YOU SIGNED THE COMMON CAUSE GIFT CAP PLEDGE?  IF NOT, WHY NOT?

KAISER: Yes.

PHELPS: No.

(7) DO YOU SUPPORT A MORE PROGRESSIVE TAX STRUCTURE?  IF SO, WHAT SPECIFIC TAX REFORMS WOULD YOU PROPOSE?

KAISER: Yes – taxes should be based on ability to pay, not ability to hire lawyers and accountants.

PHELPS: The purpose of a progressive tax structure is to avert social upheaval when the economy slumps. I would support any progressive tax structure that is fair to all socioeconomic levels.

(8) WHAT, IF ANYTHING, WOULD YOU DO TO SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN GEORGIA?

KAISER: State subsidies to increase construction, as well as, increases in budget for existing supportive housing – these are conversations I have been having with constituents of mine whose expertise is affordable, as well as, supportive housing.  I, also, authored and passed legislation to double the homestead exemption for homeowners in Fulton County and the City of Atlanta.

PHELPS: I would support a more substantial push for citizens of Georgia who needs affordable housing. I will go out of my way to ensure that their representative is working for them and that they have all the resources needed.

(END/2012)

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