Copeland, Mabra, Pritchett Responses to HD63 Questionnaire

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(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the upcoming July 31, 2012, Partisan Primary and Non-Partisan General Election, Atlanta Progressive News sent questionnaires to all three candidates in the House District 63 race: TJ Copeland, Ronnie Mabra, and Linda Pritchett.

All three candidates provided their responses, which are provided below.

Yesterday, July 25, Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Mabra is qualified to run for House District 63.  Kemp overturned the ruling of the Administrative Law Judge, who, as previously reported by APN, had ruled that Mabra was not qualified because he had not provided enough evidence that he lived in the District.

Kemp noted, however, that the “State Election Board may need to consider whether Respondents’ sworn statements made on his Declaration of Candidacy and Affidavit constituted false swearing.” 

Kemp also ruled that it was not relevant whether Mabra’s wife has a domicile in Atlanta nor how much time Mabra spent there.

The District 63 seat is one of the new districts with no incumbents created during recent redistricting.

Copeland ran against State Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague (D-Atlanta) in 2004 and 2006, is currently a special education teacher, and has served numerous roles within the state and local Democratic Party machinery.

Mabra is a former athlete turned attorney, who has raised and spent a lot of money in the race.  He represented Rashad Ritchie, political director of the Democratic Party of Georgia, in Ritchie’s now-dismissed defamation lawsuit against local political bloggers.

Pritchett is a paralegal and community advocate.  She filed the residency challenge against Mabra.

Previously, APN published questionnaires with nearly all the candidates in the Democratic Primary races for HD 53, 56, 57, 58, 59, and 62, and US House District 5.

(1)   DO YOU SUPPORT OR OPPOSE NUCLEAR POWER?

COPELAND: While I feel that it is essential to utilize alternative forms of energy, I do not feel that nuclear power is a safe alternative and therefore should not be utilized until safer forms are available.
MABRA: We have an addiction to foreign oil, and I believe that nuclear power may be a part of the solution.

PRITCHETT: I do not support nuclear power although Obama does.  The energy might be cheaper but the effects it has on our water supply and the communities like Plant Vogtle are devastating with long lasting negative effects.

(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?

COPELAND: Yes, I feel that all people should be able to run for office regardless of their party affiliation. I would never want to restrict someone else’s ability to run for office simply because they do not share the same political ideology as me.

MABRA: I see no issue with lowering this percentage. In order to have a better-run state, we need more people engaged, not fewer.

PRITCHETT: I would support lowering the petition requirements and adding a fee that is comparable to that of the other parties.  I would also like to see their qualifying period take place as the other two parties with the same requirements.

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

COPELAND: YES! It is imperative that voter be assured that their correct vote was cast and they have proof of it.

MABRA: I have a few issues with this (i.e. funding concerns) but I am willing to explore all viewpoints as a representative.

PRITCHETT: 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?

COPELAND: No, Georgia’s constitution should not be amended to allow the state to override locally elected school board decisions.  This is takes the power from the people who elected the school board as well as eliminates local control.

MABRA: No, I support public schools and local control.

PRITCHETT: Charter Schools are a good alternative when presented by a County School System but as a private system I do not support them.  The school board should have the final decisions over the school decisions because this is what they are designed to do.  The board is better acquainted with the needs of the students than the state although they do need improvements in many areas.

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

COPELAND: Yes. I would support the legalization of medical marijuana for purposes of health.  

MABRA: I believe that doctors should have the right to prescribe what they feel is best for their patient. Perhaps this could be another revenue stream that could prop up incredible social programs like the HOPE Scholarship.

PRITCHETT: No, but if it had to be issued for medicinal purposes only I would not be opposed.

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

COPELAND: No, I think once you attempt to regulate this practice the gifts will be given in secret. The current system we have in place allows for transparency which I truly feel is the best means for fighting corruption.

MABRA: I support a wide range of ethics reform for state legislators, including this one.

PRITCHETT: Yes.

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

COPELAND: No, I have not signed it for the purposes stated above.

MABRA: I support the cause, but would prefer to wait until I have more experience in the Legislature to sign a pledge.

PRITCHETT: Yes, I signed it the day I qualified.  I’ve followed Common Cause during the redistricting session and I like the work they do and I agree that there should be a gift pledge cap.

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

COPELAND: Yes, I truly feel that all should pay their fair share in taxes. I would push for a simpler tax structure.

MABRA: I support a progressive tax structure like the one that being championed by President Obama that protects the lower and middle classes.

PRITCHETT: Yes, a tax structure that does not give all the breaks to huge corporations but gives working families incentives.

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

COPELAND: I would love to work with other organizations to develop better affordable housing initiatives. Affordable housing is one of the most important issues facing metro Atlanta and I look forward to addressing it once elected.

MABRA: Housing is a major issue in my district that I will work hard to address. The foreclosure rate in Georgia is one of the highest in the country, and I believe that a good start to fixing this issue is to promote financial literacy so that people understand the true costs associated with homeownership. We also need to make sure that banks do not take advantage of loan seekers. Stronger bank regulation and a focus on financial education will go a long way in solving the housing crisis.

PRITCHETT: I support affordable housing in Georgia and I think there should be incentives for non-profits such as stabilization projects where foreclosed homes are put back on the market after rehabs are done.  We have to get the property values back up but progressively so that people can realistically afford to live and remain in their homes.

(END/2012)

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