Columbia County Democrats continued Friday to try to gain a foothold in this Republican stronghold by playing host to a gubernatorial candidates forum featuring David Poythress and Thurbert Baker.
Speaking from the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center in the Columbia County Library, Mr. Poythress offered in his speech specific ideas for improving the state's economy while Mr. Baker, the state Attorney General, spoke in more general terms and focused on his previous accomplishments.
However, both men said it was time for a change in leadership and for a Democrat to reclaim the governor's mansion.
"We cannot afford eight more years of what we've had seven years of," said Mr. Poythress, a former commander of the Georgia Army National Guard and secretary of state, to the estimated 80 to 90 people in attendance, which included party members from McDuffie, Richmond and Lincoln counties.
Mr. Poythress said water, transportation and education issues "underpin economic prosperity" in the state and Republican leaders have ignored those issues.
Under his leadership, Mr. Poythress said he would focus on water conservation, raising dam levels, building new reservoirs, developing a regional water plan, improving the rail system for transporting goods from the Port of Savannah and adding technology to classrooms.
When state lawmakers approved the education lottery, plans for those funds were meant to establish a pre-kindergarten program, establish the HOPE scholarship and add new technologies to the classroom.
Those first two were accomplished, but "we have got to deliver completely on number three," Mr. Poythress said.
Mr. Baker said that during his time in the state House he helped establish HOPE, eliminate sales taxes on groceries and stiffen laws against violent crimes and domestic abuse.
As governor, Mr. Baker said he would devote more funding to transportation needs, education and trauma care centers.
Columbia County Democrats will play host to another gubernatorial candidate, DuBose Porter, at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of the Evans Government Center, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive, Evans.