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This is an election year and here's what I want discussed -- part one

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2024 is an election year. A big one. This is the headliner — locally, we have the always fun sheriff’s election. And nationally, there is the presidential election. And this presidential race has all the subplots of a daytime soap opera. No matter who you’re supporting, the next 11 months are going to be quite entertaining.



You’re going to hear a lot about election policies, procedures, conspiracy theories, who’s corrupt, who’s stealing votes, and so on and so forth. Block them out. Ignore them. Go to the polls and cast your vote. It doesn’t matter if you think your vote won’t count (it will) or if the election’s outcome is pre-determined (it isn’t), cast your ballot. It’s the way your voice gets heard and it’s the best way to participate in your government.



The impending elections have me thinking about the biggest issues that concern me. I don’t plan on digging too deeply into federal issues; the typical talking points we hear every cycle are again the talking points we’ll hear this year. 



The primary federal issue that concerns me is one that doesn’t generate headlines and one you really can’t run a campaign on. But it’s very real and very much a problem. 



While neither party is perfect, the Democratic Party terrifies me, primarily because the Democratic Party wages an all-out war on small businesses. The Democrats’ MO this century is to attack small businesses with the various federal agencies out there — including but not limited to the IRS, EPA, FBI, DOT, SEC, and others. A Democratic administration destroys consumer confidence, suffocates economic growth, and halts business investment and expansion. 



Small businesses are the economic backbone at every level. The small businesses employ the most people, are the most responsible partners, support local communities, and, through investment and expansion, keep other small businesses flourishing.



Democrats seem bound and determined to weaponize federal agencies against the very heartbeat of this country. And if the feds want to come after your business, they will. And you won’t have a leg to stand on. 



I’m very much a pro-business, pro-economic development voter. It’s the biggest issue upon which I cast my ballot. I’m less concerned with the social issues that dominate the national narrative these days. I choose to let people work those out amongst themselves. I want a federal bureaucracy that encourages economic growth, not through entitlements or handouts but through hard work and investment. I would like our government at all levels to create an atmosphere that encourages work and job growth. 



The Democratic Party does not do that. The Party’s primary objective seems to be to make everyone as dependent upon the government as possible. I want people to make as much money they can, keep as much of it as possible, and in turn re-investment it in order to further grow the economy.



Locally, my primary concern is the illegal drug epidemic. Pick a drug — it doesn’t matter: Methamphetamine, opioids, marijuana (I know, I know — but it’s still illegal), cocaine, heroin, and whatever else is out there. I want them off the streets. 



Contrary to popular belief,  I don’t like writing stories about illegal drugs. I don’t like writing stories about domestic disputes, hit and run accidents, serious traffic crashes, aggravated assaults, and murders. If you trace nearly every crime story back to its root, regardless of who was involved or what their socio-economic status or education level was, you will often land on illegal drugs. The drug epidemic leads to gangs, violence, and a host of other problems.



We have at least five law enforcement agencies stationed in Douglas: The Region 4 GBI Field Office, the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas Police Department, the South Georgia State College Police Department, and the Coffee County School System Police Department. Of these five, the two agencies with the most boots on the ground on a daily basis are the sheriff’s office and the police department. Between the two of these, the only leader you get to choose is the sheriff. 



In a rural county, the county sheriff is generally the most powerful elected official. While there are checks and balances on the scope of his influence, he’s the one who people often look to first.



This year’s sheriff election already features five candidates: Fred Cole, Daniel Paulk, Kenneth Merritt, Ben Munford, and Leisha Burke. More may jump into the race before it’s all said and done. Qualifying begins at 9 a.m on March 4 and a lot can happen between now and then.



I will not delve into my thoughts on individual candidates. But I will say this: I want to know, specifically and using consistently measurable metrics, what each candidate plans to do to rid our community of illegal drugs. I know they’re not all going to disappear. I also know that it may take more than four years to see a significant reduction. But I want to see some progress pretty quickly.



I would like for our candidates to study what has worked in other communities similar in size and demographics to Coffee County. There are success stories out there. I want whoever wins to research and adopt those strategies in our community. 



I’m not going to be happy with “We’re going to reduce drug use and lower the crime rate in our county.” That is a meaningless statement. I want to know what our crime rate is according to the latest available statistics (I’m going to look that up myself) and I want our candidates to tell us by how much they plan to reduce that crime rate over the next four years. Then, four years from now, I want to look at the two numbers and see if the new sheriff accomplished his or her goal. 



I learned many years ago to set specific, measurable, and reasonable goals. I’d like to see this done with regard to our crime rate. 



I will be suspect of any candidate who dismisses what I’m asking. I want to see an honest assessment of where we are and a plan based on measurable outcomes to see where we are going. 



I don’t care about a candidate’s experience level. I don’t care about a candidate’s “open door policy” (I know what that means and it’s not good.) I don’t care where a candidate goes to church. I don’t care who a candidate’s family is. 



I want the drugs, the gangs, the violence, and the abuse gone from Coffee County. And if a sheriff’s candidate can’t clearly, articulately, and concisely communicate to me how he or she plans to do that, that candidate will not get my vote.



And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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