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Bulloch County Republicans open 2012 campaign headquarters
Paul Whitlock, center, converses with Lee Anderson, candidate for the 12th Congressional District seat, right, while Tom McWelwee engages incumbent Georgia Sen. Jack Hill during an open house Saturday for the Bulloch County Republican Party's 2012 Campaign Headquarters on South Zetterower Avenue. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Candidates mingled with supporters Saturday as the Bulloch County Republican Party opened its 2012 campaign headquarters.
    Yard signs printed with candidates’ names waited in stacks along a wall, while in a side room volunteers for GOP congressional nominee Lee Anderson cued up a phone bank to automatically dial numbers in the 12th District.
    During the afternoon open house in the formerly vacant storefront property, at 600 S. Zetterower Ave., three candidates for contested seats — one each at the federal, state and county level — greeted potential voters who were offered hot dogs, hamburgers and a choice of soft drinks, beer or wine.
Federal candidate
    The Bulloch County event was one of three campaign stops in different counties in a single day for Anderson, a state representative from Grovetown who is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the 12th District Democrat.
    In contrast to the Bulloch County Democratic Party’s gala in July — where guest speaker Andrew Young spoke in support of the Affordable Care Act — Anderson repeated a promise to help repeal it if elected. One similarity was that they both called it “Obamacare.”
    “I’m here to tell you that my first goal is to repeal Obamacare,” Anderson said, interrupted by applause, “make it a law that we have to balance the budget, and then work toward balancing the budget. We’re not going to do it overnight. It’s going to take a while, but it can be done.”
He branded President Barack Obama’s policies “socialism” and observed that the national debt is now $16 trillion.
    “Our current president in his term, less than four years, has increased the debt to our country almost $6 trillion,” Anderson said. “You know how much that is per second? Forty-seven thousand dollars a second. It’s scary.”

State candidate
    After one two-year term in the Georgia General Assembly, Rep. Jan Tankersley faces a Democratic challenger, Marc Silver. Thanks to reapportionment based on the 2010 census, Tankersley’s district number has shifted from the 158th to the 160th so recently that she was still wearing an official name tag with the old number.
    But the issues remain much the same, she said in an interview. One concern, she said, is that Georgia still has an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent.
    “So I will remain dedicated to supporting or introducing any sort of legislation that will create jobs, make us a more business-friendly state,” Tankersley said. “I’m pro-family. I am for less government, but not at the expense of some programs that our folks who have fallen into hard times need at this particular point in time to help them bridge the gap between now and returning to work.”
    One “business friendly” action Tankersley has promoted is Red Tape Watch, a program to have business owners testify before a legislative committee about regulations they consider burdensome. Asked what “pro-family” means, she talked about support for education and said she hopes that more funding can be restored for public schools after cuts in recent years.

County candidate
    Teresa P. Tucker was first elected Clerk of Superior Court in 2008. But she has worked in the clerk’s office since 1979 and was chief deputy clerk starting in 1985. She now faces a challenge from Democratic candidate Liz Johnson.
    Tucker told reporters that the work of the clerk’s office “is neither Republican nor Democrat” but that she had to choose a party affiliation and has always voted Republican.
    “My experience of working in the office for 33-plus years, I hope that that’s important to the citizens of Bulloch County,” she said. “I have enjoyed my job and I would love the opportunity to continue to serve as the clerk of court of Bulloch County.”
    The signs awaiting distribution included some for Anderson, Tankersley and Tucker as well as many for the national ticket of presidential nominee Mitt Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
    From now until the close of polls at 7 p.m. Nov. 6, thousands of voters will receive calls originating from the local Republican headquarters. Anderson publicly offered the use of his phones to other Republican candidates.

Party calling
    The local party organization is also planning calls, but these will focus on getting voters to the polls and encouraging them to vote for the entire Republican ticket, said Jim Benton, the Bulloch County Republican Party chairman.
    Bulloch Republicans are funding other efforts to encourage voting. The local party budgeted $500 for ads, purchased jointly with the county Board of Elections, Benton said, that include sample ballots and voting and registration dates.
    He and Lawton Sacks, a Bulloch County resident who is the 12th District Republican chairman, explained that the local party steers clear of handling phone calls for federal campaigns because of campaign finance rules in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as McCain-Feingold.
    “We’re just going to be calling about a slate of candidates or about voting times and that type of thing, but we’re not going to be specific about the candidates,” Benton said. “We have to be careful about the federal candidates. That’s a whole different ballgame on the campaign finance laws.”
    However, the local party can and will make its list of volunteers available to all GOP candidates, Benton said.
    One source of volunteers is the College Republicans chapter at Georgia Southern University. Interviewed the day before the open house, GSU College Republican Chairman Jeff Brown said he would like to see volunteers from the group make 40,000 to 50,000 calls for the Romney-Ryan ticket. College Republicans should have five or six volunteers active on “a slow night” and 45 or 50 putting together signs or making calls on weekly peak nights, Brown said.
    Anderson’s campaign staffers had five phones in their system as of Saturday. They didn’t state an overall goal for the number of calls for the rest of the campaign. But Tim Reitz, the campaign’s deputy political director, said they were currently working from a list of about 1,500 names.
“We’re going to reach every voter that we possibly can,” Anderson campaign political director Scott Knittle said

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