Candidates are gearing up to compete for the state Senate seat representing the Sixth District.
Three Republican candidates are in the running in the July 31 primary to challenge incumbent Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna, for the seat.
The district has undergone major changes in the past year, taking in areas of Buckhead and Sandy Springs as a result of redistricting to reflect population shifts recorded in the 2010 U.S. Census.
In August 2011, the Legislature held a special session to redraw legislative and Congressional districts. During public hearings leading up to the session, lawmakers heard from many Buckhead and Sandy Springs residents who said they wanted to be represented by a single senator. Previous Senate maps split the area between several districts.
The Sixth District, formerly in Cobb County, was shifted to the east to take in Buckhead and parts of Sandy Springs.
Stoner is in his fourth term representing the district. Despite the addition of a large piece of Fulton County, Stoner said he doesn’t think his district has changed too much.
“In a certain aspect, beyond geography aspect, I wouldn’t say it’s changed dramatically,” Stoner said. “The issues I’m dealing with are not much different than the issues I’ve been dealing with in the years in my current district.”
He said the crop of Republican challengers isn’t surprising either.
“I’ve always had an opponent every year,” Stoner said. “That’s what this position is all about. It’s a chance for the voters to make a choice on who’s going to represent them in the General Assembly.”
Three Republicans have stepped up to run for Senate District 6. Here’s what you need to know about the candidates:
Name: Hunter Hill
Occupation: Director of Security with SecurAmerica
Community where you reside: Smyrna/Vinings
Past political or leadership roles: Lieutenant and Captain in the US Army as an Airborne Ranger: led multiple Platoons and teams on three tours in Afghanistan in Iraq; Board Member, Department of Driver Services; Citizens Oversight Committee Member for the 2005 Cobb County TSPLOST.
Why are you running for this position? I was inspired to run for State Senate while I was serving as a Captain in the US Army in Afghanistan. It was there that I realized how vital and inextricable our country’s values and principles are to the success of our nation.
I am running for State Senate because we need leaders in government who will fight for our founding principles of limited government, low taxes, individual liberty and responsibility, and free enterprise. I am grateful for the leadership opportunities I have had in the military and in business, and I want to use this experience to make Georgia the most economically competitive state in the country.
What do you think is the top issue in this race? I believe that our economy is the top issue in this race. People are hungry for leaders in government who will propose, and bring to fruition, real solutions to the challenges we face in Georgia. Leaders are able to move people toward solutions, and that is what voters want. I have a plan to make Georgia the most economically competitive state in the country, and I am hopeful for the opportunity to provide the leadership in the State Senate in order to accomplish this goal.
Name: Drew Ellenburg
Occupation: President of The Ellenburg Chair Company
Community where you reside: Buckhead
Past political or leadership roles: Deacon, Eastside Baptist Church; President of The Ellenburg Chair Company
Why are you running for this position? I am running for my children. Our government has accumulated a great amount of debt that we will be passing down to our children. We need a businessman who knows the importance of turning around our economy. I’ve built a successful business here. I know what it is like to meet a payroll in tough times and balance budgets. I will put my business experience to work for the Sixth District to revive our economy by creating jobs, becoming more competitive with other states and supporting American made products.
What do you think is the top issue in this race? Out of my top five issues – our economy, education, water, transportation and ethics – I think the most important is our economy.
Name: Josh Belinfante
Community where you reside: Sandy Springs
Past political or leadership roles: Executive and Deputy Counsel to Governor Sonny Perdue (2007-2009); Vice Chairman of the State Ethics Commission (2010-2011); Legal Counsel to House Judiciary Committee (2006); Law Clerk, Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (2003-2004); Member of the Charter Review Commission for Sandy Springs (2011); President of the Pace Academy Alumni Association (2011-2013); Board of the Atlanta Chapter of the Federalist Society (2005-Present); Co-Chairman, Committee for Sandy Springs, Legal Committee (2003-2004); Leadership Atlanta (Class of 2012); Board Member of Conservative Policy Leadership Institute and Republican Leadership for Georgia; Graduate of the 2007 Class of Coverdell Leadership Institute.
Why are you running for this position? I have been serving residents of the Sixth District in private practice and in public service, and I hope to continue doing so from the State Senate. The experience I have as a partner in a small law firm makes me very aware of the challenges faced by businesses every day. As importantly, the knowledge I gained as Governor Perdue’s Chief Counsel provides me with a distinct understanding of State issues and the means to get things done for the residents of Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Smyrna and Vinings. In addition, by serving as one of the Special Assistant Attorneys General representing Georgia in the challenge to Obamacare, I know that law and how to minimize its impact on Georgians should the Supreme Court not strike it in its entirety.
What do you think is the top issue in this race? Who can start effectively representing the Sixth District on day one. Many of us in the Republican primary share similar ideas. I’ve been putting forward very detailed positions on reforming Fulton County, ethics, regulatory reform, tax policy and healthcare, and they have been gaining support throughout the district. The ideas matter, because they tell voters what we will do if elected. But ideas are only half of the battle. The Sixth District deserves someone not only who can articulate specific policies, but also someone who knows how to navigate the process at the State Capitol to see those ideas become law and how to keep our budget in check. Having worked to pass numerous bills for Governor Perdue, and having been part of the team that reduced state spending by 15.5%, I have that experience and I aim to use it to the advantage of the residents of the Sixth District.
Name: Senator Doug Stoner
Occupation: Director of Business Development for Croy Engineering
Community where you reside: Smyrna, Georgia
Past political or leadership roles: I began my public service on the local level as a member of the Smyrna Downtown Development Authority, a position I continue in to this day. In my 21 years of service with the development authority I have been heavily involved in the revitalization of downtown Smyrna, turning it into a thriving business district. In addition, I served on the Cobb Transit board, including four years as chairman, where I worked to make Cobb Community Transit (CCT) a nationally recognized, fiscally-efficient transit system. I have served 10 years in the General Assembly, two in the House and eight in the Senate. I am chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Local Governance, where I look forward to using my Cobb County government experiences to help in reform efforts of Fulton County government. I also chair the Senate Intermodal, Rail, and Transit Subcommittee that is playing a pivotal role in the negotiations to deepen the Port of Savannah. I am the ranking member of the Senate Economic Development Committee, the Senate State and Local Government Committee, the Senate Transportation Committee, and the Senate Retirement Committee.
Why are you running for this position? I am running to continue to provide a common sense, pro business voice in the State Senate. As a third generation small business owner, I have a clear understanding how government policies impact businesses, and particularly small businesses. In my 10 years in the General Assembly, I have built a reputation as a bi-partisan problem solver, working with people on both sides of the aisle, putting politics aside to find solutions to this state’s challenges which will promote a government that works for everyone.
What do you think is the top issue in this race? While the challenges facing this state are too numerous to distill into one single issue, my goal has always been and will continue to be in building a government that works in fostering a strong and prosperous Georgia. Policies which promote strong families, an educated workforce, an open and transparent state government will naturally lead to creating a strong and prosperous Georgia. These are just some of the many challenges that the Senate will need to address in the upcoming term, which is why it is important to have a Senator who has experience as a businessman, who has local government experience, and has 10 years of experience of serving in the Georgia General Assembly. All these experiences will be necessary to successfully represent our community, while building a strong and prosperous Georgia.