For the third time since 2006, state Sen. Ed Harbison faces a challenge from Reginald L. Pugh, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who also wants to represent Senate District 15.
Pugh, 58, was defeated soundly in both attempts to unseat Harbison, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran. His third challenge is set for July 31 in the Democratic Primary. The winner will face David Brown
in the Nov. 6 general election. Brown, of Reynolds, is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
In addition to Muscogee, the district includes Chattahoochee, Talbot, Marion, Macon, Schley and Taylor counties.
Harbison, 70, said his re-election is a commitment to the people to remain vigilant for soldiers in the military, teachers who have faced furloughs and state workers trying to get over this economic downturn.
"You need a steady hand," Harbison said. "I have fought any efforts to continue furlough days and anything that would otherwise damage our state employees. People are retiring with extremely low benefits and I think we need to take a look at that."
Pugh, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Columbus Inc., doesn't like what he has seen over the last 20 or more years in state government and seeks a change.
"I feel I can do a better job when it comes to helping those in the community that need help, especially our seniors, youths, the no income, low income people," he said. "As a matter of fact, I know I can."
The right people haven't been elected to solve the problems faced throughout the state. There are many concerns about the economy, unemployment, homelessness and poverty in Georgia, Pugh said.
"People are concerned about the corruption that's going on in the Georgia state government," Pugh said. "This is real. I feel if we worked together and put the right folks in office, we can solve these problems. In the past 20, 30 or 40 years, we've been putting the same old people in office. Instead of things getting better, they've gotten worse. That's something I feel citizens need to take a hard look at leadership qualities of people that are seeking to lead them."
While the economy is among the top issues in the state, Harbison said he still has been effective with a number of bills he has sponsored.
"I think the key issues are special at this time when people are looking for help in the economy and the ability to be effective in the environment we are in," he said. "I think that I have displayed that with the bills I have sponsored."
Harbison pointed to the bill he co-sponsored to ban the use and sales of synthetic marijuana, also known as spice or K2. The Interstate Compact Bill he sponsored makes it easier for children of military families to transfer from one school to another.
To help war veterans, Harbison won support for a modified Purple Heart License Plate Bill that will allow veterans or active-duty soldiers to receive free special plates.Pugh said economic development, increasing job training and employment opportunities are key issues to help people who are struggling. "We need to focus more on business expansion and job growth," he said. "We can do more of those things."
Improving health care, reducing the drop-out rate, improving public safety and supporting veterans need attention as well.
Some areas in south Georgia don't have a doctor available. "All our citizens should have quality, affordable health care," Pugh said. "That is not the case. We also need to educate citizens about preventive measures they can use."
Pugh supports more vocational and technical training to help skilled young people. "Businesses like to see that," he said.
If Harbison is re-elected, he said he wants to make sure that veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan get help with homelessness and other issues.
"We need to make sure we look at our women veterans as well as our traditional men," he said. "They have some unique problems as well."
Services sought by veterans should be expedited as soon as possible. "We need to make sure that these veterans who served our country aren't kept waiting two years to get their benefits," Harbison said.
Pugh said he would focus on learning the district and being prepared with a plan of action if he's elected as senator. "I would work with local leadership to include elected leadership to help them address community concerns," he said. "I'm here to work with you and whatever I can do to support you especially if it's going to be beneficial to citizens."
Harbison said voters should return him to the Senate because of his proven leadership. He has been accessible and people can call in to his radio or television broadcasts to ask questions.
"I've been very confident and effective in operating in all kinds of environments," Harbison said. "When my voters call me, I make sure I always respond. I'm accountable to the voters."
If voters choose Pugh, he said the position gives him a chance to continue what he did in the military and after he retired.
"I have been helping people all my life," he said. "I didn't just start a year or two ago."
Pugh said he has dealt with social issues, education, helping homeowners avoid foreclosure and other problems.
"I have a lot of experience when it comes to helping people," he said. "I don't talk about it. I do it."