E-mail interview conducted with GA House District 2 candidates Jay Neal and Steve Tarvin. Neal is the incumbent. District 2, reshaped since the last election, represents LaFayette, Villanow, Rock Spring, Chickamauga, Rocky Face, and portions of Catoosa County. Eighth of twelve Q&A’s scheduled before the July 31st vote.

LU: What is your full name, and what name do you generally go by?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: Thomas Stephen Tarvin, “Steve”

LU: What is your age?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: June 2, 1951, 61 years of age

LU: What is your home address? (We will only publish the street, not your house number.)

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: [redacted] W 12th Street, Chickamauga, GA

    Mr. Neal lived in LaFayette when he first ran for office, moving in 2007 to Bending Oak Dr. south of Chickamauga. His official address for election purposes is a LaFayette PO box.

LU: How can voters contact you or stay in touch with your campaign? (Please include info like e-mail, phone, Facebook, Twitter, etc. if applicable.)

LU: How long have you lived in the county, and (if applicable) where else have you lived?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: 61 years

LU: What’s the best thing about living in this community?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: The fact that most of the people are honest and hardworking. The rural communities with little hustle and bustle, a generally very good place to raise a family.

LU: Starting as early as you want, what kind of education do you have?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: 1st through 12th Grade Chickamauga City schools, 1969 Honor Graduate, Attended UGA for a quarter, married at 18 years of age, went to work Crystal Springs

    News reports say Rep. Neal graduated from Powell High School in Oak Ridge, TN. and has a Bachelor’s in Theology from Emmanuel Theological Seminary in Nashville.

LU: What is your current occupation?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: Textile Mill Owner/Manager

    Neal is a “campus director” for Penfield Christian Homes in LaFayette, a Christian halfway house. Tarvin runs Crystal Springs Bleachery in Chickamauga, one of the city’s largest employers.

LU: What previous jobs or elected positions have you held?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: Chickamauga School Board, Chickamauga City Council

    Mr. Tarvin previously ran for US Congress in 2010, losing the Republican Primary to Tom Graves of Ranger. Jay Neal worked 15 years as a substitute teacher and bus driver for Walker County Schools and was pastor of three different churches over a 25-year period.

LU: Do/will aspects of your education or job experiences make you a better State Representative? If so please explain.

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: My experience as small business owner, making a payroll for 30 years, controlling the spending side of a business to keep the doors open while most in the U.S. have gone out of business. I am a strict Constitutional conservative in practice and not just talk. I treat all people the same, no matter who or where they are from. I offer myself as a servant to the people and am not seeking a position of authority or power,

LU: During your time in the Georgia House, what would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment? (Neal only)

    NEAL: [no response]

LU: What would you say is the greatest accomplishment of Georgia’s current legislative body, and is there anything your opponent has done during his time in the State House that you intend to emulate? (Tarvin only)

    TARVIN: The legislature has done many good things, I will let the people decide how they feel about this question. However, increasing the budget near 5% while people’s wages did not increase by that much and the economy is only growing at about 1% is not idea of controlling spending.

LU: Is there anything from your time in office that you regret or wish you could do differently? (Neal only)

    NEAL: [no response]

LU: What would you say is the biggest failure of the sitting legislature, and what actions of your opponent would you have done differently? (Tarvin only)

    TARVIN: [no response]

LU: What are your priorities for the 2013-2014 legislative sessions if you’re reelected/elected?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: [no response]

LU: Is there any criteria, philosophy, or overall guideline you use/will use when deciding what legislation to support or oppose?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: Read and research the piece of legislation, I will not be pushed to vote for a bill due to time restraints. What is the problem we are trying to fix and is it really a problem. Does this legislation actually fix the problem. Is it within my authority according to the U.S. and Georgia Constitution to even consider this piece of legislation. Does this bill reduce or increase spending and/or how will it be paid for.

LU: What are the biggest problems faced today by residents of Northwest Georgia, and what (if anything) can you do as a state legislator to make those problems easier to overcome?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: People are spending everything they earn plus some. (1)Jobs are the most important thing currently to the people. When there are more jobs than there are workers, wages increase. When there are more workers than jobs, wages become stagnant. (2)Taxes, the hidden and embedded taxes push our individual tax burden much higher than most of us even realize. More business people in government that have create jobs, made a payroll and dealt with both state and federal agencies and the knowledge of how decisions made by well meaning people in the general assembly effect the local economy is of upmost importance.

LU: You originally voted for the Transportation Investment Act (which created TSPLOST) in 2010, but recently told media you’re undecided about the TSPLOST ballot measure and possibly leaning against it. Can you be more specific about your feelings about the 1% TSPLOST sales tax and how you personally intend to vote on it? (Neal only)

    NEAL: [no response]

LU: You recently came out against the TSPLOST sales tax, saying the region won’t get back all the money it puts in. What are your alternate plans to fund road projects around the state if TSPLOST is defeated? (Tarvin only)

    TARVIN: My opposition to the TSPLOST is not recent, the very minute I studied it I knew it was bad for the working people I was against it. It unequally taxes people. Taking from one group and giving to another. It will cost each family ½ of their spendable income from a week’s check every year (5 checks over the 10 year span and there will be a need to renew it due to unfinished projects at the end of the 10 years). An appointed board will decide which projects will be done and when. It creates another level of bureaucracy, more government when we need less. Approximately 52% of the money will be spent in Metro Atlanta (we will be taxed a dollar for $.48 to spend). If we must have a TSPLOST, make it a county TSPLOST so we get a dollar to spend for each dollar we are taxed. My question to the questioner is, how did we pay for roads ten years ago?. Let’s try getting our economy back on track and then worry about draining the pockets of our citizens. I will not go to the polls and vote myself a tax increase.

LU: Many in Walker County are concerned about cuts to school budgets and new insurance rules putting the squeeze on local libraries. What are your thoughts on funding or reforming education and keeping libraries around the state accessible to citizens?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: I will answer this question with a question and a statement. Is $1700 per capita enough spent on education? Yes, when totaled up we spent about $17B on education in Georgia almost as much as the entire budget, when you ad all monies from fed, state, local and private. The state itself spends about 54% of its budget on education or $1000 per capita. Where was the closest public library to your home in 1960? How many do we have now in Walker County today? We can have any and all things we want, the question to those with concern is, where do we get the money? Start by getting the federal government out of Georgia’s educational system. Education has gone downhill and costs have skyrocketed since the Dept. of Education was created. Local control of our education system and parents taking responsibility to insure that their children are being educated.

LU: Georgia was recently ranked last out of 50 states in regards to ethics laws. Do you feel the state’s ethics laws are adequate and properly enforced, or should legislators work to beef up the rules and add teeth to agencies that enforce them? How do you feel about the proposed $100 gift cap for state legislators?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: I was insulted when ask to sign the pledge to sponsor the gift tax cap bill, I will take no gifts. I have run a business and do not take gifts and meals from suppliers. If I have ever let a supplier buy my lunch it has been a friend and I return the gift every other time. Elect the right people is the answer not more and more laws to be gone around and dodged.

    In a perfect world we would need no rules at all, but this world is far from perfect. The problem now is legislators and local officials left to police themselves. The $100 gift cap pledge has no teeth and is mostly a campaign tactic, but Georgia is badly in need of revised laws regarding ethics at every level of state and local government, and needs agencies or committees with the funding, authority, and independence to make sure the rules are followed.

LU: Another issue that we’re concerned about is accountability for local government leaders and law enforcement. Do you feel local elected officials like judges, prosecutors, commissioners, city leaders, and sheriffs are held properly accountable under existing state laws, or are reforms needed in those areas? If so what reforms would you like to see put into place?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: That is up to the local citizens, if we have someone who is breaking the law prosecute them. If you think someone is corrupt, vote them out. We will not get on the path we need to be on with 50% registered voters and with only 10% of those going to the polls. If we believe that the people are in charge of our republic then we must start acting like it.

    One reason so few people vote is they feel it accomplishes nothing, because they perceive corruption in all public figures. We see wrongdoing that is never called out, never handled by the authorities, and the buddy-buddy system locking out candidates who might make reforms. “Prosecute them” is easier said than done when members of law enforcement and officials of the judicial system turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing of their friends. While leaders are ultimately chosen by the people, failures of ethics laws and accountability keep the people from truly knowing who or what they’re voting for, and the state’s current political system tends to favor insiders who already have the deck stacked in their favor.

LU: Please summarize in a single paragraph why residents of GA House District 2 should vote for you in the upcoming election:

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: I ask that the voters look at both candidates and decide which one best represents their values. When they choose their candidate, whether it be STEVE TARVIN or Jay Neal, not only go to polls and vote,get everyone you know to go vote. If elected I will serve you with honor and honesty. Again, this is not a position of authority but one of service to me.

LU: Is there anything else voters should know about you? Family, faith, philosophy, inspirations, etc.?

    NEAL: [no response]

    TARVIN: My life as a servant and giver to people.

Jay Neal has been an adequate servant for the people of LaFayette and surrounding areas since he was first sent to Atlanta in 2004. His recent reforms in the court system regarding non-violent offenses are commendable, and his personal service to others in the church, in the schools, and at Penfield are commendable. That’s why his failure to participate in this Q&A is disappointing. His refusal to publicly oppose TSPLOST even while moving away from support for it is also troubling; he should take a position on it one way or the other and say so.

Steve Tarvin seems to have good ideas, and his (mostly complete) response to this Q&A is appreciated. If elected he will certainly add an element of responsibility and fiscal restraint to the Georgia House, but his position on ethics and accountability is identical to the positions expressed by the state’s current ethically-challenged leaders. We also have concerns that Mr. Tarvin intends a State Representative position to be a “stepping stone” to something else, having already run for and lost a seat in the US Congress. Some of his answers seem to be aimed towards future voters in a bigger race instead of voters for tiny House District 2.

In this race the LaFayette Underground has no preference. Mr. Neal or Mr. Tarvin will be adequate representatives for the district in Atlanta and appear to have little difference in their core beliefs and goals.

Walker County Messenger: Jay Neal

Elections are next Tuesday, July 31, from 7 AM to 7 PM. LaFayette residents will vote at the Walker Co Senior Center, voting locations for other residents vary. Early voting has ended.


Last week the Underground e-mailed candidates for 12 competitive local races (all except County Surveyor) a series of questions. Candidates who have no opponent on the July ballot were not included; those with opposition in November will be contacted before the November vote.

Candidates were asked to respond to the questions via e-mail by a certain deadline, and were instructed not to share their answers with each other before we made them public. Every candidate in the same race was given the same set of questions except where noted above.

Candidates who did not respond by the deadline have [no response] after their name for each question asked, and candidates who responded but chose to skip certain questions are marked [no response]. Responses received after this point will not be accepted for a full post, but candidates are welcome to add to their responses, answer questions, or respond to our opinions in the comment section below.

Answers are copied directly from e-mail without corrections or changes except for redaction of addresses. Redactions or any editorial clarifications of questions or answers are made in [brackets]. Our thoughts are in italics beneath the responses.

Additional Q&A responses will be posted up until election day.

All LaFayette Underground 2012 Election Posts

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