Buckhead voters head to the polls May 20 to nominate candidates in Republican and Democratic primaries who will meet in the general election in the fall. Here are the candidates in contested races in May for the state Legislature and in Fulton County Commission districts representing Buckhead.

To find out more about the candidates, go to ReporterNewspapers.net and click on “Voters Guide 2014.”

If you aren’t sure which district you vote in, go to http://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/LoginPage.aspx. That website also will tell you where you vote and can provide you with a printable sample ballot.

State Senate, District 38

Democratic Primary

Reginald Crossley

Community:   Collier Heights, Atlanta

Occupation: Fulton County Youth Commissioner/ Program Development Lead, Department of Housing and Human Services

Previous political experience: no

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

Reginald Crossley brings diverse work experience in the areas of education, non-profit, state/local government and small business. Reginald understands first hand the needs of his constituency and has developed a solution based action plan entitled E3 (Education, Employment, Environment). This action plan echo’s the needs of our youth, working class, and seasoned elders. Reginald will support small business and encourage entrepreneurship. He will also address the issues of abandoned homes and community blight brining down property values and deterring investors. Reginald plans to meet with key corporations to expand business ventures into District 38 for increased employment opportunities. Reginald will also advocate for increasing community recreation for youth and seniors.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

The high school drop out rate is one of the biggest challenges facing District 38. Reginald will help combat this issue through improving school curriculum to better engage and equip students for careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). Expose our youth to other emerging vocational skills training and encourage entrepreneurship. A strong emphasis will be put on the redirection of funds from failed initiatives for the investment into teachers, schools, technology and evidence-based programs that are proven to work.

Horacena Tate

Horacena Tate (I)

Community:   Florida Heights neighborhood of Atlanta

Occupation:   Trainer/ Training software-management/Consultant

Previous political experience: Georgia State Senate since 1999

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

Voters should choose me because they need someone with experience to continue to serve them.  I am the only candidate with actual experience in the legislative process and I have a true understanding of how our state government works.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?  

We must make sure that the 38th district gets appropriate resources for state services. That’s why I have fought and will continue to fight to fully fund public education, work on the expansion of Medicaid so that all Georgians can have access to affordable, quality healthcare, and work with the Department of Transportation to make sure that State roads are properly repaired.
State House of Representatives, District 54

Republican Primary

[The winner will face Democrat Robert W. “Bob” Gibeling in the fall

Beth Beskin

Community:   Buckhead

Occupation: Lawyer

Previous political experience: Appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal as liaison to the Atlanta Public Schools, 2011

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

Voters should choose me for this position because I have the best experience and training for the job, coupled with my sincere desire to serve my district in the Georgia State House. I am an attorney and have practiced law for 25 years; I understand legislation must be drafted carefully to work as intended. My children are now in college and graduate school, so I have the time to devote to public service.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents you seek to represent and how will you address that problem?

I think the biggest problem facing my constituents in the unnecessarily high tax and regulatory burden facing the residents of the City of Atlanta and Fulton County, coupled with unacceptably low educational outcomes for Atlanta Public Schools. I will work to reduce/eliminate the Georgia personal income tax, give our seniors property tax relief, and pass legislation giving public schools system necessary guidance on how they must retire and allocate their unfunded pension liabilities as well as further facilitating local control of education.

John. J. McCloskey

Community: Buckhead

Occupation: Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Select Management Resources, LLC

Previous political experience: None. I want to bring my business background to the Georgia House to help create more private-sector jobs in Georgia and grow our economy.

Why should the voters choose you for this position? 

I have the real-world experience necessary to encourage job-creation and economic development.  I don’t simply talk about job-creation – I’ve done it.  I understand the tough choices businesses make to balance a budget and make tough spending decisions.  I’m not a career politician and I’m not looking to climb the political ladder. If elected, I’ll simply work to bring a business mindset and fiscal discipline to the Georgia House.

 What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem? 

While there are many pressing issues facing the Georgia Legislature, including education, transportation and the protection of our pro-family values, I strongly believe that the economy and unemployment are the biggest problems facing our state. If we want to fully break out of this recession, we must reform the tax code by eliminating the state income tax, cut wasteful spending and eliminate burdensome regulations so that job-creators can be free to do what they do best – create the good-paying jobs that will keep our economy moving forward.

Loretta A. Lepore

Community: Garden Hills

Occupation:   Business owner, Lepore Associates, LLC

Previous political experience: None

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

I believe the key to being an effective legislator starts with knowing how to be a good listener. I’ve always felt that public service is about representing the will of the people. That’s my skill and my profession, tackling problems and finding solutions. By working together, diverse interests can forge a stronger community. If voters elect me as their next state representative, we’ll be working together to build a brighter future for Georgia’s families and our children.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek and how do you plan to address that problem?

With new leadership we can conquer our greatest challenge, positioning Georgia as a frontrunner in the new global economy. By promoting innovation and entrepreneurs, we’ll unleash a new wave of prosperity and own a spot on the map. Growing startups takes time and hard work. It’s also immensely rewarding. It’s the risk takers who create new jobs, those that require critical thinking and pay well. To fill those jobs of Georgia’s tomorrow, we’ll need a path for knowledge and skilled   workers. A jump-start with early learning, academic rigor and the right tools will help our students reach their potential.

S. Angelic Moore

Community: Buckhead

Occupation: Consultant, Vice President of Atlanta-based Insider Advantage (an Internet news agency).

Previous political experience: Republican nominee for Clerk of Fulton County Superior Court in 2004; Republican State House District 38 chairman in 1999.

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

Pressing issues require skilled leadership—and helping people is my passion. I have the resume to be the state representative from House District 54 with the knowledge, principles, education, experience and networks to get the job done. A keen understanding of the legislative process is needed and years working at the Capitol and on legislation have given me both an understanding of the legislative process and insight. Unlike most freshmen, I am confident I can get legislation passed and/or repealed as need be. After 20 years of working in business, government, and politics, I have the relationships and the resume.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

Our biggest problem is bloated government causing higher taxes and failures in meeting core state responsibilities. The state income tax needs to be eliminated with prudence. It generates more than 50 percent of our revenue. I support Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer’s state constitutional amendment (SR 415) capping the tax at the current rate of 6 percent (which can be reduced), gradually replacing the income tax with a revenue-neutral fair (sales) tax boosting economic development. Also needing reform is public education and the dysfunctional Fulton County government/tax system. I will be available 24/7 insuring concerns are not only addressed, but resolved.

Fulton County Commission, District 3

Republican Primary

Bernard “Bernie” Tokarz

Community: Peachtree Hills

Occupation: State & Local Government, Cornerstone OnDemand

Previous political office held: none

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

I have spent the last several years advocating for conservative principles in Fulton County. I have worked as a member of Republican Commissioner Liz Hausmann’s District 3 Budget Board  to expose waste, fraud and abuse in the County budget and find taxpayer savings. Unfortunately the tax and spend County Commission has rejected those proposals. The most important vote a Commissioner makes is during the second meeting of the year when the General Fund Budget is adopted, District 3 needs a Commissioner who can be ready to find short and long term savings on Day 1 and I am the only candidate with the knowledge and experience to be effective immediately.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

Fulton County Government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We need to reduce the size, scope, and spending of Fulton County Government. Fulton County needs a new service delivery strategy. My three point plan:

  1.  Repeal the 2014 Tax Increase.

Fulton County government taxes and spends too much. It is the 2nd largest item on our tax bill what do we get for that?

  1.  Reduce jail overcrowding, to cut down on criminal recidivism and long term costs.

By working with the City of Atlanta to utilize space at the Atlanta City Jail, we can reduce overcrowding, outsourcing of inmates and escape the Federal Consent Decree that is costing taxpayers upwards of $100,000 a month.

3. Develop a collaborative working relationship with the 14 cities of Fulton County.

Approximately 90 percent of the citizens of Fulton County live in an incorporated city. The County Commission must work every day to reduce waste, fraud, abuse and overlap in the County Government.

Lee Morris

Community: Brookwood Hills

Occupation: Chief financial officer and general counsel

Previous political experience: Atlanta City Council, 1994 to 2001; Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, 2003 to 2006;Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council, 2007-present.

 Why should the voters choose you for this position?

I am the only candidate in the race with local government experience and a proven track record of accomplishments while in office. (See my website, VoteLeeMorris.com, under “Proven”). I am the only candidate with deep roots in the district, having lived in Sandy Springs, north Buckhead and now Brookwood Hills for almost 40 years, having educated my children entirely in schools in the district, and having worshipped in the district for over 35 years. I have support from most of the leaders trying to fix Fulton County, who are the people with whom the next commissioner must work collaboratively.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do

you plan to address that problem?

The commission’s 2014 budget is not balanced, instead using about $40 million of reserves to close the shortfall. Compounding the problem, it contemplates a 15 percent property tax increase to produce the planned revenue, in the face of a state law prohibiting that increase. If the inevitable court challenge reverses that increase, the remaining reserves (and more) will be used. I would require zero-based budgeting with reviews of each department to find inefficiencies and waste, would utilize thoughtful privatization of services, and would make the tough political decisions to prioritize spending on the non-mandated services currently provided by the county.

Cory Ruth

Community: Buckhead

Occupation:   Technology integrations

Previous political experience: State Steering Committee for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign; director of programs for Gov. Nathan Deal’s Office of Workforce Development

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

The most significant challenge facing Fulton is a culture of gridlock that is based in deep cultural and economic divides and has over the years become intractable.  Voters should be clear-eyed about the seriousness of these divides.  Unfortunately, none of the other issues – from taxes, to jails, to elections, to the size and cost of county government – can be successfully addressed without first bridging these divides!  I am the only candidate with solid relationships on both sides of the aisle, who has credibility with constituents across the county, who can navigate the cultural divides, build consensus and lead change!

 What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents in the office you seek, and how do you plan to address the problem?

It is clear that the divide between north and south Fulton is the greatest problem facing constituents because it inhibits the ability to get anything done on behalf of constituents!  I am the only candidate who can leverage my business experience in Mergers and Acquisitions bringing people together and building consensus.  I am also the only candidate who has credibility with and can communicate effectively to constituents in both north and south Fulton.  And I am the only candidate who can navigate the deep cultural divides and end this gridlock so that we can actually get this done!

Alexander Palacios

Community: Sandy Springs

Occupation: Business consultant/owner

Previous political experience: no

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

My small business experience, strong financial background, being an outsider and knowing that our district has been yearning for representation I know I can make a difference, a brighter and better future for our district and county by:

 asking and listening, one voter and one neighborhood at a time

 asking people in my district to serve in areas where they pose strengths/show interest

 aligning myself with civic leaders, educators, business owners, doctors, accountants, lawyers and true public servants

 going to neighborhood civic associations, schools, churches, libraries

 using social medial to inform

 having transparency

What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

There are so many places we need to start. Every politician will tell you they will cut taxes; we don’t even have a balanced budget! What services do we cut back; who decides? Are there divergent needs for different districts of the county? Is the board of commissioners working in a cohesive way or fractured and only concerned in advancing their personal agenda? How much longer can my district go without representation? My top priorities are to balance the budget, reduce property taxes, and strive towards a cohesive board of commissioners while addressing the needs of my district.

Fulton County Commission, District 7

Democratic Primary

John Eaves (I)

Community: South Fulton

Occupation:   Chairman, Fulton County Commission, leadership trainer and executive coach

Previous political experience: Chairman, Fulton County Commission since 2007

Why should the voters choose you for this position? 

I have demonstrated leadership in the face of daunting challenges – making smart decisions in tough scenarios while always keeping the needs of Fulton County residents and taxpayers in mind. I am committed to creating jobs and growing our local economy, and I created Fulton County’s first-ever economic development arm to help achieve those goals. I have expanded mentoring and cultural programs that prepare our students to succeed in the global economy.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?
Public safety is a basic requirement of a prosperous community. One of the most rewarding initiatives I have launched is our SMART Justice Advisory Council, a group of community and law enforcement leaders working to reduce recidivism, find alternatives for first-time offenders, and help motivated inmates reclaim their lives. I’m also a champion for the Grady Hospital System, a pillar of thecommunity and chief caregiver for so thousands of working class people across metro Atlanta.

Robb Pitts

Robert L. “Robb” Pitts (I)

Community: Atlanta

Occupation:   Financial representative

Previous political experience: Member, Atlanta City council (1977-1996); President, Atlanta City Council (1997-2001); Fulton County Board of Commissioners, District 2, At-Large (2003 to present – 3 terms).

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

Because of my experience in city and county government, I will bring much needed leadership to Fulton County. There is a need to reform how county government operates and manages its financial assets. As Chairman I would champion reducing the inmate population, implementing budget reform and financial accountability, implementing the mandates of the library bond referendum, work with the state in expanding Medicaid and ensuring that Fulton County is at the table to articulate and negotiate its regional positions for the county. Additionally, I will work cooperatively with our municipalities to restore trust in county government.

 What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek and how do you plan to address that problem?

The biggest problem facing constituents for the office I am seeking is a lack of strong leadership and basic trust in our county government. I will provide strong leadership on public safety by reducing crime and enhancing public safety. I will provide strong leadership in managing your tax dollars by implementing budget and audit reforms. I will also provide strong leadership in ensuring that the Library Facility Master Plan is implemented. Additionally, I will provide strong leadership to enhance health and human services by pushing for state and local funding of Grady Memorial Hospital and will seek a dedicated funding stream for the indigent citizens of Fulton County.

(I)= incumbent

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.