Fleming and Popplewell mix it up all the way to McDuffie County
by Eric Johnson
The District 121 race between former Majority Whip Barry Fleming and Appling businessman Mike Popplewell could be characterized as the elephant versus the pickup.
Fleming is well known for his elephant, which he towed around the district until the word got out about the ordinances prohibiting mobile signs. Popplewell drives his own version of a mobile sign — a 1949 red Chevy truck.
I figured what’s more American than a Chevy truck,” he said with a chuckle. “Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”
Popplewell, who has staked out the outsider position, continued to emphasize Fleming’s extensive time in office, aggressively going after Fleming on his tax policy.
“I think his take on ending the income tax is kind of far fetched, because he was a ranking house member when he was there the last time and he attempted to try to get something in and it didn’t go,” he said. “As a freshman representative with no clout, I don’t think he could make much headway.”
Fleming, however, insisted he was not running on his experience.
“I’m more focused on the problems going forward with our state and the changes we need to make, particularly tax policy,” he said. “That’s something I had not focused on in the past, but I think it’s real important now, particularly with what’s going on at the federal level.”
He insisted that a state-level battle for tax reform could revolutionize the nation’s tax structure. If Texas, Tennessee and Florida can do it, he said there was no reason Georgia couldn’t, either.
“I think it’s something we could do in Georgia, and it would be a great economic boost to us because it would attract businesses now that we’re losing to other states,” he said.
Though the people he talks to campaigning are worried about taxes, he said he’s found a general concern about the direction of the country, especially the growth of government.
“I’m hearing a lot of frustration right now,” he said.
Popplewell said that what he hears most is a frustration at wasteful spending, like the traffic circle the Georgia Department of Transportation has planned to minimize the severity of the accidents at the four-way intersection at Pumpkin Center.
“I can’t find a single person in this community that agrees with that,” he said. “We’ve made it this far without having one there, so the point is, with the economy the way it is, can’t we survive a little longer without spending that kind of money?”
Though both are from Columbia County — Fleming lives in Harlem, Popplewell in Appling — the battle lines seem to be forming in neighboring McDuffie County.
According to Popplewell, 31 percent of the vote comes out of McDuffie County, which he felt gave him an advantage, since he’s been working there for the last 30 years.
“I did a little survey of how many local businesses I’ve done business with over the years, and I’m up to 55,” he said. “So I’m known in McDuffie County.”
Fleming, who had previously never campaigned in McDuffie County, said he was nevertheless pleased by the fact he’s been getting even support throughout the district, including McDuffie County.
“I spend a lot of time in McDuffie County, and we’ve had a lot of support there,” he said.
Popplewell said that in the couple of weeks leading up to the primary he is going to concentrate on pointing out the differences between the two of them.
“My service has been in the community,” he said. “Conversely, I feel that Barry’s focus has kind of been political. This is his fifth campaign in 12 years and he’s applied for some judicial appointments.”
And then, he said, there are some contradictions between Fleming’s position and what he’s actually done.
“He’s talking about eliminating taxes, and yet he was chairman of the county commission when Columbia County passed that huge stormwater tax increase that Charles Allen is now talking about repealing,” he said. “He was the man in charge when that tax passed.”
Though he certainly has a political resume, Fleming pointed out that he often ran unopposed, which makes campaigning now somewhat challenging.
“This is a little bit of a new experience for me,” he said. “The one thing I like about it is, when you’ve got a state house district, you can actually meet people one-on-one.”You Might Also Like: