published Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Dade County sheriff debate marked by agreement

Dade County candidates for sheriff, from left, Nathan Baker, Patrick Cannon, Philip Street, Tim McDonald and Ray Cross participate in a debate Tuesday moderated by Tom Black, center, at American Legion Post 106  in Trenton, Ga.
Dade County candidates for sheriff, from left, Nathan Baker, Patrick Cannon, Philip Street, Tim McDonald and Ray Cross participate in a debate Tuesday moderated by Tom Black, center, at American Legion Post 106 in Trenton, Ga.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.
Poll
Who do you support for Dade County sheriff?

TRENTON, Ga. -- Little debate occurred Tuesday as Dade County's five sheriff's candidates met in a forum that produced more agreement than heated argument.

"We've all agreed to get along and not mud-sling," said Tim McDonald, a former chief deputy. "We all want what's best for the county. We all want to stamp out drugs."

About 150 residents sat in American Legion Post 106 off Main Street in Trenton, Ga., Tuesday.

In front of them the four challengers for Dade County sheriff, plus incumbent Sheriff Patrick Cannon, took turns discussing their merits and their vision for law enforcement over the next four years.

McDonald kicked off a series of three-minute introductions by each of the candidates: Nathan Baker, a current police officer in Rossville; former Deputy Ray Cross; and Philip Street, who was sheriff of Dade County for 20 years until being defeated by the man seated to his right, Cannon.

One section of the debate was made up of questions submitted by attendees who wrote them on cards as they entered the building.

Cannon said the lack of debate stems from the candidates' platforms already being realized in his two terms as sheriff, he said.

"They're agreeing with me, which means the county doesn't need a big change," Cannon said afterward.

The questions submitted by audience members were heavily geared toward the economy. One of the only questions that sparked some disagreement among the men was whether Dade County law enforcement vehicles should leave the county.

"I don't think the vehicles should leave the county," Cross said. "Taxpayers are paying for them and want to see them stay in the county."

Each candidate had just two minutes to respond to the question.

Baker said it was hard to convey all of his vision should he win the July 31 primary.

"It's such a short time to make every issue you're about count," he said afterward.

Baker, a Dade County resident, currently works in Rossville, which is under Walker County's jurisdiction. When Baker ran in 2008, he ran as a Democrat. He now is listed on the ballot as Republican.

"I want to be very accessible if elected," Baker said. "I want to patrol with the deputies and reach out to the community."

Cannon beat Street for sheriff in 2004. Street, however, the only Democrat in the race, said he has a "50-50" chance to regain the seat he once had.

"I have the experience, and the knowledge to serve the community again," Street said afterward. "I know what mistakes I made before and I know what mistakes not to make again."

The five candidates leave a "unique" decision that Dade County voters will have to make, according to resident Monda Wooten.

"We can either vote for what we used to have, what we got, or something completely different," she said.

Contact staff writer Adam Poulisse at 423-757-6592 or apoulisse@times freepress.com.

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