LaFAYETTE, Ga. - While political candidates often voice concern over voter turnout, it was candidate turnout that was the problem at a Walker County candidates' forum Tuesday night.
Only eight of the 28 candidates on the program attended the Walker Chamber or Commerce's event, though one sent a representative.
"I really didn't think I was going to scare my opponents away," joked James Campbell, a candidate for City Council in Lookout Mountain, Ga. Taylor Watson and William Sabourin also are running for the seat, with the two highest vote-getters winning seats.
Campbell predicted a common theme for the evening: wrangling over city budgets.
"I think every race you're going to hear about tonight has to do with money," he said.
Chickamauga school board candidate Jim Powell and a representative for opponent Grant Parrish identified the school system's ability to meet its budget as the biggest issue the district faces. David Askew, their opponent, was not present.
Dale Montgomery, the only one of three candidates for LaFayette Ward 2 council seat attending, said his city faces similar problems.
"Money is tight not only for families but for the city itself," he said.
Montgomery, who is opposed by Keith Talley and Ben Bradford, pledged openness and transparency, as well as a "business friendly" city and opportunities for youths.
Stacey Suttle touched on similar themes and said his business experience with UPS and Kmart would help him get LaFayette going again.
"LaFayette has a lot of empty buildings," said Suttle, who is running for the Ward 3 seat.
He also vowed to try to bring in a bowling alley or "something to keep kids off the street."
One of his opponents, former Councilwoman Judy Meeks, said the major planks in her platform are improving roads and luring industry. She also said increasing tourism would help the city.
"That brings in money," she said.
Meeks and Suttle face Chris Hollis and Jerry Rogers on the ballot.
Chris Davis, a candidate for LaFayette's Ward 4, agreed with Meeks that industry and roads are keys, but he sees one as helping out the other.
"If we work together to bring jobs, we'll have money to fix our roads," he said.
Kevin Robinson, who will compete against Davis and three others, touched on familiar themes.
"We need jobs in this town," he said. "This is a great place as far as parents go, but I don't know if I'd like it if I were a youth."
Melvin Bridges, Daniel DeBoard and Donnie McGaha are running against Robinson and Davis.
Rossville Council candidate Charles Wilson lamented the lack of public participation in government and pledged to reach out to residents. He also underscored the importance of economic development.
"We need businesses to come in, and it's time to start addressing it," he said.
Wilson's rivals -- Johnny Baker, Cindy Bradshaw and Jessee Harrell -- were not present.
The three candidates for Chickamauga City Council and the two men vying to be Rossville mayor were also absent.