DALTON, Ga. -- Georgia's Democratic candidates hope blue will outshine red in the 2010 elections.
"It is a new day and time for new leadership," said R.J. Hadley, candidate for U.S. Senate. "Forget about the pundits and the political elite who tell us what can and can't be done."
Star-spangled balloons careened overhead as more than 100 people gathered at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center on Sunday to meet state and federal Democratic candidates.
Margaret Ball, chairwoman of the 9th Congressional District Democratic Party of Georgia, said it was the area's first major candidate event.
Although some candidates didn't show -- including four of five candidates for governor -- the 11 who did filled three hours with their plans for change.
Many candidates voiced concern for budget cuts, especially to education.
"In Georgia, we are No. 1 in the country in the percentage of our population in the prison system or the correctional system and among the bottom in education," said Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, and candidate for governor.
Rep. Porter vowed he'd put more resources into education and said the state largely could plug its deficit of more than $1 billion by enacting legislation to make sure businesses throughout the state are paying their fair share of sales taxes.
Sen. Gail Buckner, D-Jonesboro, candidate for secretary of state, said in an interview that there are "other ideas floating around" to make up the deficit without cuts to education, like a $1 tax on tobacco products.
Candidates also expressed ideas for job creation. Mr. Hadley suggested tapping into clean energy opportunities. Rep. Porter said rail transit would create jobs while alleviating the state's transportation woes.
In a prepared statement, Georgia Republican Party Chairman Sue Everhart, expressed confidence that Georgia's leadership would remain in her party's hands.
"Republicans have expanded transparency, decreased the size of government and balanced the budget without tax increases," she said.
DEMOCRATS AT 2010 CANDIDATE EVENT
* Gail Buckner, Gary Horlacher, Angela Moore for secretary of state
* Mike Freeman for U.S. House of Representatives, 9th District
* Rob Teilhet for attorney general
* Beth Farokhi for school superintendent
* Mary Squires for insurance commissioner
* Joseph Mann for state Senate, District 51
* DuBose Porter for governor
* Carol Porter for lieutenant governor
* R.J. Hadley for U.S. Senate
Source: 9th Congressional District Democratic Party of Georgia