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GOP hopefuls visit Effingham Tea Party
john mccallum
John McCallum - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

With six Republicans on the ballot for Georgia’s District 1 seat in the U.S. House and five running in U.S. House District 12, John McCallum and Eugene Yu are both in crowded fields in their respective congressional races.

However, during a visit with the Effingham County Tea Party, both declined to make any negative comments about their fellow Republican candidates.

“My target is Democrat John Barrow. I am ready to take John Barrow out,” said Yu, an Augusta businessman and political newcomer.

Yu will run against Rick Allen, Delvis Dutton, John Stone and Diane Vann in the District 12 Republican primary on May 20. The winner will challenge five-term incumbent Barrow in November.

With no incumbent running in District 1, McCallum is in an even larger field — six Republicans and three Democrats. The winner will succeed longtime congressman Jack Kingston, who is seeking the seat of retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

“I’m running not because of who’s in the race or who’s not in the race,” said McCallum, a St. Simon’s Island businessman. “I’ve lived the American dream, and I want to go and make sure that dream is still available in the future.”

Yu and McCallum both touted their business expertise and pledged, if elected, to help create jobs and develop businesses. McCallum told his story of driving to Washington, D.C., in 1993, with no money and no political connections, and landing an unpaid internship with Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich.

He parlayed that into a legislative aide position with Speaker Gingrich, focusing on budget, banking and tax issues. McCallum later founded a software company and developed a number of charter schools in Georgia, and he currently manages a company that invests in building and growing small to medium businesses.

“I’m a business guy, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m an innovator,” he said. “I’ve done nothing but help business guys start businesses and create jobs.”

Yu stated that politicians and other state officials must be more aggressive in recruiting industry to Georgia. After retiring from his career in law enforcement, Yu started a company that refurbishes military vehicles.

“I know who wants to invest. In my 20-some years of business background, especially internationally, I know who wants to come,” said Yu, a South Korea native who emigrated to Augusta with his family when he was a teenager.

He pointed to the significance of the Kia Motors plant opening in 2009, creating several thousand jobs in west Georgia. Yu said he deals with Kia “all the time” through his business ventures, and said he worked behind the scenes with then-Gov. Sonny Perdue to help bring the plant to West Point.

“While he was in Korea meeting with the people, I was on the phone with him at 2 o’clock in the morning,” Yu claimed.

Another priority, they agreed, will be to work toward balancing the budget and trimming the nation’s trillions of dollars of debt.

“The debt is a cancer,” McCallum said. “The blood it survives off of is tax dollars. We’ve got to do something to cut off the blood flow and starve the tumor. It sounds terrible to talk about it that way, but that’s the state we’re in.”

The first step, according to McCallum, should be to “tackle the imbalances we have in our entitlement programs.” He said that all programs need to be looked at, including Medicare, Medicaid and a food stamps program he called “corrupt.”

McCallum referred to Social Security, as presently structured, as “theft from one generation to the next.” He proposed establishing individual Social Security accounts, enabling people to get back the money they personally invested.

“We have to stop spending money we don’t have,” he said. “If I put money in my 401K, I don’t expect my kids of their kids to pay me my 401K money.”

As a cost-saving measure, Yu suggested cutting some federal agencies entirely.

“Don’t just talk about a smaller federal government — do it,” he said. “Department of Education, Department of Energy, EPA, Department of Commerce, all those need to be gone. Give back the authority to state government.”

Similar to his idea for personal retirement accounts, McCallum supports a voucher program as a way to revamp the educational system.

“If we’re going to have publicly-funded education,” he said, “then let’s give families the money and put it in their child’s backpack and say, ‘You decide where you want to send little Johnny or little Susie to school,’ and release them from the plague of being trapped in a failing school that they’ve got no hope, no future, no opportunity.”