Saturday May 28th, 2016 8:02AM

GOP Senate candidates debate port, flood insurance

By The Associated Press
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Republican candidates for Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat debated Saturday whether Congress has pushed hard enough for deepening the Savannah harbor and whether the federal government should keep giving homeowners a break on flood insurance.

All seven contenders seeking the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss shared a stage before a few hundred spectators at a school auditorium in Savannah with less than two months remaining until the May 20 primary. And some of their sharpest disagreements dealt with issues critical to the Georgia coast.

Each vowed support for the $652 million deepening of the shipping channel to the busy Port of Savannah, and accused the Obama administration of throwing up a roadblock in recent weeks that could delay construction from starting this year. Timing is critical because an expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to send supersized cargo ships to the East Coast as soon as 2015.

But the two candidates running as Washington outsiders said they were stunned that the harbor deepening still hasn't begun despite planning that started in the late 1990s.

``It's just another example of a lack of a sense of urgency'' by Congress, said David Perdue, the former Reebok and Dollar General CEO whose TV ads have portrayed the three congressmen in the race as whiny babies who can't get anything done.

Karen Handel, Georgia's former secretary of state, added: ``No one would get 17 years to deliver this project to their boss in the private sector.''

Their barbs got a bristling response from Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah, whose district includes the port. He promised the harbor expansion will get done and dismissed his opponents as latecomers to an issue Gov. Nathan Deal has called Georgia's top economic priority.

``Have you ever written a letter in support of it?'' Kingston asked. ``I've worked with two members on Congress on this stage but I haven't heard from anybody else. ...Where were they when we met with the White House, over and over again? Or when we met with the four federal agencies that have to sign off on the project? Can they even name the four agencies?''

The Savannah congressman also found himself at odds with his fellow House members Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey when candidates were asked about the future of federal subsidies for flood insurance. Congress voted two years ago to draw down the subsidies over time after Hurricane Katrina and other disasters left the insurance program with a $24 billion deficit.

That triggered giant leaps in premiums up to 25 percent for current homeowners and even more for new buyers of coastal properties and the outcry prompted Congress this month to roll back or delay some of the harsher impacts.

``The problem with flood insurance is the same problem we have with health insurance, agricultural crop insurance, student loans and everything else,'' said Broun of Athens. ``It's the federal government getting involved in things it shouldn't.''

Gingrey of Marietta said it's unfair for taxpayers who don't live in flood-prone areas to subsidize those that do. He said Congress' initial attempt at fixing the problem was correct but once constituents started complaining lawmakers ``didn't have the guts to stand by what they'd done right the first time.''

``We have kept giving subsidies to people who keep rebuilding in a flood plain and we keep requiring them to have flood insurance,'' Gingrey said.

Art Gardner, a Cobb County attorney also in the race, said he didn't know enough about the insurance program to have an opinion. Derrick Grayson, a network engineer for Atlanta's mass transit system, said he opposed the federal government having a role with both flood insurance and the deepening of Savannah's harbor, which is a federal waterway.

The Savannah showdown was the fifth Senate debate sponsored by the Georgia Republican party. Two more will be held before the primary April 19 in Augusta and May 10 in Columbus.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 1 year ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 1 year ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
No injuries reported following Flowery Branch house fire
Hall County firefighters were called to the scene of a residential fire in the northern reaches of Flowery Branch Friday night.
9:39PM ( 10 hours ago )
AUDIO: Grilling safety tips to know ahead of Memorial Day weekend
With the Memorial Day holiday weekend approaching, the Afternoon News Wrap called upon Capt. Zach Brackett of Hall County Fire Services and Dr. Tawanna Strauther of the Northeast Georgia Physicians Group for some tips and tricks to help keep you safe if you plan on firing up the grill or barbecue.
By Afternoon News Wrap
9:28PM ( 10 hours ago )
Rape suspect apprehended during drug investigation
A Gainesville man was arrested Thursday during a drug investigation, and when he was processed through the jail it was revealed he was a DNA match in a years-old rape case.
5:42PM ( 14 hours ago )
Motorcyclist, driver injured in two-vehicle crash on Ga. 365
Those trying to get an early start on their holiday travel via Ga. 365 in Stephens County likely faced frustration Friday afternoon as a portion of the highway was shut down due to a crash.
5:25PM ( 14 hours ago )
Banks/Madison standoff suspect faces robbery, assault, hijacking charges
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has released more details of Monday night's double shooting in Banks County and subsequent hours-long standoff in Madison County.
4:01PM ( 16 hours ago )