Talton faces opposition, unpaid taxes in primary election | News
Ten-year veteran of the state legislature from Houston County Willie Talton faces opposition in the May 20th Republican primary.
Software developer from Warner Robins Heath Clark wants the job.
Clark isn't the only challenge Talton faces. The 70-year-old state representative owes about $38,000 in delinquent property taxes to Houston County.
It's not a new problem. Talton first explained his unpaid property taxes to 13WMAZ in 2011.
He owns more than 70 rental properties.
Talton said, "Sometimes I have trouble with people not paying."
In February 2011, he owed about $17,000 to Houston County.
Now, according to property tax records, Talton owes about $38,000 in late fees and penalties. He said, "I'm going to do what I have to do. I'm going to pay."
Records show Talton did pay the taxes on about 40 of his rentals last year. However, he still owes some tax bills for the 2011 and 2012 tax years.
Tax Commissioner Mark Kushinka says seven of Talton's properties will be auctioned in June, if the bills remain unpaid.
Talton said, "They're going to be taken care of. I've already got it in my budget to take care of it."
He said he did not want to sell any of his properties, "because it hasn't gotten to that point yet."
He said his financial ordeal should show voters he's in-touch with the real world. Talton said, "I can relate to their problems too, and I have a heart to listen to them and feel what they're feeling."
Talton's challenger, 33-year-old Heath Clark, said, "To say that I'm struggling along with them, isn't leading them out of the struggle."
Clark said he knew about Talton's unpaid taxes, but chose not to make it an election issue, until 13WMAZ questioned him on the topic. He said, "I'm not going to get into the negative side of campaigning."
Clark said as the sole income-earner for his family, he too can relate to the struggles of a tax burden. He said that's much of the reason he's running: He wants to help people like Talton.
He said, "Can we cut taxes? Is the tax burden too high for voters? If people are struggling and having a hard time paying their bills, and medical expenses and mortgages and gas-- taxes everywhere. Could we cut the burden on Georgians?"
Talton says he's still trying to "bounce-back" from a financial slump that began with the economic bust of 2008.
He says he's paying and up-front with voters about his problems. Talton said, "I'm going to be an honest person, not hide anything from them. I have always worked for what I've got."
Tax Commissioner Mark Kushinka said Talton called his office in the past few weeks to arrange to pay some of the tax bills.
Early voting for the May 20th primary is underway at three polling places in Houston County. Early voting runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May 16th.