CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — Steve Tarvin wanted to make it clear Tuesday night that he didn't have anything to do with a letter that took aim at one of his political opponents.
"I don't do things behind people's back," Tarvin said at Tuesday night's meeting of the Walker County Republican Party. "I have never seen it, don't know anything about it and completely despise dirty politics."
Tarvin and Neal Florence were invited to speak about their qualifications for the Georgia House District 2 seat, which is empty since state Rep. Jay Neal resigned to take a state department of corrections job.
The men are in a Feb. 4 run-off election since they edged out a third Republican candidate, Doug Woodruff, in a special election held Jan. 7 -- but neither Tarvin nor Florence captured more than 50 percent of the vote required for a win.
Tarvin, the top vote-getter in January, had the floor to himself Tuesday night, since Florence didn't appear.
Tarvin spent most of his 15 minutes talking about who he is to the roughly two dozen people inside the log cabin-style Wallace building at the historic Lee and Gordon's Mills.
"When I talk to you, you've heard the worst I've had to say about you," he said. "You don't have to worry about what I'm thinking."
Tarvin said he worked himself up from a minimum-wage job at Crystal Springs Print Works textile plant in Chickamauga to become its owner.
He's not looking at the house seat as a stepping-stone to another office, such as Walker County sole commissioner or U.S. representative, he said. Tarvin said he just wants to serve.
"My heart is your heart," he said. "My heart is the heart of the 2nd District."
Tarvin, 63, said he was a Republican when there weren't many in Chickamauga, and that he spoke up for Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon for school assignments.
"I was a Republican in the third grade," he said.
One issue he'd support is the right to carry handguns. He's opposed to the federal Affordable Care Act health insurance program.
"It will not work," Tarvin said. "What if we had no insurance? You know what would happen? A doctor would charge you what you can afford to pay."
Tarvin said he wanted to pull communities in the district together.
He also said he can get along with legislators in Atlanta after they see he's got a good heart, a love for the state and a love for his district.
"They will see, 'Hey, this is a pretty good old boy,'" Tarvin predicted. "I am what I am."
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.