Naughton believes his business experience, his backing of term limits and plans to make the office a full-time job, gives him an advantage over the other three candidates in the Republican primary.
“I have a 30-year business background,” Naughton said. “I worked for one of the greatest American corporations, Milliken and Company, for 22 of those years. I was promoted 11 times and the reason was that I outworked most everybody else. I don’t do things half way. If I’m elected senator, I won’t just work in January and February. I’ll work the year round and put in 50- to 70-hour weeks, like I did in business.”
Naughton said he believes in eight-year term limits for state lawmakers and charged that politicians who are re-elected numerous times are not a sensible answer to good government.
“There’s more advantages to term limits than disadvantages,” he said. “The argument that you need political experience to do well is just a crutch to keep incumbents in office. I will work hard to get on top the issues and understand the process, and I don’t think it will take three years to be effective.”
Naughton said politicians who have been in office several terms become “virtually impossible” to unseat and they have a stacked deck in their favor. He called the argument that the ballot is a term limit, “just nonsense.”
“They get their names in the papers for free,” he said. “They get their names on bills whether they are second co-sponsor or 40th co-sponsor. The political action groups give them money, and they don’t have to struggle to raise election funds. They have money thrown at them. They (incumbents) get elected about 90 percent of the time because it’s a stacked deck.”
Naughton charged that two of his opponents in the District 30 race have a total of nearly 40 years of legislative experience between them and the state is “much worse off” than when they first got into office.
“When they entered office, the state unemployment rate was about 5 percent, now it’s 9.4 percent,” he said. “Georgia education was 32nd or 33rd in the nation, now it’s 44th or 45th. The budget in the state was $11 billion and today it’s $19.7 billion. I think the record speaks for itself.
“It’s no longer a time for business as usual,” he said. “It’s time for new thinking and new ideas. The difference is that I’ve done things the other candidates haven’t. I was part of the Milliken organization. I was given a business that was failing, and I grew it and added jobs. I have a real track record of job creation and working with business, education and government officials. I hired and fired people and made tough decisions.”
Naughton said this is a critical election and he feels his business background is suited for the current situation.
“We have issues now with economy, jobs, unemployment and education, and they all ultimately tie together,” he said.
Speaking on ethics reform, Naughton said he will not take any gifts, of any amount, from lobbyists.
“I’m not going to wait for the legislature to pass an ethics bill,” he said. “They’re not going to do it. There’s too many who like the lifestyle of the gifts and dinners. I won’t accept anything of any value. If they (lobbyists) want to meet with me, I’ll buy my own coffee, my own dinner or my own tickets.”
Naughton said the state currently has a crisis in education and he thinks his business background can help turn it around.
“One out of three high school students isn’t graduating,” he said. “You have to have an educated work force to create the environment to attract businesses and jobs. So, if you lack a high school degree, it also means you lack the skills to be a good employee. Companies will have to spend a lot of money to bring you up to speed or pick somewhere else, where the workforce is trained.”
He cited an example of Roger Milliken of the Milliken firm, where Naughton worked, bringing together government and education to attract the BMW auto factory to South Carolina.
“We spend a lot of money on education, but we’re not getting the outcomes we need,” he said. “We need to look at our technical colleges and see that they really align with what businesses need.”
Naughton said the state needs to have a business mentality in the education process. He mentioned the example of Southwire Company in Carrollton working with local schools to create the “12 for Life” program, which helps high school students graduate and helps Southwire have a trained pool of job candidates, when jobs become open.
“It has been very successful,” he said. “Six hundred young men and women were at risk of not graduating. They now have high school diplomas and much greater earning potential. The program is about helping people get ahead, but not in a charitable way. In tough times, you cut out things that don’t add to the bottom line. It will never be cut because it’s self-sustaining.”
Naughton said he doesn’t support the charter school amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot because he feels it’s a control issue, and he wants control of education to remain local.
“I am for choice, and I do believe that there’s not going to be one answer to fix the current education crisis,” he said. “I believe that public school is a big part of the answer, but charter schools, private schools and home schools are also part of the answer.”
Naughton said he’s talked with a lot of local educators about the situation, and he believes the best form of government is the one closest to the people.
“I do believe that charter schools have a place, but I think this amendment is more about controlling money,” he said. “It would take control away from local people, who we elected, and give it to the Gold Dome. I think, if anything, past experiences have told us that maybe that’s not the best place to put power and money.”
Naughton said he favors the Hope scholarship program, but he’s not in favor of casinos to raise education funds.
“The Hope scholarship has helped a lot of kids go to college who possibly would never have been able to because of financial limitations,” he said. “So I think the Hope scholarship has been very, very good for our higher education.
“I’m not a big fan of the gaming industry and casinos,” he said. “That’s my personal thing. I think it has a huge social cost. We’re talking about addiction, dependency and people spending money they don’t have.”
However, he said he might consider thoroughbred horse racing, since Georgia is an agricultural state and it is allowed in many other states.
Naughton was born in 1959 in New York City. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a major in finance, from Manhattan College, and a master’s degree, with concentration in finance, from Fordham University.
He worked 21 years with Milliken and Company, rising from an assistant market credit manager to leader of a $50 million business unit that manufactured and marketed stretch fabrics.
He was executive director of the University of West Georgia Foundation and assistant vice president for alumni and development relations from 2010 to 2011.
Naughton said he was fired from the job after he questioned how some contracts were being handled, which he felt was in voilation of state policy. He sued under the state’s whistleblower law and eventually settled for $274,000. He said he accepted the settlement because he was told the case could drag on for 10 years. Naughton said after paying legal fees of $110,000, he donated the remainder of the settlement to various charities and programs, including $80,000 to the new UWG nursing school.