Sunday, July 08, 2012

Oconee County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education Contests To Start Candidate Forums Monday and Tuesday

Other Contests Follow

The Candidate Forum scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. tomorrow night in the Community Center at Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road will begin with all six candidates running for the three Commission posts at center stage.

Each candidate will be given two minutes to introduce herself or himself before taking questions directly from the audience. The session will last 70 minutes and will be followed by a 25-minute session with the two candidates for the chairmanship of the Board of Education. The final 25 minutes of the evening will be devoted to the race for sheriff.

Before taking questions, each candidate in these races will introduce himself.

Tuesday Session Includes T-SPLOST

The Tuesday evening session also starts at 7 p.m. and also will be held at the Community Center in Veterans Park. It will follow the same format as on Monday.

The first 30 minutes on Tuesday will be set aside for questions of the two candidates for tax commissioner.

The next half hour will be for candidates for the House District 117 race.

The final hour will focus on the legislative history of the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax issue on the ballot on July 31 and will feature the local legislative delegation past and present.

Russ Page and I are organizing the two forums, as we have in the past. Russ has been involved in many local civic issues, with particular focus on farm land protection.

We’ll recognize questioners and keep track of time so all candidates will get an equal chance to answer.

Commitments from Candidates

We have commitments from both Melvin Davis and Chuck Horton to attend. Davis is seeking another term as chairman of the Commission, while Horton, currently a Commission member, also is seeking the chairmanship.

Post 1 candidates Sarah Bell and Jim Luke also have told us they will participate. Luke currently holds the position.

Post 4 candidates Tammy Gilland and Mark Saxon also have said they will attend. Horton currently holds the Post 4 slot.

Questions can be addressed to all six candidates or to any pair of candidates.

Michael Hunter and Tom Odum, seeking the chairmanship of the Board of Education, have committed to attend. Hunter currently serves on the Board, but the chairmanship is open.

Trey Downs, seeking to become sheriff, has committed to attend. Incumbent Sheriff Scott Berry has told us he has a scheduling conflict that has not yet been resolved.

On Tuesday, Pamela Lohr Hendrix and Jennifer Riddle have committed to take questions in the Tax Commissioner contest. That spot is open.

Regina Quick, seeking election to the newly created 117th House District, has committed to attend. Doug McKillip, incumbent, told me in an email message yesterday that he is working to resolve a schedule conflict.

Three Oconee Precincts in 117th

Oconee County voters in Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart precincts are now part of the 117th District.

Former Oconee County Representative Bob Smith has told us he will join the T-SPLOST discussion, as has current Representative Chuck Williams. Williams is running unopposed to represent all of Oconee County except the three precincts in the 117th.

Sen. Bill Cowsert, who represents Oconee County, has said he expects to be able to attend the session as well. Cowsert has no opposition in the July 31 primary.

We also have asked McKillip to participate in the session.

We have asked each of these individuals to take up to five minutes to explain the decision of the legislature to put the T-SPLOST issue on the ballot and then take questions from the audience about the 1 percent sales tax.

Williams did not vote on the issue but has been involved in discussions in the most recent legislative session on tax policy and the state budget.

If the tax is approved by voters in Oconee and 11 other counties in the region, it will run for 10 years and fund a list of regional tax projects as well as provide funding for county projects.

All of the candidates, as well as the legislative representatives, are Republicans.

The Democratic Party has not put forward any candidates for any of the Oconee County offices, so the decision from the July 31 Republican primary will decide who holds the local offices.

Cowsert and Williams, as well as the winner of the McKillip/Quick race, also will run unopposed in November.

Coin Flip To Determine Order

Russ and I will determine the order of candidate self-introductions in each of the contests by the flip of a coin.

Audience members will be told they are not to make statements of support and are to be concise in posing questions.

Each candidate for the given office or offices will be given two minutes to reply.

If time allows, we will ask each candidate to offer two minutes of closing comments. But we will do that only if there are no additional questions from the audience.

Candidates have been told they can bring along campaign materials for distribution after the sessions.

We have asked then to discourage their staff or campaign workers from participating in the questioning.

We plan to make video recordings of the sessions and make them available on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.

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