The two women were not the featured speakers at the Oconee County Democratic Party meeting on Tuesday night, but they got enthusiastic responses from those present.
Chalis Montgomery, a musician and music educator from Barrow County, told the group she intends to announce her candidacy for the 10th Congressional District seat and is seeking help in forming her campaign committee.
Deborah Gonzalez, an attorney from Athens, said she is seeking volunteers and support from Oconee County in her run for the 117th District in the Georgia House of Representatives, which includes parts of Oconee County.
The four featured speakers who came after Montgomery and Gonzalez talked about the demands of running for local office and of service once elected and were part of the Oconee County Democratic Party’s efforts to recruit Democratic candidates for upcoming elections.
Angie Eells, Democratic Party chair, noted the hopes of those present for the success of Democrat Jon Ossoff, running in the Sixth Congressional District special election that day.
Later that evening--after the meeting had ended--results showed Ossoff had lost to Republican Karen Handel in the traditionally Republican, suburban Atlanta district.
Montgomery And Issues
Montgomery said she was motivated to challenge incumbent Republican Jody Hice in part because of her seven-year-old daughter, who has rheumatoid arthritis.
She said she anticipated losses in her life, but “I never thought I’d look at losing the future for my child, or her friends, or my community.”
She said she woke up after the elections in November “and I couldn’t believe it, but I couldn’t sit still either.”
One focus of her campaign will be health care, she said. “We’ve got to have health care that works for everybody.”
Montgomery is a former children’s minister currently working as a piano teacher. She has lived in Bethlehem for 15 years.
Gonzalez And Timing
Gonzalez announced her candidacy for the 117th District seat currently held by Republican Regina Quick at a gathering in Athens earlier this month.
Gonzalez told the overflow crowd of more than 30 at the Oconee County Democratic meeting that she announced early because of the possibility that Quick will be appointed as a district court judge and there will be a special election to fill her seat.
“If not, we will have just that extra amount of months to go and run against her in 2018,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzales was very brief in her comments, saying she already knew many of those present from previous visits and was looking for people who might be willing to host a gathering on her behalf.
Following the meeting, Margaret Holt, past chair of the Oconee County Democratic Party, announced that she will moderate an open forum with Gonzalez from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at the Oconee County Library on Experiment Station Road in Watkinsville.
Tracey Wyatt, who is heading up candidate recruitment efforts for the Oconee County Democratic Party, invited Paul Dotterweich, Spencer Frye, Penny Mills and Norman Garrett to share with the assembled group their experiences campaigning and holding office.
Dotterweich, a city council member in North High Shoals, focused on the importance of being able to listen to others.
Frye, a Democrat who represents Athens-Clarke County in House District 118 in the Georgia General Assembly, said holding political office is about service to the community and involves working with people with different views.
“You can’t not like somebody because they believe differently than you,” Frye said.
Penny Mills, who ran unsuccessfully for the Oconee County Board of Commissioners in the Republican Primary last spring, said “I had a good time, and I met a lot of wonderful people, but I’ll tell you, its grueling.”
Mills said she had decided not to run again.
Garrett focused on the importance of voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts in elections.
“The way you win these seats is not that you go vote, but you make sure your friends and family members go vote,” he said.
The meeting took place in the conference room of the Government Annex on the south side of Watkinsville.
I counted 30 people in the room, but several were outside in the hall that I could not see.
Rob Mishler from Fannin County on the North Carolina border was the first speaker. Mishler represented Greening Georgia, and he asked those present to support environmental issues within the Democratic Party.
The video below contains the comments of Mishler, starting at 2:50, Montgomery, starting at 14:50, and Gonzales, starting at 25:50.
Wyatt began the program involving Dotterweich, Frye, Mills and Garrett at 32:00. The four spoke in that order.
The video ends when the Democratic Party began its business meeting.