The event honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks 17 years ago was nonpartisan, North Oconee High School Young Americans for Freedom Chapter Advisor Kirk Shook told the roughly 100 people assembled at the school on Sunday.
To emphasize the point, Shook noted that Democrat Deborah Gonzales, representing the 117th House District in the Georgia General Assembly, was among those gathered to place 2,977 small flags on the school’s lawn to commemorate the victims of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Kim Argo, running as a Republican for Post 3 on the Board of Education, and Andrea Wellnitz, running as a Democrat for Post 2 on the Board of Education, also were there, Shook noted.
The group planted the flags in a formation around the entrance sign to the school so students arriving on campus this week are reminded of the attacks that changed American 17 years ago.
Though the flag-planting event was nonpartisan–none of those present did any obvious campaigning–the campaign season has begun.
The Oconee County Chamber of Commerce announced today that the Oconee and Athens-Area chambers are teaming up for a candidate forum on Oct. 11, two days after voter registration ends and four days before early voting starts for the Nov. 6 election.
The Oconee Enterprise will host a candidate forum on Oct. 4.
“The whole idea of this event is that we come together as a community,” Shook, a teacher at North Oconee High School, told those assembled. “It’s not about Republicans, not about Democrats, not about anything else than us just coming together, working together and honoring the victims of this terrible tragedy.”
“Thank you all so much for coming, Chapter President McCord Camp said before he explained the procedures to be followed in setting the flags.
At Camp’s request, the group stood for 15 minutes of silence for the victims before taking the small flags and putting them into the ground.
Young Americans for Freedom is a student organization founded in 1960 by conservative writer and commentator William F. Buckley to engage young people in politics.
It took the group little time to plant the flags, and the whole event was over in less than an hour.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell and Commissioner Chuck Horton were among those present.
Horton’s name will be on the ballot in November, but he has no opposition. Daniell and Horton are Republicans.
Tammy Gilland, chair of the Oconee County Republican Executive Committee was present. Shook is treasurer of the 10th Congressional District Republican Party Committee.
Students made up a large contingent of the assembled group and included a number, dressed in black, from North Oconee High School’s dance group. According to Shook, the dancers had been holding practice at the school.
About 100 community members and students attended last year’s event, which was the first in honor of the 911 victims that the North Oconee County High School chapter has held.
Camp said the plan is to make this an annual group activity.
Chamber Candidate Forum
Courtney Bernardi, Oconee County Chamber of Commerce president, announced the joint Chamber of Commerce candidate forum in a news release this afternoon.
The forum will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 11 on the 3rd Floor of the Medical Services Building, 3rd Floor Auditorium, Piedmont Athens Regional, 242 King Avenue in Athens.
The press release said that commitments have been received from: incumbent Bill Cowsert, (Georgia Senate District 46); incumbent Frank Ginn and Dawn Johnson (Georgia Senate District 47); Gonzalez and Gaines (Georgia House District 117), and incumbent Jonathan Wallace and Wiedower (Georgia House District 119).
Johnson, Gonzalez and Wallace are Democrats. Cowsert, Ginn, Gaines and Wiedower are Republicans.
Tim Bryant, news director and conservative commentator for radio station 1340 WGAU, will serve as moderator, and WGAU will broadcast the forum live, according to the news release. WGAU is at 1340 AM and 98.7 FM.
Each candidate will have the chance to give an opening statement before responding to questions posed by Bryant, according to the release.
The questions to be answered by the candidates will be determined in advance, according to Barnardi's news release. Audience members can submit questions, but it is up to Bryant to ask and even reword the question.
The Oconee Enterprise candidate forum will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 at the University of North Georgia campus on Bishop Farms Parkway off Experiment Station Road.
Editor Michael Prochaska has said that all four Board of Education candidates and all six state legislative candidates representing Oconee County have agreed to attend or send a representative.
The Board of Education candidates are: incumbent Amy Parrish and Wellnitz, Post 2, and Argo and Fran Thompson, Post 3. Parrish and Argo are Republicans, Wellnitz and Thompson are Democrats.
The six candidates representing Oconee County in the General Assembly are: Cowsert and Marisue Hilliard, running for the 46th Georgia Senate District, Gonzalez and Gaines in Georgia House District 117, and Wallace and Wiedower, House District 119. Cowsert, Gaines and Wiedower are Republicans, and Hilliard, Gonzalez and Wallace are Democrats.
The format will include introductory comments from the candidates followed by questions from the audience, according to Prochaska.
Other Political Meetings
Republican Congressman Jody Hice will speak at the Sept. 20 meeting of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission Council at the Holiday Inn in Athens.
The Council agenda, released this morning, lists Hice’s comments as the fifth agenda item. The meeting starts at noon.
“Recently, a staff member of Congressman Jody Hice called and advised that the Congressman would be in Athens on the 20th and would like to address the Council,” Mott Beck, executive assistant to the Commission, said in an email message that went out to Council members this morning.
The Northeast Georgia Regional Commission is a coordinating agency for 12 counties and 54 municipal governments in the Northeast Georgia Region, including Oconee County and its four cities.
The Commission is governed by the Regional Council.
Instead of its usual September meeting, the Oconee County Republican Party met for a “Dial Party” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. this evening at the Oconee GOP Campaign Headquarters, 1050 Barber Creek Drive, Building 100, Suite 101.
The Oconee County Democratic Committee will hold its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, 55 Nancy Drive, Watkinsville.
Oconee County Democrats are holding a fundraiser from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 7 at Academia Brewing Company, 150 Crane Drive in Athens, for the Oconee County races of Hilliard, Gonzalez, Wallace, Wellnitz, Thompson, and Dan Matthews, seeking re-election to the Watkinsville City Council.
The event also will support Johnson, running in the 47th Georgia Senate race, though Oconee County is not part of that district.
The short video below is made up of a series of clips from Sunday, beginning with the comments of Shook and Camp and ending with a group picture and the final display.