Lacking opposition in the party primary on Tuesday, the five local Democratic candidates speaking at the party meeting last month focused not on this week’s election but on the election on November 3.
Jonathan Wallace, seeking election to the Georgia House of Representatives, said he was motivated to run because of redistricting.
Eric Gisler, running for chair of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, said he was focusing on transparency, accountability and smart growth for Oconee County in his campaign.
Laura Ormes, seeking Post 4 on the Oconee County Board of Education, said she wants to bring diversity of viewpoints to the Board of Education but she also is concerned about the “animosity” between the School Board and the Board of Commissioners.
Joan Parker, seeking Post 5 on the School Board, said she wants to add more life skills to the middle school curriculum.
The five were preceded in the Zoom virtual session by Sarah Riggs Amico, one of the candidates competing for the Democratic nomination to run against Republican incumbent David Perdue for the U.S. Senate seat in November.
Also part of the mix was Jimmy Williams, one of three candidates seeking to become Probate Court Judge in Oconee County in the nonpartisan election held in conjunction with the party primaries on Tuesday.
If none of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate or seeking to be Probate Judge wins a majority once voting is completed on Tuesday, a runoff will be held on Aug. 11.
Polls will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voters can turn in an Absentee ballot at the secure drop box at the Board of Elections and Registration Office, 10 Court Street, across from the Courthouse in Watkinsville, until 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Amico On Issues
Amico, the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2018, listed five issues she wants to focus on in the U.S. Senate.
The first of those is healthcare. “Nobody should be sick because they’re poor, or poor because they are sick,” she said.
She said the economy is going to need attention after the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and she will draw on her Harvard Business School degree and experience as a 17-year business executive and business owner to find solutions.
As head of the family trucking business, she said, she has created “great paying jobs with great benefits, like fully funded health insurance for my employees.”
The third issue Amico said is important to her is voting rights and election security.
“I will, in the U.S. Senate, work to fully restore the Voting Rights Act and its protection, specifically for minority voters, not just here in the Old South, but nationwide,” Amico said.
Amico told the Oconee County Democrats that she and her husband have “two little girls.”
“We fight for the world we want our kids to live in,” Amico said. “That means I’d like them to have clean air and clean water and a healthy environment–a planet, if possible, that is better off when I leave this world than it was when I came into it.
“It is absolutely critical that we repair the damage done to our federal judiciary by the Trump Administration,” Amico said. “They are court-packing at a breathtaking pace. They have politicized our federal judicial appointments and our Supreme Court, and it has to stop.”
“Perdue is beatable,” Amico said, and if Democrats can win both seats in Georgia in November, it will be impossible for Republican to keep the Senate majority, she said.
“This is a winable seat,” Amico said.
Seven candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, but most attention has been focused on Amico, John Ossoff and Teresa Tomlinson, all of whom have appeared before Oconee County Democrats.
Ossoff is CEO of Insight TWI (TheWorldInvestigates), an investigative journalism organization that produces programs for television companies around the world. He focused on corruption in his presentation to the Democrats in March.
Tomlinson devoted much of her time when she spoke to Democrats last August to a discussion of the role of government, calling on her experiences as a two-term mayor of Columbus. She stepped down as mayor in January.
Probate Court Judge candidate Williams began his comments at the May 21 meeting by thanking the Oconee County Democratic Party for inviting him and noted that he was the only nonpartisan candidate who was speaking to the group.
Williams is a captain in the Oconee County Sheriff’s office, and he said he has been in that Office for the last 18 year.
“If I’m elected judge,” Williams said, “there are some things I’ve seen in the past that we could do in the court system to minimize the work and also to help the citizens of Oconee County.”
The Probate Judge in Oconee County handles guardianships, fire arms permits, misdemeanor court cases, speeding, and wildlife violations, Williams said, and he would like to streamline the process in many of those areas.
At present, Williams said, it takes two weeks to get a firearms permit in the county, and he would like to see that time shortened.
“I’ve served the citizens for 18 years,” Williams said, “and I’d like to continue to serve the citizens here.”
If one of the three candidates wins a majority in the Probate Court race on Tuesday, that person will become the judge on Jan. 1 of 2021, replacing retiring Judge David Anglin.
The other two candidates are Michael Hunsinger and George Roberts.
Perry, a law school student at the University of Georgia, said he would focus on one issue in his comments at the May 21 virtual meeting: labor rights.
Perry is the sole Democrat on the ballot on Tuesday for nomination for state Senator for the 46th District. That seat currently is held by Bill Cowsert, who has no opposition on the Republican ballot on Tuesday.
Perry said he has worked in the service industry for five years in Athens and “was surprised at how brazenly worker’s rights could be violated.”
“People reported violations for years and nothing had ever happened,” he said.
The state needs to rebuild its economy after the pandemic, Perry said, by “strengthening labor laws and actually protecting worker’s rights.”
Wallace is seeking to be elected again to represent Oconee and Clarke counties in the Georgia General Assembly. Republican Marcus Wiedower defeated Wallace for the House District 119 seat in 2018 and is unopposed on the Tuesday Republican Party ballot.
“When I decided to run in 2017, when I took my first foray into politics, when I told my wife, hey, this is something I feel like I need to do and we discussed what impact that would have on our family and our children, I had the idea that 2020 was when it was going to matter,” Wallace said.
Legislators elected in November will be responsible for redistricting.
“I knew I needed to start early if I was going to be impactful and successful,” Wallace said.
Wallace said government plays a key role in healthcare, education and jobs, and he was critical of how the current Republican government has handled each of these.
Georgia should expand Medicaid coverage, increase the minimum wage, and give a higher priority to education, he said.
“Our educators are not just educating our children,” Wallace said. “They are the glue that connects many of us in our communities.”
The legislature should cut back on corporate tax credits, not education funding, he said.
Gisler said his 20 years of experience in the financial technology industry have involved hiring, firing, planning and budgeting.
These are a “lot of the skills that are going to come in handy as a Board of Commissioners chairman,” Gisler said.
Gisler said he got involved in politics because “I don’t like the way politics and government in general are going in this country.”
“I wanted to get involved and see what I can do to try to help bring some civility back into politics even here at the county level,” Gisler said, “even though it’s not that big of an issue at the county level.”
“My platform is really based on transparency, accountability, and smart growth for Oconee,” Gisler said.
“It is going to be a balancing act to walk that fine line between accommodating the growth we want but maintaining that rural charm that we all like here,” Gisler said.
The Republican primary on Tuesday has incumbent John Daniell, Carol Bennett and Johnny Pritchett seeking the party nomination for the November ballot.
Ormes, who has worked as an intelligence analyst for the federal government, said she has not really started campaigning yet.
“I have been home schooling a middle schooler and a high schooler and trying to survive,” she explained.
She said her reason for running was to provide diversity of viewpoints on the Board of Education.
“I enjoy talking to people that have different opinions from me because I think we learn from each other,” she said. “I don’t think I’m the smartest person in the room most of the time, so I like to hear other people that have different opinions from me so maybe we can learn from each other and find common ground.”
Ormes said she and her husband moved to Oconee County because of the schools and she has had “excellent experiences so far in the Oconee County Schools.”
Her goal, she said is to make sure that others are having that same experience.
“I can be a sounding board for people who maybe feel like they don’t have representation or don’t feel comfortable putting their voice forward,” Ormes said. “I want to make sure that everybody has somebody that they can go to make sure they’re getting the best education for their kids.”
“I’ve found it kind of concerning that there seems to be animosity or some conflict between the county and the schools, which seem to cause some problems with getting things accomplished here,” Ormes said.
Tim Burgess, who as School Board member has been an outspoken critic of the county, is unopposed on the Republican ballot on Tuesday for the Post 4 position.
Parker, who is seeking Post 5 on the Board of Education, said she also moved to Oconee County for the schools, and one of her children graduated from Oconee County Schools, but she ended moving her son to a private school because the schools were “not a fit” for him.
“We do have phenomenal schools here,” she said, “and I was a little bit disappointed and sad that it was not a fit for my student.”
“One of the reasons I want to run for the Board it to help make it a better fit for more students,” she said.
“We can look at how to meet the needs of more students with varying academic abilities and interests on a broader scale," Parker said.
Parker said the middle school curriculum should be revised to “develop more life skills” and students should have more choices on what is being offered as electives.
Parker said she is an industrial engineer and has worked as a program planner and evaluator in the electrical industry.
“Those skills translate directly to any position here,” she said.
The Republic Primary on Tuesday will decide whether Michael Ransom or Adam Spence gets the Republican nomination for the Post 5 position, which will become vacant with the retirement of Wayne Bagley in December.
I recorded the video of the May 21 Democratic Party meeting from Zoom and have embedded it below.
Karen Hilyard, a member of the Oconee County Planing Commission, was the moderator of the session.
Amico began her comments at 4:12 in the video.
Perry began speaking at 24:45 in the video.
Wallace started his comments at 30:07 in the video.
Williams began speaking at 47:09 in the video.
Gisler spoke at 52:15 in the video.
Ormes spoke at 56:08 in the video.
Parker made her comments at 1:00:52 in the video.