Photos from the Oconee County Candidates Forum at the Oconee Veterans Park with a little commentary

 Dr. Russ Page moderated a direct question-and-answer session for all six candidates for the 117th and 119th Special Elections in Oconee and Clarke counties Monday evening at the Oconee Veterans Park near Butler's Crossing in unincorporated Watkinsville to a packed house of curious voters and supporters.

Dr. Lee Becker of Oconee County Observations and the University of Georgia journalism school  video-taped the ongoings, and professor Sarah Bell was quick on her feet foisting the wireless microphone to the many attendees in the special events room of the park off of State Route 53 (Hog Mountain Road) thanks to the Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department.

Oconee County Democratic candidate Jonathan Wallace is running against Oconee County Republicans Tom Lord, Steven Strickland, and Marcus Wiedower in Georgia's free-for-all known as a special election.

The conventional local political wisdom residual from when I ran in similar circumstances in 2011 is that the three seemingly equally qualified Republican candidates will split the local GOP voter majority allowing a lone Democratic candidate to make a run-off at the very least, Republican gerrymandering notwithstanding.

New Western circuit Judge Regina Quick and former State Representative Chuck Williams did run locally the last several election cycles on wanting to make Oconee County whole again in reapportionment which never made the floor of the General Assembly, but did get some requisite committee hearings I believe.

Williams was in the back row of the proceedings, and a very nearly packed house respectfully queried the candidates. Chairman John Daniell and Commissioner Chuck Horton were in attendance, as well as many of the usual Oconee County political junkies, and a good number of new faces, signing up for Lee Becker's blog if they wished.

Many local voters appeared genuinely curious about what the candidate's responses were, ranging from the President's actions toward women in the infamous "pussy grabber" statement from a year previous, to having to make people work on cases like divorces that they might not otherwise want to (I guess which was a round-about way of asking about the company who did not want to make cupcakes for gay wedding - maybe??).

 Michael Prochaska of the Oconee Enterprise and Lee Shearer of the Athens Banner-Herald were in attendance and dutifully recorded the goings on. I was surprised that there was no coverage by News Source 15 or whatever they are calling Dr. Hazinski's class at UGA these days. Tried to watch that last night and their sound quality was totally shot.

Dr. Page started the evening by recognizing the recent passing of Watkinsville Mayor Charles Ivie, and asking anyone connected with the campaigns not to ask questions.

This was brought into focus later as former Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson's campaign manager Houston Gaines got into a personality crisis with  Athens-Clarke County Commission candidate Russell Edwards repeating his question of who they local legislative candidates would vote for today if there was a repeat of the 2016 Presidential election (given what we know now). 

Essentially Houston accused Russell of being involved in the Gonzalez campaign (which he is not), thus theoretically invalidating Russell's question (which it did not).

I would think that future campaigns might be better served if not addressing petty squabbles from different parties, but everyone knows that we all love a good old fashioned political pissing match, and that's what it really came down to.
 There was no huge surprise as the Republican candidates said they would vote for President Trump again, and the Democratic candidates.

I asked in the first forum if they owned any weaponry, when they last discharged that weapon, and if they would support any kind of legislation like the "bump stock" ban being considered even by the NRA in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre of country music fans at a Jason Aldean concert.

Campus carry was also a repeat subject of questions from the audience with no major surprises in the responses except perhaps that Wiedower wants to rewrite some of the regulations, as it is poorly written in his estimation as is.

Some people in the audience seemed greatly concerned that Governor Deal ignored the large number of requests not to sign the bill.

Steven Strickland came off as extremely intelligent, and I dare say perhaps too intelligent for the average political consumer, but we shall see.

Marcus Wiedower is always impressive in his earnestness and honesty, and he will look you in the eye and tell you why he may or may not agree with you.

Lawton Tom Lord never took too long on any answer, and his succinctness probably did not cost him any previously dedicated voters (nor many converts I would suspect). He does not like sanctuary cities in Georgia.

 I salute all the candidates and their supporters for turning out on a Monday night to listen to the issues, and again great thanks to the organizers.

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