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Assertion lights up political forum
Candidate: Results easily could be challenged
web forum crowd DSC0039
Members of the crowd listen as candidates state their platforms and goals. - photo by Marguerite West

Watch the Hinesville portion of Tuesday night's political forum at

One of the five candidates for the four seats on the Riceboro City Council, Amelia Smith, attended Tuesday night's Liberty County NAACP and Chamber of Commerce political forum. Watch her presentation at

One the mayoral candidates, Larry Baker, and three of the 11 candidates for city council seats in Walthourville attended Tuesday night's Liberty County NAACP and Chamber of Commerce political forum. Watch their presentations at

An assertion by one candidate at Tuesday night’s political forum that the upcoming municipal elections might easily be challenged drew murmurs of disbelief.

John Spradley, who is running for Hinesville’s City Council District 5 seat, said the U.S. Justice Department had not approved district maps that were redrawn and approved by the council over the summer. Early voting starts next Tuesday and if the approval is not received by then, he said voting should conform to the city’s old districts, while candidates were told the new districts would be used.

“Everywhere I’ve been campaigning really hard is not in my district,” Spradley said before the forum started.

“Technically, that is true,” Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said Thursday.

But, Edwards said, City Attorney Linnie Darden III had assured him the approval would be issued by Tuesday. However, both men said early Thursday that other complications had arisen and would be addressed at a possible emergency council meeting Thursday evening. There will be more on that meeting at and in Sunday’s Courier.

The forum was organized by the Liberty County Branch of the NAACP and the Liberty Council Chamber of Commerce. Candidates, who have opposition, from all cities with pending elections were invited, according to Branch President Dwight Newbould.

“I think it went pretty well,” he said. “It was an opportunity to hear the platforms of the candidates from the candidates.”

All three candidates for Hinesville mayor attended, as did the incumbent and challenger for District 1. The three challengers in District 5 attended, but not the incumbent, Kenneth Shaw, who said he was out of town for the funeral of a cousin.

“I would have been there if it hadn’t been for that,” he said Thursday.

In general, the incumbents promoted their records, while the challengers questioned spending and efficiency of programs.

“Our administration, in the time we’ve been here, have kept the city in good financial condition,” Mayor Jim Thomas said.

Later, to a question about increasing taxes, he said the city has not raised its tax millage in the three years he’s been in office.

Challenger Tyrone Adams said he believes the current administration is unresponsive to the public. To a question, he said he didn’t believe the city’s bus system is operated correctly.

“We need to have this bus system going to airport road, to the schools, OK. It needs to go to Midway.”

Challenger Billy Kitchings questioned spending. As an example, to the question about the buses, he said he already would have ended the service.

“The taxpayers of Hinesville, Ga., should not have foot the bill,” Kitchings said.

Defending the buses, Thomas said the federal government has designed and funded the system to this point. He did say he believed changes were needed.

District 1 incumbent Charles Frasier answered a question about improving quality of life, providing more youth activity and shopping by promoting a “business-friendly atmosphere” and cooperating with the county recreation department.

Challenger Diana Reid said she’d try to motivate the public to get individuals involved in needed programs.

Among their questions, District 5 challengers were asked what programs could be started to address youth gangs.

“The program is the police,” Angela Wilson said. She turned her answer into a criticism of the council’s mid-afternoon meetings.

Hannah Williams-Donegan said the answer is more oversight and programs for youth, but not more police. “What we need to do is get involved ourselves and help our children,” she said.

Spradley said the youth are parents’ responsibility.

“We need to stop trying to pass the buck on to other people,” he said.

From Walthourville, mayoral challenger Larry Baker attended while incumbent Daisy Pray did not. A call to city hall Thursday to find out why she did not attend was not returned. Baker is vacating the Post 3 seat to run for mayor.

Council candidates Post 4 incumbent Luciria Lovett and challenger Tommy McCaskill, and Post 3 challenger Lillie “Reedy” Kelly attended. There are eight other candidates for the four seats.

There are five candidates for four seats on Riceboro’s City Council. The only one to show at the forum was Amelia Smith, who also is the only candidate who is not an incumbent on the council.

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