Voters will get a chance to hear from several of the candidates themselves during political forums next week in both Liberty and Long counties, thanks to the Liberty County Branch of the NAACP and the Long County Chamber of Commerce.
The Liberty County NAACP political forum will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center in Flemington. The Long County Political forum will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Long County High School cafeteria.
While both forums will be similar in structure and neither will be a debate in the traditional sense, there will be some differences.
At the Liberty County NAACP political forum, each candidate will be given time to speak, then moderators will ask questions submitted by audience members, according to Liberty County NAACP Branch President Graylan Quarterman. Voters also can submit questions in advance at NAACPforum@coastalcourier.com.
Like the NAACP forum in Liberty County, the forum in Long County will give candidates time to speak, but they won’t answer questions during the forum, according to Ray Howard, the Chamber’s immediate past president and coordinator of the event. Instead, residents are encouraged to stay and talk to candidates afterward.
All of those in contested races are expected to attend the Long County forum, Howard said, and that includes the contest between incumbent David
Richardson, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Brian Bray; the District 2 race between incumbent Robert Long and challenger Mike Riddle; and the District 5 race between incumbent Democrat Bobby Walker and his challenger, Republican Mike Klingensmith.
Incumbent Long County sheriff Craig Nobles, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Tim Works.
The Liberty NAACP Political forum is also expected to draw a large slate of candidates. All those seeking local office and facing opposition were invited to attend.
Among the races up for grabs is the one between incumbent County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger Matt Mattingly. Also contested the District 4 seat held by Pat Bowen, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Ted Eby, and incumbent Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes is being challenged by Republican Robert Brooks.
In addition to candidates for local offices, the NAACP invited incumbent U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and his challengers, Democrat Jim Barksdale, Libertarian Allen Buckley and write-in candidate Michelle Gates.
The NAACP also asked U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter and his opponent, write-in candidate Nathan Russo, to attend. Those who can’t attend will send information to be presented to audience members, according to Quarterman.
The NAACP also hopes to provide information on Liberty County’s proposed Special Local Option Sales Tax. In addition, state Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) will discuss the four proposed amendments to the state constitution that are on the November ballot.
Both forums are likely to include presentations on Amendment 1, or Opportunity School Districts. If passed by voters in November, Amendment 1 will allow the state to take over failing schools and turn their operation over to a governor-appointed board.
The NAACP, like groups such as the Georgia PTA, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and others, opposes Amendment 1, and recently the school board in nearby Bryan County School joined a growing list of county boards of education to pass a resolution opposing the measure.
Howard said the measure is so unpopular the problem for him has been to find someone to speak out in favor of Opportunity School Districts at Tuesday’s forum.
"In an effort to be fair and present both sides, we are looking for someone to speak on behalf of Amendment 1," he said. "If anyone is interested, they can show up at the forum and make contact with myself or any board member and be prepared to go no more than five minutes. We’d be glad to have them."
Though the election isn’t until Nov. 8, advanced in person voting begins Oct. 17. The last day a person can register to vote in the Nov. 8 election is Oct. 11.