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Candidates make pitch to voters
Special election Jan. 7 for District 22
forum
District 22 candidates, from left, Meagan Biello, Jeff Duncan, Sam Moore and Nate Cochran address the crowd during a forum Thursday night at Fowler Park. - photo by Jennifer Sami

Voting information

* Early voting for the Jan. 7 special election to fill the state House

District 22 vacancy is set for 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, as well as 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday in the Forsyth County Administration Building.

* Advance voting will run Dec. 30-Jan. 3 at the administration building and the Midway Park Community Building. Hours are 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday and Thursday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

* Note: No voting will take place Dec. 24 and 25, or on Jan. 1.

Many Forsyth County Republicans got their first look Thursday at the four candidates running for the District 22 seat in the state House of Representatives during a forum organized by the local party.

Cherokee County residents Meagan Biello, Nate Cochran, Jeff Duncan and Sam Moore introduced themselves to the crowd of about 30 and fielded questions during the two-hour event at the Fowler Park Recreation Center.

The Jan. 7 special election is for the post previously held by Calvin Hill, who died Oct. 30 at age 66. The district includes the southwest corner of Forsyth — about 11,000 voters living in the Brandywine, Midway and Polo precincts — and parts of Cherokee and Fulton counties.

While the race is nonpartisan, all four candidates identify themselves as Republicans and said Thursday that they support the values of the party, including right to life, shrinking the size of government and reducing spending and taxes.

Each supports either widening Hwy. 20 or finding another way to bring east-west connectivity to north Georgia. None of the candidates said they would vote to raise taxes if elected.

Questions came from the local party’s leadership, as well as the audience, including two asked by Republican state Reps. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth and Mark Hamilton of Cumming.

The query about school choice from Dudgeon, who represents District 25, drew similar responses from the candidates, all of whom said they support parents’ rights to choose how to educate their children.

Duncan noted his five children were home-schooled, while Cochran said the oldest of his three kids is.

Hamilton, who represents District 24, told the political hopefuls that he’s heard their campaign speeches, but wanted to know how they plan to govern once they took office.

The candidates appeared to struggle with the question, before pointing to their professional experience as a valuable tool for their approach to leadership.

“It’s a tough question for any candidate, but that’s ultimately what every voter wants to know,” said Brad Wilkins, party chairman. “I think [the forum] was a good start at answering that question, but in any campaign it needs to come out more as they talk about their individual ideas for governing.”

Because this is a special election, whichever candidate wins the race will be in the unusual position of having to run again in the July primary to retain the seat.

While all four said they were up to the challenge, they admitted there would be a learning curve.

Biello, 31, is a teacher. She spent her first year teaching in Forsyth before shifting to the Cherokee County school system.

Duncan, 52, is a longtime businessman. Moore, 37, said he was able to retire as a businessman due to smart spending, while Cochran is a lawyer whose family has been in Cherokee for eight generations.

Cochran said as a lawyer, he sees “practical application of the laws that are passed on a-day-to-day basis.

“Sometimes the laws that are passed, while good in theory, are not as good in practical application,” he said. “I intend to bring that viewpoint to my ability to govern if elected.”

Cochran said he did not want to be a career politician, pledging his decisions would not be made “with the viewpoint for re-election ... but with a viewpoint to do what is right.”

Moore said the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been the No. 1 issue in his door-to-door campaigning. He said he plans to do what he can on the state level to prevent the law from being implemented.

To Moore, the biggest issue is the state’s tax structure.

“I’m advocating to have a consumption-based tax system instead of income tax, which I want to abolish, or property tax, which I would like to see abolished as well,” he said.
“So you can skip over all the paperwork and bureaucracy that’s required to run it, therefore lowering the amount of government needed.”

Duncan talked about the federal government and how national politics has usurped states, calling the current political climate a “crisis of liberty.”

He also described the tax structure as a “job killer, it’s an economic killer and it’s a freedom and liberty killer.”

Duncan said he’s with President Ronald Reagan’s mindset that the nation is a “free people of free markets unencumbered by government.”

“I don’t think that we really have a problem getting revenue in this state, nationally or otherwise. I think what we have a lot of trouble with is controlling costs,” he said. “I would always be looking at how I can take and reduce the impact of government.”

As a lifelong learner, Biello said she wants to find the best solutions to improve transportation and attract business. That includes east-west connectivity, something she experienced as a teacher traveling Hwy. 20 between her Cherokee home and job in south Forsyth.

Transportation funding, she said, is an “investment in our future,” noting eminent domain would need to be done in a fair manner.

“If Forsyth and Cherokee want to attract businesses and they want to attract homeowners, then we have to have the support system in place,” she said. “Businesses aren’t going to want to relocate if their people can’t get to work on time.

Wilkins was pleased with the forum.

“We asked some great questions,” he said. “We covered everything from taxes to transportation to right to life.

“I thought they did a good job answering questions and we covered basic Republican principles, so for that I’m really happy.”