CUMMING — The stage is set for Saturday’s debate between candidates running in the special election to fill the District 24 post in state House of Representatives.
The vacancy was created last month when Mark Hamilton stepped down for a job opportunity in Tennessee.
As of Thursday afternoon, two of the four candidates — Ethan Underwood and David M. Van Sant — had confirmed their participation. Sheri Gilligan and Will Kremer also are seeking the seat.
Organized by the Forsyth County Republican Party, the debate is set for 11 a.m. at McDonald & Son Funeral Home & Crematory, 150 Sawnee Drive in Cumming. It’s open to the public, though residents of the district that includes Cumming and parts of north and west Forsyth are particularly encouraged to attend.
“A debate committee was formed that put together some questions, but we’re also allowing citizens to submit questions that we will ask if we have time,” said Jason Mock, chairman of the local GOP.
A maximum of 60 minutes will be allotted for the debate.
“We’ll cover education, and we’ll go over local legislation that came about last year in the capital,” Mock said. “But we also want to know who these individuals are, what they believe in and in what direction they want to take District 24, as well as Forsyth County and the state.”
The local party worked will all four candidates to figure out a time that would work for everyone, but Gilligan and Kremer had not confirmed as of Thursday.
Candidates will have two minutes each for opening and closing statements, Mock said. Each will have two minutes to answer each question, with one minute for rebuttal. They will draw for who goes first before rotating each question thereafter.
There will be time allotted for candidates to ask questions to each other, allowing 30 seconds to ask and two minutes to answer.
A lightning round is also scheduled, where candidates will have two minutes total to field yes-or-no questions.
Rachel Little will moderate the debate, according to Mock.
“She is a very distinguished individual who has been involved in the Republican Party but is from outside of Forsyth County, so she can help keep the debate on track,” Mock said.
Little is the former chairwoman of the Gwinnett County GOP and currently chairs the Republican Party in Georgia’s 4thCongressional District. She was recently named volunteer of the year by the state GOP.
If June 16’s special election results in a runoff, a second debate will be held with the remaining candidates on June 24 at the Forsyth County Administration Building in downtown Cumming.
Hamilton was re-elected in 2014, so one about 18 months remain on his term.
The candidates range in profession from attorneys to educators.
Underwood, the first to announce his candidacy, is a partner at the law firm of Miles, Hansford and Tallant and is a former chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party, while Van Sant is a local personal injury attorney in his own practice.
Gilligan, who ran against Hamilton for the Republican nomination last year, served in the U.S. Naval Reserves and worked for the CIA as an intelligence analyst before teaching at Lanier Technical College.
Kremer’s family owns National Fleet Services, and he served as the chair of the state College Republican National Committee, among other positions within the party.
Anyone can submit questions online at http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07eb40uid0iaicwv3w/a001iaif9u6f/questions.