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Candidates interviewed during GOP debate
GOP debate
Candidate debates were held Tuesday for Molly Cooper, who is running for District 1 Commission and State Court Judge Leslie Abernathy-Maddox and District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones, who are running for re-election. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

On the same night as debates for local school board and lawmaker seats, three candidates running in local races took part in public interviews with Patrick Bell, chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party.

Between debates, candidate debates were held for Molly Cooper, who is running for District 1 Commission, and State Court Judge Leslie Abernathy-Maddox and District 25 state Rep. Todd Jones, who are running for re-election. 

The interviews were held since opponents of the candidates could not attend the debates due to conflicts. Questions asked with the interviews were in-line with those asked at the debates.

“Their opponents had conflicts and could not make it, so what we elected to do is have a candidate interview and basically ask them similar questions to what would have been asked in the debate,” Bell said previously. 

All candidates will have opponents in the May 22 primary. This week will be the final week of advance voting before the primary. 

Molly Cooper

Cooper — who is will face candidate Dooz Owings for the seat currently held by Commissioner Pete Amos, who is not seeking re-election – was the first candidate to be interviewed. 

She is a political newcomer who previously owned and operated Inside Additions Furniture and Home Accessories.

“The reason I’m running for county commissioner is I see our quality of life threatened by politicians who do not know how to lead,” Cooper said. “The result of that has been poor-planning, congested roads and overcrowded schools. We are in need of a leader that can come in and take control of these problems.”

If elected, Cooper said she wanted to improve traffic conditions through the widening of local roads.

“Right now, we have got development after development on roads that can’t handle the traffic,” she said. “Those roads have got to be widened. They’ve got to be improved, as well as some possibly new routes within District 1.”

Cooper said road projects in the district could prevent a bottleneck after the upcoming widening of Canton Highway (Hwy. 20 west.)

Leslie Abernathy-Maddox

Though state court judge is not a partisan seat, it will be decided at the same time as the primary, thus the local GOP gave Abernathy-Maddox a chance to share why voters should pick her and was not asked the same questions as the Republican candidates.

She has held the position since 2013 and is running against challenger John Rife. 

Abernathy-Maddox said she had made some changes to the local system.

“One of the innovations that I brought to the court system is I created a mental health program and report system. Our mental health court program is called the CARE Court,” she said. “In CARE Court, we assist those who have severe and persistent mental illness and have been charged with a crime.”

She said the court system supervises those in the program and only one person, out of a total of 30, was arrested after completing the program.

“I would like to continue to make that type of difference here in our county through our accountability courts,” Abernathy-Maddox said. “I believe those things are important. If we keep doing things the same way over and over again and expect a different response, we’re not getting anywhere.”

Todd Jones 

Rounding out the interviews was Jones, a businessman who was first elected to the seat in 2016. 

Jones will face a challenge from political newcomer Steven Grambergs.

He said technological advancements could be huge for the community.

“Augmented intelligence, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles, individually each one of them has the opportunity to change our lives in so many different ways,” Jones said. “Mrs. Cooper talked about traffic; I think autonomous vehicles really help us. Judge Abernathy talks about how it is systems can help; well augmented intelligence can absolutely help us, not just in the judicial system but healthcare, education, you name it.”

Jones said the county takes education seriously but needed to look more at early-childhood.

“We talk so much about K-12 education, but we don’t talk enough about birth-to-4,” Jones said. “The fact of the matter is the foundation that we give to our children from the time they are born to 4 really is the thing we need to be talking about. So, let’s think about what we can do to really bolster up that child’s ability to get successful in [kindergarten.]”