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Abrams, Democratic candidates hold rally at FoCAL Center
Abrams
Stacey Abrams and other Democratic candidates made a stop by the FoCAL Center on Sunday, Sept. 18 as part of the One Georgia Assembly hosted by Georgia’s 6th Congressional District Democrats. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

Democrats at nearly all levels of government, including gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, were on hand in Forsyth County on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, Sept. 18, Georgia’s 6th Congressional District Democrats hosted the One Georgia Assembly at the FoCAL Center featuring Abrams, 6th District candidate Bob Christian, Forsyth County Board of Education candidate Elaine Padgett and several other candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot.

“Today, you will hear from some incredible candidates that will remind you of why you need to tap into your power and be prepared to ignite it in others,” Melissa Clink, chair of the Forsyth County Democrats, told the crowd at the start of the event. 

After recent redistricting, starting in 2023, Forsyth County, formerly in the 7th and 9th Congressional District, will be entirely in the 6th District, which also contains all of Dawson County and portions of Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

Along with the candidates, the event featured voting information, musical performances, a forum for candidates to meet voters and a dinner following the speeches.

Here’s a look at what the candidates had to say. 

Abrams

The headliner was Abrams, who faces a rematch with incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in November.

In 2018, Kemp edged out Abrams with about 50.2% of the vote to 48.8%. In Forsyth, Kemp was the clear winner, earning about 70.6% of the more than 93,000 votes cast.

Abrams said she “didn’t cross the finish line” in 2018 but since then Georgia had supported Democrats in President Joe Biden and U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

“We can’t do it without you Forsyth County,” Abrams said. “We can’t do this without you. You know what is at stake, and starting on Oct. 17, we need to fill those early voting booths with our votes and we need to fill the streets with our voices and we need to fill the state of Georgia with our promise. We’ve got a chance to change the future of this state, but we can’t do it without you.”

Abrams laid out several topics she wants to take on if elected, including expanding Medicaid in Georgia, raising starting teacher pay to $50,000, creating 20,000 apprenticeships in the state and having free technical college programs.

“I am against ignoring the people who need our help right now. People who are in the middle class that are just hanging on by their fingernails, those who are in the working class doing their best to climb high. We can serve everyone in the state of Georgia. It’s not about taking away from anyone. It’s about expanding our imagination so we can serve everyone.”

Abrams was one of several statewide candidates speaking at the event on Sunday, which also included remarks from lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Charlie Bailey, Georgia Secretary of State candidate Bee Nguyen, state school superintendent candidate Alicia Searcy and representatives with Warnock’s campaign. 

Local races

Along the statewide races, candidates running for local races in the 6th District were also on hand for the event, including Christian, who is seeking the district’s Congressional seat.

Christian, a combat veteran and businessman, spoke in favor of codifying abortion access, raising the age to purchase all firearms to at least 21 and passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is named in memory of former U.S. Rep. John Lewis and would restore some provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Along with those pushes, Christian also urged voters to vote on down-ballot contests rather than just the top races. 

“We need to make sure the John R. Lewis Voting Act is put to the floor, voted on and passed so that all of us can recapture our vote and tell them again and again what we want,” he said. “Because that is how a democracy works: we get up, we use our voice, we bring ourselves forward and we elect Democrats up and down the ballot from the top to the bottom.”

In May’s primary, Christian, earning about 55.55% of the vote total, defeated fellow Democrat Wayne White, who received about 45.45% of the vote, with about 33,801 votes cast in the race.

He will face Republican Rich McCormick, who previously ran for Georgia’s 7th Congressional district in 2020 and beat out eight other Republican candidates in a primary in May and runoff in June. 

Over the last year, education has been a big debate topic in Forsyth County, including disagreements on which books should be allowed in schools and two races for the Forsyth County Board of Education. 

On Sunday, the Democratic candidate for the District 5 BOE seat, in south Forsyth, Elaine Padgett spoke to supporters.

Padgett said as a parent of students in the school system, she has volunteered, donated, led extracurricular activities and started STEM programs in local schools.

“Many parents on both sides of the aisle share my belief that great education is nonpartisan,” she said. “These parents are active, and now we have the greatest army of volunteers in the world.”

She will face Republican candidate Mike Valdes in November, and the winner will replace retiring BOE member Kristen Morrissey. 

Like Congress and the BOE, Democratic candidates are also hoping to make inroads at the state capitol. 

Claudia Wood is facing Republican Brent Cox – who defeated five other Republicans in the primary and runoff – to represent state House District 28, which represents a portion of northern Forsyth County and a portion of Hall County.

Wood, an education director, touted her experience and connections in schools and the need for education reform in her remarks.

“I want to send a message that communities are stronger when we work together to support family and community needs,” she said. “Education reform is necessary but needs to be done in an appropriate manner. I have been in the Georgia education system for over 30 years and have relationships with many organizations that offer family support systems.”

State House District 11 candidate Kayla Hollifield, who will face Republican incumbent Rick Jaspers for the seat representing northwest Forsyth County, Pickens County and a portion of Hall County, was one of several speakers on Sunday to touch on abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.

“I’m running because women’s reproductive rights are human rights,” Hollifield said. “I’m fighting to ensure women can make their own reproductive decisions, but I can only go so far unless I have a seat at the table under the Gold Dome so I can be a voice for all people, and as your state representative, I promise to do so.”

Craig Meyer, who is running against incumbent Republican state Rep. Todd Jones for the state House District 25 seat, said he was a supporter of the environment, increasing the use of electric vehicles and offering incentives for those wanting to make the switch.

“We need to do our part and help with tax incentives for those who switch over to environmental vehicles,” he said. “We should not only take the lead, but I think we should set an example in that field.”

Other state legislature candidates speaking at the event were Brent Binion, who will face Republican incumbent Greg Dolezal for the District 27 state Senate seat; Louisa Jackson, who is running against Republican David Clark for state House District 100; and John Uddin, who is running against Republican Shawn Still for state Senate District 48.

In his remarks, Uddin said he was in favor of gun rights but wanted to close gun show loopholes for firearms purchases. 

“I am not against the Second Amendment, however, what I am against is you do not need an AK-47 or AR-15,” he said. “In Georgia, if you are under 21, you go to a gas station and try to buy a pack of cigarettes, you cannot buy them but you can go to a gun show and buy an AK-47.”