Candidates for several state and local offices met and answered questions from voters at a recent meeting.
On Monday, March 28, the Forsyth County Tea Party hosted a meeting with guest speakers District 48 state Senate candidate Shawn Still, state House District 28 candidate Donald “D.A.” Lannom House, Forsyth County School Board District 1 candidate Dennis Scheidt, Forsyth County State Court Judge candidate James Dunn and state Labor Commissioner candidate Mike Coan.
During the meeting, officials said other candidates would be speaking at upcoming meetings.
State Rep. Sheri Gilligan
While not one of the evening’s main speakers, District 24 state Rep. Sheri Gilligan spoke briefly at the meeting and gave an update on issues at the state Capitol as this year’s legislative session winds down.
One bill that she said had been discussed that day was adding the word “courage” to the state Pledge of Allegiance, which already featured the state’s motto, “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.”
“The reason is those are part of the original four pillars set up by Socrates,” Gilligan said. “We had only put three on the seal but do remember there is already a guard there [in the state seal], bayonet fixed on his weapon ready to defend the Georgia Constitution showing courage, so we put the words in there.”
Gilligan touched on other matters at the Capitol including changes to a mental health bill she had previously raised issues with and finalizing the state budget.
She will face fellow Republicans Ed Solly and Carter Barrett in the May 24 general primary, and the winner of that race will face Democrat Sydney Walker in November.
Along with partisan races, Forsyth County voters will also select the successor for State Court Judge Leslie Abernathy-Maddox.
Candidate James Dunn, an assistant district attorney told voters he had dedicated his professional life to Forsyth County and had experience in criminal and civil cases.
“As your state court judge, I will be paid, I will be impartial, and yet, I will hold people accountable,” Dunn said. “Everyone deserves their day. Everyone deserves to be heard. Everyone deserves due process.”
Dunn will face attorney Rupal Vaishnav in the non-partisan race on May 24.
School issues have been a major talking point at all levels of government this year, and at the meeting, party members had a chance to hear from a board of education candidate.
Scheidt is seeking the District 1 seat in northwest Forsyth and said he was motivated to run for the seat after seeing some of the issues debated in Forsyth County Schools, including debates about books and teaching methods within the school system and parents being removed from school meetings after outbursts.
“I don’t know what to say, except there need to be some changes,” he said. “This isn’t going to stop, and me being elected isn’t going to change it overnight because it didn’t get here overnight. It took a long time, and it started going slowly, but guess what, it’s moving faster and faster and faster. It’s taking your responsibilities away as parents and grandparents and giving it to the school.”
Scheidt is challenging fellow Republican incumbent District 1 BOE member Wes McCall in the May primary, and the winner will face Democrat Janna Kregoski.
After giving his background, including serving in the U.S. Army, Lannom, a small business owner and north Forsyth resident, answered questions from the public, Lannom explained how he would balance using his and the public’s opinions when making decisions.
“The people out there are electing me to vote a certain [way],” Lannom said. “I’m going to take that into consideration. I may not always do that because there may be other reasons or things that need to be considered, but I’m always going to try to do what I was elected to do.”
District 28 is a new district for Forsyth County after redistricting and reapportionment and represents portions of north Forsyth and a portion of Hall County.
Fellow Republicans Brent Cox, John Luchetti, Blake McClellan, Tim Short, Julie Tressler and Democrat Claudia Wood also qualified for the race.
Following the recent redistricting a reappointment process, some voters in south Forsyth County have been moved to District 48 in the state Senate.
Still, a candidate for the seat, which lies in Forsyth, Gwinnett and Fulton counties, said his business experience and previous experience working with the state Republican Party and taking part in legislative issues would benefit him if elected to the seat.
He said, if elected, he would be in favor of banning election drop boxes in the state and banning transgender students from competing in sports outside of their birth gender.
“I think that we need more fighters in the state legislature,” Still said. “We need people that are not afraid of ticking people off. We need people that will stand up to the speaker, to the governor. We have to tell people when they’re doing something wrong, that it does not support our values.”
Still will face Republican Kevin Grindlay in the primary, and the winner will face Democrat Josh Uddin in the general election.
Along with local candidates, attendees at the meeting heard from Coan, who is seeking the state labor commission seat.
Coan is a former member of the state House and current deputy labor commissioner, which he said gives him experience and insight into the role.
“When I get there, I know what I’m going to do,” Coan said. I’ve got a purpose, and it’s to straighten the department out, the things that need to be straightened out. There’s technology, we have needs there. There’s needs for people.”
Along with Coan, Republicans Kartik Bhatt and Bruce Thompson, Democrats William "Will" Boddie, Jr. Thomas Dean, Nicole Horn, Lester G. Jackson III, Nadia Surrency and Libertarian Emily Anderson qualified for the seat.
The current state labor commissioner, Republican Mark Butler, who was first elected in 2010, has chosen not to seek re-election.