A Republican incumbent will face a Democratic challenger in the race for an east Forsyth County state House seat.
Republican state Rep. Lauren McDonald, who was first elected to the seat in 2020, and Democratic challenger Matthew Helms are vying for the state House District 26 seat, which represents east Forsyth and no other counties.
Here’s what the candidates had to say ahead of the race.
Occupation: Procurement Manager
Political Experience: None
Family: 1 partner (10 years) & 4 pets
Occupation: Partner at McDonald & Son Funeral Home
Political Experience: District 26 state Representative since 2021, former Forsyth County Coroner
Family: Wife, Claire, and children Wylie, Ridley and Hailey.
Q: If elected, what legislation would you like to take on in 2023?
Helms: “Health care - I advocate the expansion of Medicare/Medicaid in Georgia and the adoption of Medicare for all who want it. I would work to ensure women have the right to make their own reproductive choices free of government interference. I support expansion of vocational education, apprenticeships and other educational opportunities to ensure Georgia remains extremely competitive in growing our industrial and economic base.”
McDonald: “If the citizens of Forsyth choose on Nov. 8 to let me return to Atlanta again, I will be extremely grateful to serve them as their representative. Last year, I had the privilege of being asked by Gov. Kemp to serve as his floor leader in the House of Representatives, legislation that I carried in the House consisted of House Bill 1216, the Governor's Public Safety Package; Senate Bill 514, the Unmasking of Georgia's Children Act and many others that affect the daily lives of Georgians. In next year's session, if re-elected, I will again be the governor's floor leader in the House and will work with both sides of the aisle in passing the governor's 2023 initiatives.
Q: Education legislation including how schools can teach divisive concepts (House Bill 1084) and the Parents’ Bill of Rights (House Bill 1178) were big topics this year. What are your thoughts on those pieces of legislation?
Helms: “House Bill 1084 - a solution in search of a [99.9% non-existent] problem. CRT is something discussed in college-level academia, not delivered via public primary education.
“House Bill 1178 - another solution in search of a [99.9% non-existent] problem. I do believe parents should be fully engaged in their children's education, not just at school board meetings.
“Let's be honest, these bills were designed to further divide the electorate by using largely non-relevant issues as scare tactics. They provide no tangible benefit to education; they put additional burden on our teachers - who are already stretched to the max. Whoever cooked up this trash would be well served to turn off their TV and spend time in a classroom.”
McDonald: “Education is the foundation of Forsyth County. We as citizens invest in the success of our kids every day so that when they leave the home and prepare for the real-world Forsyth County teachers can say, ‘We have done our part.’ We are fortunate to be blessed with the leadership and faculty that we trust our kids with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this does not come without distractions. This year in the 2022 session the legislature under the direction of Gov. Brian Kemp took one of these distractions out of the classroom. Rep. Will Wade, part of the Forsyth delegation, was tapped by Governor Kemp to lead the charge. Not only did Rep. Wade, with the strong push from our Governor, carry House Bill 1084 (Divisive Concepts) to the governor's desk he saved Girls Sports with it. This was a bold move but a must to protect our youth in Georgia Schools.
Q: Transportation is commonly one of the biggest issues for local voters. If elected, what steps will you take to improve transportation?
Helms: “Ferociously advocate for better, more proactive infrastructure planning. We're 15 years or more behind. The only viable formulas to get us where we should be going will have to include a mix of improved/more reliable public transportation, roads built with ability to increase future capacity when needed prior to adding new neighborhoods and business expansion further away from ITP - towards Forsyth. To diversify the tax base, we need more manufacturing and the good-paying jobs that come with it. Adding rail access would help lure investment to our general area, while reducing the number of trucks associated with manufacturing activity.”
McDonald: “Transportation is a vital infrastructure in Forsyth County. We have to continue to invest wise dollars in its expansion and maintenance… We also have an added bonus that I want to let the residents know. Our county commissioners wisely hired former House Chair of Transportation Kevin Tanner as our county manager. The team of [District 11 state Rep. and chair of the House Transportation Committee Rick Jasperse]/Tanner and the entire Forsyth delegation will work together to make sure that the citizens of Forsyth Counties Tax dollars are spent to better all our transportation needs.”