Of the nine Republicans vying to become the top contender for Georgia’s U.S. House District 6, all recently agreed that the 2020 elections were stolen in some form.
During a May 1 debate hosted by The Atlanta Press Club, voters had the opportunity to hear from all those candidates about election fraud and other issues ahead of the May 24 primary election.
Following the conclusion of the U.S. Census, District 6 was redrawn to include all of Forsyth and Dawson counties, as well as parts of Cobb, Gwinnett and Fulton counties.
These changes, the multiple lawsuits in response and the litany of issues facing rural and north metro Atlanta areas have made this primary race one of Georgia’s most interesting to watch.
Though primary election day isn’t for another three weeks, voters can begin casting advance ballots as early as Monday, May 2.
If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote plus one vote in the primary, the top two vote recipients will face each other in a runoff election on Tuesday, June 21.
The winning Republican will go on to compete against the winning Democrat in the November general election.
Candidates answered three rounds of questions, both from their opponents and moderators.
Multiple contenders highlighted election integrity as voters’ top concern going into the 2022 voting season.
“People have lost confidence in the sacred right to vote,” candidate Mallory Staples said. “When we have lost that, we are lost…it’s on the shoulders of state officials who govern to answer the cry of the people.”
As a lawyer, Meagan Hanson emphasized that the evidence such as mail-in ballots and ballot harvesting give her “pause on multiple occasions.” She commended Georgia’s General Assembly for passing Senate Bill 202, which she called “an important step in righting a wrong.”
“As someone who won a [2020 state] runoff by 27 votes, let me say that every single vote matters,” she added, “and I'd encourage every 6th District [resident] who can go vote to cast your vote because it matters.”
Citing her two decades of experience as a poll manager, Suzi Voyles reiterated the importance of each person’s vote being counted properly and emphasized that “no one else is allowed to impede upon that in any way.”
She said that “significant fraud” occurred in Georgia and beyond in 2020, saying that the Secretary of State’s office is aware but hasn’t followed up on affidavits alleging that people registered to vote in the state or a particular county different from where they live.
Candidate Eugene Yu also said that there’s “hard evidence everywhere” of large-scale fraud, particularly in other states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona.
“When it comes to Georgia, [Gov.] Kemp had a limited say in what could be overturned, and with [Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger, he has a lot of responsibility, and we don't want to repeat it again from now on, in the future.”
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Paulette Smith shared her belief that election fraud extended down from the presidential level to senators, congresspeople and local officials, too, citing that she and others in Cobb County “can’t believe the results” given her district’s history of being almost all Republican. She also advocated for getting rid of Dominion voting machines and ousting Brad Raffensperger, who is running for re-election against three other people.
Blake Harbin echoed that both parties’ focus on voting integrity this time around and specifically mentioned concerns about Fulton County ballots in 2020.
Rich McCormick explained that “no one was hurt more by voter fraud at the end of the night” than him, explaining that he was told he was “up 5,000 votes” before learning that he lost the then-District 7 seat to Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux.
He qualified while redistricting maps were being drawn, so he said he’s moving to reside in District 6.
After requesting dropbox videotapes, his campaign was told that the records cost would be about $15,000, and he wouldn’t get them back until after the 15-day statute of limitations to file a court case.
While adamantly stating he “never conceded the election,” he did say that some of the egregious voting problems have been corrected and pushed for the state to block federal attempts at controlling elections regulations.
Byron Gatewood summarized the voting problem as a “lack of transparency” because available evidence won’t be reviewed but criticized McCormick’s personalization of the past election as a
“me-first mentality that can’t serve somebody in a servant leader position.”
Attorney Jake Evans said he was the “only candidate to have fought to overturn two races in Georgia history.”
Like others, he called for the elimination of drop boxes, scale back of absentee ballots and prosecution of voter fraud as well as audits, immunity for lawyers and requirement of voter ID.
Throughout his debate answers, Evans emphasized that he would work with fellow Republicans to craft bills to further fundamental American principles and protect “the soul of the country” against “bills that fold to leftists, the media and the [Washington] D.C. establishment.”
As one of the more prominent candidates, he also got proverbial shots from multiple sides.
Evans shrugged off suggestions that he hasn’t supported former U.S. president Donald Trump and reaffirmed his “very vocal” stance against fraud leading up to and during the 2020 election cycle.
He clarified that he’s sent a cease-and-desist letter to a superPAC supporting Staples after allegations were made that he supports “defunding the police,” and Evans “never suggested” taking legal action against Hanson.
“Most of us have never held office, but each of us does have a background,” Staples said, doubling down on what she called Evans’ “disqualifying story of flip-flopping and opportunism.”
Hanson mentioned a 2015 paper by Evans published in the “Social Justice Law Review” when suggesting that he supports “defunding the police,” and Evans called the assertion “blatantly false.”
“I encourage anyone to read the paper that my desperate opportunities keep bringing up over and over again to make your own conclusions and conclude whether I in any way suggested law enforcement shouldn’t have the resources they need,” he said.
McCormick also took some heat from Evans, who asked about the former’s “endorsement by the most liberal faction of the Republican caucus.”
McCormick said he did not accept that overall endorsement and went on to say that he’s been given the thumbs up from members of the U.S. House’s Freedom Caucus as well as local leaders and “tens of thousands of others,” who all have in common a willingness to “fight the left.”
Evans called that different from what he said a couple of months ago.
“Politicians that tell people what they want to hear are destroying our country,” Evans later said. “Politicians that try to play both sides are destroying our country.”
“I am absolutely completely fed up, [just] like the people in District 6, with people who when it's beneficial career-wise say something and then, when it comes down to making hard choices, do something else,” Staples said.
She said she’s running so that her children’s futures will be protected by people consistently keep to their word, and she added that with a teenager approaching the age that he could be drafted, “the thought of a flip-flopper in Congress makes my blood run cold.”
Economy and infrastructure
Paulette Smith, herself a recording artist and cosmetologist, shared that she would want to help small and mid-sized business owners qualify for loans and take advantage of classes to help teach business skills to help them endure economic hardship and thrive.
“Everyone’s concerned about things that hit them in the wallet, such as inflation and runaway costs that are going to cost our children their future if we’re not careful,” McCormick said.
He also commented on his intent to focus on military spending, given some of his children’s interest in serving and the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“I’m worried about our health care and what we’re doing that has increased the health-care costs by 10 percent…and the increased inflation and costs in education and in general,” he said.
He also pointed to the societal need to focus on health care for individuals once they’re out of the military and referenced several local organizations that connect veterans with solutions.
“Not always is the government going to be the solution to our problems. We as a society, as churches, as families, as friends…we have to do our part, too,” he said.
Hanson was asked about how she would hold government agencies or contractors accountable that fail military service members by allowing them access to deficient housing. She said those people deserve “nothing less than our best” and was not able to specify in-depth steps without being in the position but said she’d assist “in any way allowed.”
Gatewood, himself a veteran, clarified that he wasn’t asking a “gotcha question” but wanted to highlight the issue, since Fort Gordon was mentioned in the military housing scandal.
“These aren't the generals, colonels or admirals that are affected by this,” he said. “These are folks way down the chain of command who are less likely and less able to sound the alarms on their own behalf. This is something that deserves America’s and Georgia’s attention.”
Staples specifically spoke about education, noting her previous experiences teaching at a private school, attending public school and homeschooling her children.
She explained her passion involves “believing that parents are the best fit to make decisions for their children” and elaborated that she’s a “huge proponent of school choice.
“Money should follow the best choice for children…I look forward to dismantling the Department of Education and returning education responsibility to the state,” she added.
Turning to traffic infrastructure, McCormick acknowledged the rural-urban distinction throughout different parts of District 6.
“The people that are developing their infrastructure such as Forsyth [County] want to make sure their roads and infrastructure are built up quickly because the amount of congestion is incredible,” he said.
Evans said it’s key to ensure infrastructure in the “suburban-based district” is at a point “where we can service the growing communities…and maintain the sustainable growth that we have.”