Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson
Democrats won shocking victories in two special elections for Athens-area state House seats on Tuesday, winning the conservative-leaning seats in spite of well-funded opposition from Republicans.
In District 117, Deborah Gonzalez overcame Republican opponent Houston Gaines' $200,000 war chest and much-publicized support from Democratic Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson.
As of 9 p.m., Gonzalez led Gaines 53 percent to 47 percent, with some Clarke County precincts left to be counted, but all the votes in staunchly Republican Oconee, Jackson and Barrow counties have been counted, leaving Gaines no chance to catch up.
Likewise, with all Oconee precincts reporting, Jonathan Wallace avoided a runoff by winning 56percent of the vote in District 119, which historically leans even further to the right than 117. (Both districts were specifically drawn to elect Republicans.)
In this week's episode, cohost Baynard Woods talks with the BBC's Jessica Lussenhop about her recent story "We Stayed in Paul Manfort's AirBnB." This episode was produced by the Real News Network and the Center for Emerging Media with mastering by David Hebden and theme music by Ruby Fulton and the Rhymes with Orchestra.
Photo Credit: Sarah Bell
In individual sessions held with the Oconee County Area Republicans in recent weeks, the three Republican candidates in the special election on Tuesday for Georgia House District 119 have shown rather different characteristics.
Tom Lord took few firm stands in a session with a small number of Republicans gathered on Sept. 30, using the 50 minutes given him instead to get feedback and suggestions from those who turned out to meet him. He focused on his trustworthiness and his conservative values.
Steven Strickland was given less than 40 minutes on Oct. 19, and he used his time to make the case that his technological expertise would serve the state well. He defended his assertion that government should play a role in infrastructure development and stressed the need to help rural Georgia.
Marcus Wiedower was energetic is his nearly 45 minutes with the group on Nov. 2, talking about his personal life, including his love of sports, and his accessibility. He repeated his pledge not to raise taxes and his complaint that the state has bowed to pressure from the film industry in not defending religious liberty.
An Athens driver was found guilty Wednesday of plowing into a group of cyclists on Athena Drive last year, killing one and injuring at least two others.
Whitney Baker Howard, 32, was found guilty on 11 counts, according to The Red & Black, including two felony counts of homicide by vehicle in the first degree, six felony counts of serious injury by a vehicle, one count of driving under the influence of drugs, one count of improper lane change and one count of endangering the life of a child.
Republican Houston Gaines had raised nearly $200,000 as of last week for his Athens-area House District 117 race, outpacing Democratic opponent Deborah Gonzalez nearly four-to-one.
In documents filed Monday with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, Gaines reported raising $196, 251 and had $140,436 on hand as of Oct. 23, 15 days before Election Day, Nov. 7.
It's a common strategy for candidates with such overwhelming fundraising advantages to keep some of their powder dry to ward off future challengers.
Gaines' list of contributors is a Who's Who of powerful, connected Republican politicians and business interests in Athens and Atlanta.
In Monday's Federation of Neighborhoods candidate forum, Republican Houston Gaines kept referring to the "unique perspective" he'd bring to the state House of Representatives.
One would think that Gaines, who just graduated from the University of Georgia in May, was referring to his youth. When Flagpole intern Nate Harris asked him what made him unique, though, Gaines' answer was anything but clear.
After much hemming and hawing, Gaines at one point said, "It's obvious just by looking at us that we have a different perspective."
Photo Credit: Nate Harris
With the Nov. 7 special election drawing nearer, the candidates for state House districts 117 and 119 met Monday night for one final forum, organized by the Athens-Clarke County Federation of Neighborhoods at the ACC Library.
Candidates running in both districts responded to prepared questions from a Federation representative; much to the disappointment of both attendees and some of the candidates, they did not field questions from the audience, nor did they debate the topics.
Republican Houston Gaines and Democrat Deborah Gonzalez took to the stage first, starting out with their legislative priorities. For Gaines, that includes fostering business and economic growth while addressing education and transportation issues; for Gonzalez, improvements to education and public health, she said, would lead to improvements in other areas as well, including crime and mass incarceration.
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