Political forum to feature state, local candidates

ALBANY, Ga. -- A political forum expected to play host to 35 state and local candidates tonight has moved locations but will still go on as planned, organizers say.

The forum, sponsored by SWGAPolitics.com and moderated by local media representatives, will begin at 6 p.m. today at Connections Albany, a church inside the Village Green Shopping Center at 2401 Dawson Road, SWGAPolitics.com co-moderator Jeff Sexton said.

"Basically, this a chance for voters to hear from and hopefully interact with those running for office, with the ultimate goal that they will be able to make an informed decision when they go vote," Sexton said.

With early voting already under way, the forum will allow those who haven't yet voted in the July 20 primaries to get last-minute information on candidates before being able to vote as early as Monday.

Sexton said the list of candidates confirmed to be at the event includes those running in local county commission and school board races, as well as in races at the state level.

Some notables who have declined to participate in the forum are Mike Keown, the Republican who is trying to win his party's primary battle to face longtime congressional incumbent Sanford Bishop, a Democrat from Albany, and Dougherty County School Board member Milton "June Bug" Griffin, who is squaring off against challenger Sherrell Byrd in the Democratic primary District 2 Board race.

Byrd and Republican Donnie Smith, who is also running for Griffin's District 2 seat, and Keown's competitors, Rick Allen and Lee Ferrell, are all slated to be at the forum.

Lonnie Smith, who is campaigning against incumbent John Hayes for the Dougherty County Commission District 2 seat, is expected to be at the event, as is Richard Thomas, the candidate challenging longtime Dougherty County Commissioner Jack Stone in the District 6 race.

The headliners for the state races will undoubtedly be the four gubernatorial candidates who, Sexton says, have confirmed their attendance at the event.

Thurbert Baker, John Monds, Dubose Porter and David Poythress are each expected to be at the event, as are Georgia secretary of state candidates David Chastain and Angela Moore, and Georgia attorney general candidates Sam Olens and Preston Smith.