Candidates sign up for Lee forum

LEESBURG, Ga. -- More than 20 candidates have already confirmed their participation in a forum here June 12 that organizers say they hope will be the largest such event south of Macon.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal, Democrat Thurbert Baker and Libertarian John Monds are among the statewide office seekers who plan to participate in the SWGAPolitics.com candidate forum at the Opal Cannon Auditorium of the the T. Page Tharp Governmental Building. Rick Allen, a Republican challenging Sanford Bishop for his District 2 U.S. House seat, and Chuck Donovan, a Libertarian running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Johnny Isakson, also are confirmed for the event.

"The idea is to put a face and a platform to the names of the candidates," said Tim Nelson, the vice president of the local Libertarian Party and a forum organizer. "We wanted to bring the candidates to the Southwest Georgia public, give people here a chance to meet and talk with the candidates.

"It's really the coolest thing to talk with the candidates and ask them questions about issues that concern me. I've really enjoyed talking with a lot of them while setting up this forum."

Other statewide candidates who have committed to taking part in the event include Republicans Tom Knox and Denis Cain and Libertarian Shane Bruce, who are running for insurance commissioner; secretary of state candidates David Chastain, a Libertarian, and Democrat Angela Moore; and Libertarian Kira Willis, Republican Richard Woods and Democrat Brian Westlake, all of whom are running for state school superintendent.

Also confirmed for the event are agriculture secretary candidates Kevin Cherry and Darwin Carter, a Libertarian and Republican, respectively; labor commissioner hopeful Will Costa, a Libertarian; and Republican John Douglas, a candidate for the Public Service Commission.

Local candidates committed to appearing at the forum include Dougherty County Commission candidates Lonnie Smith, R-District 2, Richard Thomas, D-District 6, and Ewell Lyle, R-District 4; Republican Dougherty School Board District 2 candidate Donnie Smith, and Libertarian Leesburg City Council hopeful Jeff Sexton.

Nelson said the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties have been invited to set up information tables at the forum, as have the local tea party and the Albany 912 Project.

"We were really hoping for this kind of response from the candidates, but we didn't know what to expect," Nelson said. "I think this will be a great opportunity for local citizens to listen to what the candidates have to say. That will help them make informed choices."

The forum will kick off at 6 p.m., but candidates will have an opportunity to meet and talk with voters an hour beforehand. Local media representatives are expected to serve as moderators for the forum, and a voter registration booth is planned.