At least five Republican candidates hoping to become Georgia's next governor will be in Statesboro Friday to participate in a candidate forum sponsored by the Statesboro Herald.
Five of the six announced Republican candidates who are vying to replace Gov. Sonny Perdue are committed to the debate - former U.S. Congressman Nathan Deal, former Georgia Senate president Eric Johnson, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, businessman and former gubernatorial candidate Ray McBerry and State Senator Jeff Chapman from Brunswick. Perdue cannot seek a third term under state law.
Despite originally agreeing to participate in Friday's event, it is unlikely former Secretary of State Karen Handel will attend. During her closing remarks at this past weekend's debate sponsored by Georgia's 6th District GOP, she said she would not appear on stage with McBerry.
Handel's campaign spokesman Dan McClegan confirmed Tuesday that Handel would not participate in the forum if it includes McBerry.
The public is invited to the free forum, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside the new auditorium of Statesboro High School. The forum will be moderated by Joe McGlamery, president of the Statesboro Herald, which will be broadcast live on the Internet at both www.statesboroherald.com and www.BoroLive.com. Also, Georgia Eagle Media will air the forum live on two of their radio stations - WWNS 1240 AM and WHKN 94.9 FM.
Chris Blair, market manager for Georgia Eagle Media, said with such a large number of candidates seeking office that it was important to give local residents a chance to hear the candidates up close.
“It's part of our job to help get the word out, help get the information out, so voters can make an informed decision on which candidate will best do the job,” Blair said.
The Bulloch County Republicans will play host to a candidate “Meet and Greet” that begins at 5 p.m. before the forum in the SHS cafeteria. Bulloch Chairman Lawton Sack said nearly every statewide candidate has agreed to participate in the event.
“The purpose of the meet and greet is to allow the people of Bulloch County an opportunity to talk with statewide and congressional candidates,” Sack said. “We are definitely excited and thankful to the Statesboro Herald for putting together the forum. We think it's going to wonderful for the entire party and county.”
During the forum, each candidate will be given the opportunity to deliver an opening and closing statement. In between, the moderator will ask questions based off of questions submitted by the audience on three-by-five cards before the debate.
Johnson, a state senator who represented Savannah for 15 years and stepped down to run for statewide office, said he's eager to put his record of leadership up against the other candidates.
“I'm looking forward to being back in Statesboro- right up the road from my home in Savannah — to discuss my record of conservative leadership and my plans to put Georgia back to work,” Johnson said. “When voters get the opportunity to compare all the candidates on May 7th, I am confident I'll be able to earn their trust and support.”
Deal, who resigned his Georgia 9th district congressional seat to run for governor, said Statesboro is particularly special to his family.
“I have many relatives in Bulloch County, and we've been there since the early days of our state. I have a plan for bringing jobs to southeast Georgia by expanding and improving our transportation infrastructure so that we can get goods and products to and from the Port of Savannah,” Deal said. “As governor, I'm going to revamp Georgia's tax structure so that we'll be an even more attractive place for businesses to start or relocate. This forum is an important opportunity for me to tell the voters of Bulloch County about my vision for creating jobs, cutting waste and ensuring a better future for Georgia's families.”
The statewide primary election will be held Tuesday, July 20.
Phil Boyum may be reached at (912) 489-9454.