The Bulloch County Republican Party and the online media organization AllOnGeorgia.com plan to host livestreamed candidate forums on two evenings next week, including GOP candidates for Georgia Senate in District 4 Tuesday and for Bulloch County sheriff Thursday.
These events will be streamed on both organizations’ Facebook pages, with the program scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. each of those days. Each evening will also feature brief, recorded messages from Republican candidates for other offices, said Bulloch County Republican Chair Reid Derr.
“We want to help the people of Bulloch County and the larger area get to know the candidates better so that they can vote more intelligently,” Derr said.
Tuesday’s program is also slated to feature brief, recorded remarks from Bulloch County tax commissioner candidates Leslie Deal Akins and Jeanie Rushing Gay, both Republicans.
But the evening’s main attraction will be the live forum expected to involve all four Republican candidates in the June 9 special election for the District 4 seat previously held by the late state Sen. Jack Hill.
Those candidates are Dr. Scott Bohlke, accountant Billy Hickman, recently retired Judge Kathy Palmer and Army veteran and former law enforcement officer Neil Singleton. As of Friday, all four had told organizers they plan to participate, Derr said.
A fifth candidate, graduating law school student Jared Sammons, is also running in the special election for the Senate seat, but as an independent. Next week’s forums involve Republican candidates only.
“We’re focusing on our Republican candidates at this point because we have so many,” Derr said.
Organizers hope that the two Republican candidates for Bulloch County sheriff, incumbent Noel Brown and challenger Keith Howard, will appear in the livestreamed forum Thursday, as that evening’s main event.
Sheriff Brown’s campaign manager, Hannah Derriso, said the forum date was slated before organizers checked to make sure that Brown was available.
“He is trying to get his schedule clear,” Derriso told the Statesboro Herald on Friday. ”So at this time I’m not 100% sure if he’s going to be able to be there or not. We’re working on that today.”
Howard said he plans to be there and wishes that three or four sheriff candidate forums could be held.
“Because of the coronavirus we don’t have any way to talk to people unless we get on social media,” he said. “So I’ve been doing some live stuff and I’ve been doing some videos. But lord yeah, we need as many (forums) as we can get so people can see the facts and see everybody’s goals.”
The winner of the June 9 Republican primary, Howard or Brown, will go on to face a Democratic candidate for sheriff, Rey Rodriguez, in the Nov. 3 general election.
Solicitor candidates too
Thursday’s program also is slated to include brief remarks from the three candidates for Bulloch County State Court solicitor general, Ben Edwards, Catherine Sumner Findley and Mark Lanier, all of whom are Republicans. With no other candidates in the race, it will be decided in the June 9 Republican primary or an Aug. 11 runoff.
Also GOP-only, the race between Akins and Gay for tax commissioner is poised end June 9.
Brief recorded remarks by incumbent Bulloch County Coroner Jake Futch will also be included in one of the two evenings’ programs, Derr said.
As the one Republican, Futch is the only coroner candidate in this week’s presentations. But he will face a challenge in the Nov. 3 general election from one of two Democrats, Michele Fiorelli Rupar and Jonathan Paine, now vying for their party’s nomination in the June 9 primary.
All On Georgia’s Jessica Szilagyi is slated to moderate Tuesday’s state Senate candidate forum, and Lawton Sack, current Bulloch County Republican Party secretary and a past chairman, is slated to moderate Thursday’s sheriff candidate forum. Eric Cumbee, who works with All On Georgia and is also a Bulloch GOP past chair, is helping produce the forums.
Questions for candidates could be suggested by emailing to email@example.com, but any questions will be vetted by the executive committee, Derr said. The organizers already have questions after seeking input from legislators and others in relevant fields.
He said he would be confirming candidates’ participation this weekend, with county commissioner candidates being an unconfirmed possibility.
The Bulloch County Republican Party currently has a headquarters at 26 Joe Kennedy Blvd., behind Ogeechee Technical College and beside the Lewis Color offices. But the party has no in-person events planned at this time.
“I don’t see it unless things open up big-time in June,” Derr said. “We want to use our headquarters for any candidates to do meet-and-greets if they can, but right now we can’t do that, so we’re not even visualizing anything beyond this online stuff through this primary.”
Direct Facebook addresses for the hosting organizations are @BullochGAGOP and @AllOnBulloch.