Advance Adairsville Inc. -- a nonprofit civic group formed last year to support, promote and engage in organizations and activities aimed at bettering the city -- is sponsoring a public forum that will be held Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Adairsville High School auditorium. The event will feature the contenders for State House District 14 and State Senate District 52. The former race features Republican Christian Coomer facing Democrat Dan Ledford, while the latter has Democrat Mike Burton squaring off against Republican Barry Loudermilk; all four candidates are slated to attend.
"We're very interested in holding events that are going to get people together and get people interested in the community itself. The idea was to have our [potential] representatives from our district come and have a debate, and let the population know what they've got to say," said Rose McCranie, executive director of Advance Adairsville. "It's an opportunity for us to get people together, and to maybe develop some political consciousness."
In addition to a venue, Adairsville High will field about 10-15 student volunteers, with the school's Student Council and Advanced Placement Government and U.S. History classes represented, said Stan Lewis, the school's principal and Advance Adairsville board member.
Lewis said that as fellow board member John Doyle searched for a place to hold the event, he offered the use of his school's auditorium as a way to benefit both the school community and Adairsville residents.
"I thought it would be a great opportunity for our students to participate and help out with the debate -- they're going to help gather questions, film it, help time each candidate, they're going to meet-and-greet, that kind of stuff," Lewis said. "But I just thought it would be a great opportunity for our kids to see how that political process works, and it would be another way for us to reconnect with our community, and at the same time, make our kids better citizens."
The debate will be moderated by Danny Griffin, U.S. History teacher at Adairsville High. Serving as panelists will be Gary Floyd, a founding director of Advance Adairsville and president and CEO of United Community Bank, Adairsville; and Wade Wilson, local engineer and chairman of the Adairsville Industrial Development Authority.
Each candidate at the top of their respective debate will be offered a chance to give a platform statement limited to five minutes. Following that, the panelists will alternately ask questions of the candidates based on written questions submitted by members of the audience. Each candidate will have three minutes to answer, with the order of candidate responses rotating throughout the debate.
McCranie said she does not believe the city has hosted a debate involving state offices in more than a decade, but said that the upcoming forum could possibly put Adairsville in the minds of those who win on Nov. 2.
"Hopefully we've shown some initiative in getting them here, getting them on the stage and hearing what they have to say. I don't know how much that will affect them, whomever the winners are," she said. "Our emphasis is more on our community and getting our community to know who these people are and what they stand for, and getting them together. I just think it's a good community service thing for us to do."
Lewis said a strong turnout for the debate is possible, adding that hopes to see those in the affected legislative districts come out to hear their future leaders.
"Our auditorium holds 750 people, and each candidate is likely to bring an entourage with them, so we're hoping that it will be a huge success," he said. "From my perspective, I feel like our country is going through a very, very difficult time right now, and we can't have this mindset that 'My vote doesn't count,' or 'My vote won't make a difference' -- regardless as to what side of the political fence you're on, we've got to participate. Without all of us participating, all viewpoints aren't shared and you just don't get full involvement from the community. And I think it's part of being a good citizen."
Membership in Advance Adairsville is open to residents of the greater Adairsville community and non-residents with business or other interests in the community. For more information on the organization or the debate, e-mail AdvanceAdairsville@yahoo.com.
Early voting for the general election begins Monday, Sept. 20, and county residents will be able to cast their ballots at the Bartow County Voter Registration Office, 105 North Bartow St. in Cartersville, weekdays until Oct. 29 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advanced voting will be rolled out to the Cartersville Civic Center Oct. 25 and continue until Oct. 29, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Sept. 21 debate is not the only local event that will feature candidates for state office. The Cartersville-Bartow branch of American Association of University Women, together with Georgia Highlands College's student chapter of Professional Association of Georgia Educators, will host a public forum for the state school superintendent candidates Thursday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. in the library of the school's Cartersville campus. Vying for the state's top education job are Republican John Barge, currently Bartow County Schools' director of Secondary Curriculum, and Democrat Joe Martin, a former president of the Atlanta Board of Education.