Augusta candidates for mayor and state Senate faced a skeptical crowd at a Thursday forum in east Augusta.
State Sen. Hardie Davis called himself a “native son” sent by the area to Georgia Tech and the Capitol who now wants to be mayor, in part “for the 31,000 students that are part of our school system.”
T.W. Josey High School educator Lori Myles called herself “the infrastructure this city needs” who won’t be “a repetition” of existing leadership as mayor.
“Where was the experience four years ago, or seven years ago, or eight years ago?” she asked.
“I’ve carried the load for this community and this city,” said Commissioner Alvin Mason. “Not since Ed McIntyre have you had the opportunity to have a mayor who has commissioner experience,” Mason said, touting his two commission terms as good preparation for the mayor’s post.
Retired businessman Charles Cummings said he was “uniquely qualified to train young folks to become entrepreneurs” and repeated his campaign focus of improving public transit.
Entrepreneur Helen Blocker-Adams showed a photo of flooding in east Augusta from 1970, then reminded the standing-room only crowd of serious flooding in 1990.
“You’ve had elected officials for all these years – who has your back?” she asked. “Who has the compassion?”
Attorney Harold Jones, who is running for state Senate from District 22, which spans most of Augusta, said he’d supported Sheriff Richard Roundtree “before it was fashionable” but pointed to a crisis of state funding cuts in Atlanta.
“When they say they’re going to cut Medicaid, they do. Cut education they have,” Jones said, promising to work to preserve funding.
Realtor Elmyria Chivers said the same trust home-buyers place in her they should have in electing her senator.
“I am passionate about education,” Chivers said, pointing to the lottery Georgia uses to decide which 4-year-olds get to attend prekindergarten.
“If we’re going to educate one set of 4-year-olds, we should not stop until we do them all,” she said.
Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said he’d grown up in east Augusta and decided to run for office at age 33.
“How many people at that age do you know who are willing, publicly, to do it,” Johnson said.
On the commission, Johnson said he’d been threatened about his push to name Augusta’s new courthouse for noted civil rights attorney John Ruffin, but didn’t give in.
“It just shows you times as these God put people in place for a reason,” said Johnson, who is running for Davis’ General Assembly seat.
The candidates, all on the May 20 ballot, then took questions on topics ranging from the special purpose local option sales tax referendum, deepening the Savannah harbor, what to do with leftover funds from prior tax packages and how to help nonviolent offenders re-enter society.
Chivers said she’d “advocate and fight to change that zero tolerance for our schools” that replaced a trip to the principal’s office with an arrest and visit to jail.
“I believe in second, third, fourth and fifth chances,” Blocker-Adams said.
“Our young people have to realize they are somebody,” said Cummings, recalling words he’d heard as a youth that he’d “never amount to anything.”
Mason said “it amazes me how the Bible has been taken out of school, but it’s encouraged in prison.”
Myles said “if you don’t have at least one to five mentees on your telephone at this time, then already you failed.”
Davis cited his work in the Legislature, and continued effort to eliminate the publication of jail mug shots.
Despite the rousing speeches, Marlo Ross said she wasn’t convinced. In east Augusta, it continues to flood, roads are riddled with potholes and decades later, issues aren’t resolved.
“The biggest thing is people talk and say stuff, but are they going to do what they say they’re going to do?” Ross said.
Asked whether she favored any of the candidates, Ross said “not yet.” “People can say things, but they’ve still got to do actions,” she said.