The candidates in the state Senate District 24 runoff showed their differences – and similarities – at an Evans forum Monday.
Appling farmer Lee Anderson faces New York-born Greg Grzybowski, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Bronze Star recipient who ran for the Columbia County Commission last year.
The pair took turns answering questions submitted by the audience at the forum, held by a Republican women’s group.
Asked what the Legislature can do to help Columbia County, Grzybowski said to be wary of approving unfunded mandates and other problem policies and to return as much tax money as possible to the counties for infrastructure development.
Anderson plugged the regional Transportation Investment Act, although Columbia County voters turned it down.
“You’re going to see a lot of cones right now” as a result, he said.
Anderson said the state’s allowing Columbia County to make educational decisions for its students was a plus.
On changing to a flat tax system, Anderson said, “I just want to know if the people are really ready for a flat tax,” because “it’s going to be on up there in cents.”
Grzybowski said he supported “simplification of taxes” but that the transition would need to be gradual to avoid harming business.
Asked about medical marijuana, Grzybowski said, “It’s not really medical marijuana,” it’s an oil used “specifically for medical purposes.” He did not support it "as a cash crop” for nonmedical purposes.
“I’m against people just to use it just to get high,” Anderson said. “I’m in favor of the cannabis oil” for “children and adults to ease the pain.”
Neither said whether the Confederate flag should be removed. Grzybowski said “a historic flag should fly appropriately as a historic flag,” while Anderson said he was OK with flying the flag “in a historical place.”
A question about military backgrounds spotlighted what Grzybowski said were his 23 years in the service.
“My entire experience in the military was about learning to be humble,” he said. “The soldiers are humble. They’re a team. It’s not about you. It’s about the country.”
Anderson said he didn’t join and wasn’t drafted into the military but was “blessed to be able to serve this community, too, and this state” in elected office and as a farmer.
On returning a “preacher protection” bill – protecting pastors from getting sued for refusing to perform same-sex marriages – for a vote in the Legislature, Anderson said he would “introduce it in a second.”
“I don’t believe no preacher, no man of God, should be sued," he said.
Grzybowski said that “we can’t make a decision based on threats,” but if the possibility is real, the act is necessary.
Outside of the church, “the civic community” cannot "exclude U.S. citizens from your sales,” he said.
“I don’t believe in bullying by businesses to protect their views,” he said.
On growing the economy in Columbia County, Grzybowski said the incoming cyber workforce “comes with money” as well as “greater diversity.”
"We need to see business development as a comprehensive plan,” he said. “Where the county needs help is how it relates to other counties.”
Anderson said he’d “been doing this for years and years” and had helped bring “good clean industry” such as John Deere to Columbia County.
“The ones that we have went after to get are the ones that have good paying jobs,” he said.
Jean and Richard Garniewicz, who were in the crowd Monday, said Anderson's history of leadership for the suburban county – on the county school board, county commission and in the state House – won their support.
"He has served us well. People respect him up there" in Atlanta, Jean Garniewicz said.
Alice Frye said both men were "wonderful" candidates but she supported Anderson "because Lee has been in the House. I believe he has more experience. He can get things done."