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From healthcare, to taxes, to immigration, to law enforcement issues, the candidates for Georgia House District 117 and Senate District 47 expressed stark differences in terms of policy and a vision for the state’s future during a forum in Winder last week.
The forum, hosted by the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce governmental affairs committee at the Colleen O. Williams Theatre on Oct. 3, featured District 117 incumbent Rep. Deborah Gonzalez (D-Athens) and Republican challenger Houston Gaines, of Athens, as well as incumbent Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Daniesville) and Democratic challenger Dawn Johnson, of Winder.
The sharpest exchange came between the candidates for House District 117, which is largely Athens-Clarke County-based but also includes a portion of eastern Barrow County as well as parts of Oconee and Jackson counties.
Gaines, who lost a special election to Gonzalez last November to fill the seat after it was vacated by Regina Quick’s appointment to a judgeship, said the district “deserves someone who’s going to make a difference from day one,” criticizing Gonzalez for not passing “a single piece of legislation” in her first session in the House.
He also accused her of not being supportive of law enforcement, noting her criticism in January of Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards’ policy of detaining inmates that Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) says home kitchen design 2018 are undocumented immigrants so that they could be deported.
“It’s ironic to tell people in law enforcement not to follow the law,” Gaines said. “We have a significant disagreement over public safety. We should support our law enforcement, not criticize them, and allow them to do their job, cooperating with state and federal law enforcement and keeping our community safe.”
Gonzalez said Gaines had made “baseless accusations” about her not supporting law enforcement and said he was “putting out lies about what I stand for.” She said she’d reached out to Edwards and others and learned the decision on whether or not to detain undocumented immigrants for ICE was up to sheriffs’ discretion.
“Both of us (Edwards and her) agree we don’t want violent criminals in the community,” Gonzalez said, “but when we talk about wanting no immigrants at all, we are painting all people with a single brush.”
Gaines and Ginn echoed the hardline immigration approach of President Donald Trump and Republican gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Brian Kemp, saying they would push to defund at the state level any “sanctuary cities” that refuse to enforce immigration laws.
“We are a country of laws. If we start letting in people who have knowingly, openly violated our border laws, we will cease to exist as a country,” Ginn said. “When I first ran for the Senate, the state was spending billion a year dealing with illegal aliens — through health care, law enforcement and education. Everybody in Georgia is paying that cost through your tax money. We need to hold people accountable for violating our laws.”
Gonzalez said the issue should be left to local communities, while Johnson questioned the wisdom of detaining the immigrants without guarantee of reimbursement from the federal government.
“That’s money that doesn’t go to local schools, that doesn’t go to local police,” Johnson said, adding the state should focus on employers knowingly hiring undocumented workers. “I haven’t seen any bills that want to penalize those employers. When (law enforcement officials) go into poultry plants and bring the workers out in handcuffs, they aren’t bringing the executives out, too. And as long as there is no cost to hiring undocumented workers, they have absolutely no reason to stop because it has allowed them to do business and make a maximum amount of profit off the people who are forced to live in the shadows due to their undocumented nature.”
See more in the Oct. 10 edition of the Barrow News-Journal.



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