A proposed new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons, ethics reform and term limits were on the minds of the two candidates who will be on the Feb. 5 run-off ballot to fill the Georgia House District 21 seat.
Candidates Brian Laurens and Scot Turner participated in a debate sponsored by the Cherokee County Republican Party Tuesday night in downtown Holly Springs.
Both Republican candidates spent a little more than an hour responding to questions asked by representatives from Cherokee's local media outlets and members of the Republican Party.
The candidates touched on topics such as education funding, school choice, the Second Amendment, term limits and a proposal to use hotel-motel tax collected by the city of Atlanta to help fund a new retractable stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.
The candidates agreed in their assessment that the state's Quality Basic Education, or QBE, formula, is outdated and need to be fixed.
They also said they were staunch supporters of the Second Amendment and would oppose to using taxpayer dollars to help fund a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.
Both candidates clashed on whether there should be term limits imposed on state senators and representatives and what ethics reforms should be implemented.
"We have term limits," Laurens stated. "They are called elections."
Laurens went on to say that he would "self-impose" term limits onto himself.
He also said he didn't think it would be appropriate for the government to decide who the citizenry can or can't choose to serve as their representatives.
Turner said if elected, he'd support legislation pre-filed by State Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) that would impose term limits.
He added term limits are necessary as they would allow politicians to "be amongst the people and see what it's like to live with us again."
Both Turner and Laurens also disagreed on how they would tackle ethics reform.
Turner repeated a pledge he stated last year when he challenged former Rep. Sean Jerguson in which he won't take any money from lobbyists.
He noted he also supported a rule approved by the Georgia Senate that would cap lobbyists gifts to legislators at $100.
Laurens noted that he's already been transparent with the public at large, and added "we don't need a law to show you every single dollar we receive or spend."
Laurens went on to say that he "was not for sale" and that the public will get good, ethical representatives by electing "good people."
The candidates were also asked if they would support making school board elections nonpartisan, to which they both said they would not support. They were also asked if Cherokee state legislators should intervene in the Ball Ground Recycling controversy.
Both said they'd rather allow the Cherokee County Commission to work towards a solution and allow the Cherokee County grand jury to continue its investigation.
The fireworks during the debate came towards the end when both candidates were given the opportunity to ask each other questions.
Laurens accused Turner of being on "both sides" of the school choice debate and asked if Turner would support a bill that would make it easier for parents to petition to convert their traditional public school into a local charter school.
Turner fired back and said he's always stood for parental choice. Along with saying he'd support such a bill if elected, he added he spoke publicly at a Cherokee County School Board meeting last year proclaiming his support for choice.
"(I) will never degrade our public school system that is serving the needs of tens of thousands of students really well," he said, adding he called for the end of polarization on both sides of the school choice debate.
Turner asked Laurens about an incident in which he was pulled over in November for running a stop sign as he entered a roundabout in the Harmony On the Lakes subdivision in Holly Springs.
Turner noted that Laurens is heard on the tape telling the officer that he will call Mayor Tim Downing and that he plans to "rip out" the remaining stop signs in the neighborhood.
Laurens, who said Turner's question is "quite an accusation," said he eventually paid the $140 fine "because there was a stop sign there."
He noted he only called Downing to ask why there were stop signs at the entrance of the roundabout.
He told the audience that Downing said the city had to place stop signs near the roundabout in order to complete the neighborhood.
Laurens said Downing characterized the stipulation as "government regulation," and the candidate proceeded to blast what he called "government regulation gone wild."
"The personal attacks in this race are unreal," he added.