All four contenders for the District 22 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives are from Cherokee County, although the district covers parts of Cherokee, Forsyth and Fulton counties.
Meagan Biello, Nate Cochran, Jeff Duncan and Sam Moore, all Republicans, met at Fowler Park in Cumming to answer questions posed by the hosting party and residents at the event.
The special election is set for Jan. 7, but with four candidates in the running, officials said a runoff election is likely.
Second Vice Chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party Joel Natt moderated the forum.
Each candidate was given a few minutes to make an opening statement, and Biello went first. A 31-year-old Ball Ground resident, Biello is an Advanced Placement micro-economics and honors history teacher at Creekview High School and the daughter-in-law of former Cherokee County Commissioner J.J. Biello. “I’m running because I really believe I can make a difference. I make a difference every day in people’s lives. I hope I can have a positive impact on the state and District 22,” Biello said.
Biello said education is important because it’s an investment in the future, and said she wants to grow the economy and decrease taxes.
“I believe in individual responsibility, I believe in the Second Amendment and individual freedom, and I’ll do everything I can to uphold those rights,” she said.
Duncan, 52, of Ball Ground, is a businessman who was recently added to the Cherokee Resource Recovery Development Authority and is a former Cherokee GOP chair.
“I’ve worked for 28 years in business. I’ve been married for almost that whole time,” Duncan said. “I’ve worked at small businesses and large businesses. I’ve worked at Fortune 500 companies and Fortune 1,000 companies and I’ve worked in two-man companies,” Duncan said.
Duncan said he sits on three charity boards and has worked for nonprofit companies, and he’s running because he believes in investing in the community.
“For over 20 years I’ve served in the Republican Party here in Cherokee County, in various forms,” he said.
From the Macedonia community, 37-year-old Moore is also running. Moore said he decided to run after getting a ticket in a speed trap in Alpharetta on his way to work one day.
“It was the principle of it,” he said. “Alpharetta was doing something illegal and no one was calling them on it.”
Moore said he was an expert at Georgia speeding laws after doing his own research on the topic. Through his experience, Moore said he found he “cannot stand for corruption.”
“I got through the court process, and I found 17 different things that they had done wrong,” Moore said. “I actually proved that the speed limit itself was set too low; it was illegal.”
Cochran, 37, lives in the Free Home community and practices law out of his Canton office.
“I consider myself a small business owner,” he said. “I’m a job creator. I have employees.”
Cochran said he wants more focus on vocational education, and said not everyone needs to go to college. Cochran said he’s a member of the Republican Party and has been chairman for the Cherokee County Citizens for Property Rights group.
“I’m endorsed by Georgia Right to Life in this race, I’m endorsed by the Canton Tea Party in this race,” he said.
Natt asked the candidates how their platforms fit with the Republican principles and values.
Biello said she’s a conservative and a Christian. She said she believes life starts at conception and she believes in small government and less taxes.
“I believe in an individual’s responsibility to take care of themselves. I think that needs to be a focus. We need a government that fosters that kind of environment, that cultivates an environment where entrepreneurs can be successful, where they’re not regulated out of business,” Biello said.
Duncan said he doesn’t know all the issues that will come up, but said he will react to issues when they come up, from a “Biblical world view.” He said his views center around the idea that life starts at conception and human life should be protected.
“Jesus Christ is the center of my life,” he said. “The issue of being pro-life is, for me, clearly a no-brainer. But it’s not enough to believe the right thing, you have to be an advocate for it.”
Moore said he thinks there should be small government, reduced taxes and personal responsibility.
“I live my life the way the Republican Party says you should, not because they say you should, but because it just lines up,” he said.
Cochran said the Republican Party was a natural fit, as faith and family are the most important things in his life.
“I live by the adage that, ‘All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,’” he said. “I’m not looking for a career in politics. … I’m doing this because I want to make a difference.”
When it comes to the candidates’ opinions on what the No. 1 issue facing Georgia is, they have similar views.
Duncan, Biello, Cochran and Moore all said economic growth and ending Obamacare are the two biggest issues the state faces.
Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming) asked the candidates how they would govern if they got elected.
Duncan said he would leverage his business experience to reduce waste and tackle transportation issues.
Moore said he would vote for reducing spending and against increasing expenses.
Cochran said he’d do what’s right, use his legal knowledge and listen to, and work with, his constituents and fellow representatives.
Biello responded she would listen and learn, and cooperate with local delegations, school boards and other local leaders.
Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) asked the candidates their opinions on school choice and all four candidates said they believe parents should be able to decide what’s best for their children.
All four candidates said Highway 20 needs improvements.
Cochran said he supports responsible expansion of the road, and said infrastructure is important for everything else to improve.
Biello said investing in roads is an investment in the future. She said business won’t come to the area unless the infrastructure can handle their employee’s commutes and customers.
Duncan said the highway needs help. He wants there to be discussions between Cherokee and Cumming, because working together would help to solve the problem.
Moore said he had a family member die on Highway 20, and strongly supported widening the highway. He also believes counties should work together on transportation issues.
All of the candidates said they wanted more transparency and less corruption in the government.