Incumbents and challengers for county and state races addressed about 100 people at the county Farm Bureau and Chamber of Commerce's "Meet the Candidate" event on Thursday night. The free forum was conducted at Cagle's Family Farm in Hickory Flat.
Each of the candidates had three minutes to introduce themselves and their platform. Issues that appear central to the campaign for the July 20 Republican primary and November general election include job creation, transportation and charter schools.
"The economy is still one of the major issues," said State Rep. Sean Jerguson (R-Holly Springs), who is seeking his third two-year term.
His challenger in the Republican primary, John Forrester of Woodstock, has stepped out of the race, according to the Secretary of State's office.
Jerguson still will face Democrat Bill Brown in the November general election. Brown didn't attend the forum, but sent a representative in his place.
Stephanie Webb of Hickory Flat, who has qualified as a Democrat to run against state Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Hickory Flat), said job growth could be spurred by starting new transportation projects.
"We need a strong infrastructure to support economic development," she said.
Hill, who is seeking his fifth two-year term, was represented by a supporter at the forum, who talked about the state budget crunch.
Candidates for the county school board were asked about their stand on charter schools. So far, the school board has not approved any charter school applications presented to it.
A representative for Post 3 candidate Michael Geist of southeast Cherokee, who is challenging Gary Puckett of southeast Cherokee in the July primary, said he is in favor of charter schools.
Post 6 candidate Rob Usher of Towne Lake, who is challenging incumbent Debi Radcliff of Towne Lake in the July Republican primary, said charter schools are "an option we need to look at."
Both Democrat candidates, Alice Archey of Towne Lake for Post 6 and Tony Guice of Woodstock for Post 3, said while they don't oppose charter schools, traditional public schools are their priority.
Public schools "can be every bit as good or better than any charter school," Guice said.
Neither Mrs. Radcliff, who has served since 2005, nor Puckett, who is seeking his fourth four-year term, attended the forum.
Rob Wofford of Canton, who is a shoo-in to fill the school board Post 1 seat being vacated by Stephen Bentley, said charter schools have a place in the school system.
State Rep. Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock), who is running for re-election in the Republican primary to her fourth two-year term, said she has heard from constituents that illegal immigration reform is important to them.
"I think it is going to be an issue," she said, adding people are upset about the impact illegal immigration has on government services.
Her Republican challenger, Michael Caldwell of Towne Lake, didn't attend the forum; Democratic opponent Lillian Burnaman of the Victoria community was present and spoke about education.
Also at the forum were county Commissioner Derek Good of Towne Lake, seeking his third four-year term, who talked about fiscal conservatism and recreation, and his Republican challenger, Jason Nelms of Woodstock, whose platform includes jobs and recreation.
State Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), who is running for his fourth two-year term, talked about limiting the state government, while his Democratic opponent Patrick Thompson of Woodstock touched on education and jobs.
County commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens of Garrison Farms and Commissioner Harry Johnston of Canton, who both are unopposed, also attended the event.
Republican gubernatorial candidates Nathan Deal and Democratic candidate Dubose Porter spoke at the forum, while Republican candidate Eric Johnson sent a representative.
Some of the candidates in the races for Georgia labor commissioner, attorney general and insurance commissioner also attended the forum.