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Ethics center of Senate District 9 debate | VIDEO

Sen. Don Balfour faced two GOP opponents Mike Beaudreau and P.K. Martin, during a GOP forum Tuesday.


With Jason Thompson, left, moderating, GOP Senate District 9 candidates met in a forum Tuesday. The candidates, from left to right, are former commissioner Mike Beaudreau, incumbent Don Balfour and former Lawrenceville councilman P.K. Martin. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

With Jason Thompson, left, moderating, GOP Senate District 9 candidates met in a forum Tuesday. The candidates, from left to right, are former commissioner Mike Beaudreau, incumbent Don Balfour and former Lawrenceville councilman P.K. Martin. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Video

State Senate District 9 Debate

Sen. Don Balfour faced two GOP opponents Mike Beaudreau and P.K. Martin, during a GOP forum Tuesday.

Sen. Don Balfour faced two GOP opponents Mike Beaudreau and P.K. Martin, during a GOP forum Tuesday.

There may have been an 800-pound gorilla in the room, but Sen. Don Balfour didn’t waste any time addressing it.

In his opening statement at a political forum Tuesday, the senator didn’t shy away from his trial last year on criminal charges involving per diem requests.

But he pointed out to the Republican crowd that not only should they believe in “innocent until proven guilty,” but that he was found not guilty.

But the two men challenging Balfour in the GOP primary later this month said the residents of state Senate District 9, which includes much of central Gwinnett from Lawrenceville to Snellville, deserve more.

“This campaign has always been about restoring trust,” said P.K. Martin, a former Lawrenceville councilman. “We need a new direction for District 9.”

Mike Beaudreau, a former county commissioner, told the crowd at Summit Chase Country Club that the people need leadership and accountability, pointing out that he held town hall meetings for 96 straight months while in office.

“Ethics reform is also how you treat people at home … and how often you ask for input,” Beaudreau said. “… We are lacking leadership.”

While the trio touched on issues like education, a proposed cannabis oil law and transportation, the discussion often turned back to leadership and ethics.

When Balfour talked about improving the state’s posture as business friendly and talked about drawing jobs, Beaudreau countered, saying the senator should work more on bringing jobs to the local district.

Balfour shot back later about working to open Georgia Gwinnett College, bringing a thousand jobs. He also talked about Gwinnett Medical Center’s problems several years ago opening a cardiac center, quipping, “I didn’t hold a town hall meeting; I went and sat down with (the people halting the plan).”

All three extolled their records of service, from Balfour’s work at the Capitol, to Beaudreau’s push for transportation improvements, including the Sugarloaf extension, to Martin’s track record of cutting taxes in Lawrenceville even when revenues were already down in a recession.

“There’s a lot of great things we’ve accomplished in the past; there will be a lot of great things we’ll accomplish in the future,” Balfour said.

The men face off in the Republican primary on May 20, with the winner due to face Democrat Timothy Swiney in the November general election.