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Personalities, experience set apart House candidates in forum | VIDEO

Candidates in the May 20 GOP primary for two state House races faced off in a forum Tuesday. See the District 97 and 98 candidates deliver their closing statements.


Video

Gwinnett GOP House forum

Candidates in the May 20 GOP primary for two state House races faced off in a forum Tuesday. See the District 97 and 98 candidates deliver their closing statements.

Candidates in the May 20 GOP primary for two state House races faced off in a forum Tuesday. See the District 97 and 98 candidates deliver their closing statements.

At the outset, the moderator asked the candidates to raise their hands. Only if they disagreed would a hand go down.

Then he listed a set of Republican values, from conservatism to support of the 2nd Amendment and pro-life. And every hand remained up.

At a Gwinnett GOP forum Tuesday for two key state House races, moderator BJ Van Gundy said he wanted to get the things that unite the candidates out of the way. But after that, the differences began to take shape.

For the open House District 98 seat, which includes portions of Suwanee, Buford and Sugar Hill, the choices come down to personality.

Michael Brown, a small businessman, described himself as a “peacemaker.”

“I love to bring people together and hear both sides of the story and find common ground,” Brown said. But he added, “don’t confuse meekness for weakness.”

His competition, David Hancock, the co-chair of the Gwinnett Tea Party, said he wouldn’t mind making some noise.

“I’m not going there to get along with people,” he said. “I’m going to be as loud as I can … and hopefully make a difference.”

The two were also divided on the issue of relaxing rules on alcohol and allowing the use of cannabis oil for medicinal purposes, which was debated at the Legislature this year.

“Hopefully we can agree that you can’t legislate morality,” Brown said, adding that he supports the medicinal use of cannabis. “It’s a ‘less government is more’ thing for me.”

Hancock countered: “You can legislate morality. .. This country is a great republic but unless we have moral people … we are going to fall apart as a society,” adding that he is unsure of the research on the medicinal use of marijuana.

In District 97, where 22-year incumbent Brooks Coleman faces two challengers in the upcoming May 20 primary, the answers centered on experience and term limits.

Jef Fincher, a Duluth activist, said he would self-impose term limits, restricting himself to four years in office. He said that leaders should allow other people to step in.

“If voters would insist on this a lot of problems with cronyism … would be lessened significantly,” he said, adding that he will not take money from legislators or support other legislators in campaigns.

But Coleman countered, pointing out that it takes experience to gain much sway under the Gold Dome. When asked directly what more he had to accomplish, the chairman of the House Education Committee said he wants to complete a new analysis of statewide education funding.

“We can get things done,” Coleman said, noting his weekly town hall meetings.

A third candidate in the race, Dahlys Hamilton, said she wants to focus on growing micro-farms and other agriculture in the suburban district, which includes Duluth and Suwanee. She supports cannabis oil as a “natural remedy,” and believes that a focus on green objectives can grow jobs.