Primary candidates for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District meet in virtual debate 

Eight Republican candidates for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District participated in a virtual debate on Sunday where most said their main priority was shrinking the size of the federal government.

State Rep. Matt Gurtler was questioned by his opponents for voting “no” more times than any other state legislator. 

“Voting ‘no’ does not mean you are the most conservative. It means you can’t get to a consensus to give people what they need,” candidate and attorney Ethan Underwood said. 

“Well voting ‘yes’ does not help reduce the size on government, I’ll tell you that,” Gurtler shot back. 

Gurtler also alleged that state Rep. Kevin Tanner had supported tax increases in the past. 

“I know it’s hard to wrap your head around accomplishing anything in office,” Tanner said.

Georgia’s 9th  District drew a large field of candidates eager to fill the spot U.S. Rep. Doug Collins vacated when he decided to challenge U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. 

Collins won 80 percent of the vote in 2018. The district is considered a Republican stronghold. 

The governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic was another prominent topic during the debate, hosted by The Atlanta Press Club in partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting. 

Former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun said opening the economy should be the government’s priority, even if the virus is still present in certain areas. 

“It is a major issue with a small part of our population and it’s a small issue to a major part of our population,” he said. “We’ve got to get our economy going and get our people working again.”

Broun’s ethics were called into question by State Rep. Kevin Tanner, who brought up that Broun’s campaign manager was indicted for allegedly using taxpayer money to finance campaign activities in 2016. 

Broun called the attacks a “smear tactic” and “witch hunt.”

Gun store owner Kellie Weeks asked the other Republicans if they would self-impose a four-term term limit should they be elected. Most of the candidates indicated they agreed, but Broun said he did not.

“The problem is unlimited government not unlimited terms,” Broun said. 

The other Republicans who participated in Sunday’s debate are crane operator Michael Boggus, armory CEO Andrew Clyde, and state Sen. John Wilkinson.

All candidates who qualified for the June 9 primary ballot were invited to attend. Maria Strickland was the only absence. 

Although Democrats face an uphill battle in the contest  for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District, that primary has drawn three candidates.

Army Veteran Devin Pandy, business owner Brooke Siskin, and minister Dan Wilson faced each other in their own debate.  

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the candidates agreed that the government should be doing more to help the residents of rural North Georgia. 

Pandy mentioned the plight of undocumented immigrants working in poultry plants. He said they need access to protective equipment, paid leave and higher wages. 

“Whether they are non-legal residents or not, they’re still going to work,” he said. 

Visit AJC.com for more coverage of The Atlanta Press Club’s primary debates on May 3 and 4.

More: The latest fundraising totals ahead of the June primary

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