DeKalb CEO candidates trade barbs at Atlanta Press Club debate

The three candidates running to be DeKalb's next chief executive officer each made a case during a April 28 debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.



The three candidates running to be DeKalb's next chief executive officer each made a case during a April 28 debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.

Candidates running to be DeKalb County’s next chief executive officer each highlighted their experience at an Atlanta Press Club debate Sunday.

Steve Bradshaw, Lorraine Cochran-Johnson and Larry Johnson each participated in the group’s Loudermilk-Young Debate Series, which featured the DeKalb race and several other local and congressional races on the May primary ballot. They were asked about affordable housing, water, sewer and sanitation services, economic development and public safety.

The three Democrats are vying to replace term-limited Michael Thurmond. No Republicans filed to run for the office, meaning the seat will go to the winner of the May 21 primary.

Bradshaw, a commissioner representing central DeKalb’s District 4, said he will work to ensure the whole county prospers if elected. He pledge to increase funding for Decide DeKalb, the county’s economic development arm, and use the CEO’s appointments to ensure the group is focused on the southern part of the county.

“Up until now, they’ve been primarily focused on North DeKalb County and they need to be reoriented,” he said.

Cochran-Johnson, who stepped down from the District 7 seat representing eastern DeKalb in order run for CEO, said her record as a commissioner who brought forth legislation limiting big box stores and implementing video surveillance systems at certain businesses shows what she can accomplish. She said her time in office has demonstrated a “far higher capacity than others.”

“Time is not required to produce,” she said.

Johnson, who served as southwest District 3′s commissioner since 2003 until he resigned to run for CEO, said he is the best candidate to build public private partnerships and work with state and federal officials. He said he would take a community-focused approach if elected.

“I won’t sit behind the desk but just continue to connect,” he said.

In addition to questions posed by the panelists, each candidate was given the opportunity to ask one other candidate a question, which resulted in the tensest moments of the debate.

Cochran-Johnson accused Bradshaw of taking a zoning vote on a development in which he had a personal interest, which he denied. Bradshaw then accused Cochran-Johnson of skipping ahead of others to get a federal pandemic relief loan for a restaurant, which she denied.

Johnson did not use his question to attack either opponent. He asked Bradshaw to discuss his efforts to support senior citizens.

The forum was moderated by Lisa Rayam, the host of Morning Edition on WABE. Cathy Cobbs, a reporter for Rough Draft Atlanta, and Dan Whisenhunt, the editor of Decaturish, served as panelists.