US Congress District 7 candidate John Eaves speaks as other candidates wait for their turn to speak during Candidate Forum hosted by Gwinnett Democratic Women at George Pierce Park’s community room in Suwanee on Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Hyosub Shin /

Dems from 7th District, Gwinnett races talk issues at candidate forum

The Gwinnett Democratic Women held a candidate forum Saturday morning in Suwanee, inviting contenders for races ranging from the 7th Congressional District race to the County Commission.

The event was largely devoid of fireworks and avoided words like “Trump” and “impeachment” (questions were drafted before last week’s developments on that front, an organizer said).

But the mere fact that a Democratic organization could put together a Gwinnett-based forum and attract nearly 30 candidates — or even have 30 candidates to attract — can be seen as further proof that the once deeply red suburb is now anything but.

“All eyes are on Gwinnett now,” said Gwinnett Democratic Women President Danise St. Andrew. “I think we have a diverse community, which is gonna lead to diverse candidates. And we’re all about delivering that Democratic vote.”

After decades of Republican domination, Democrats made waves in Gwinnett in 2018, flipping seven seats in the state legislature and claiming several local offices as well. The 7th Congressional District was decided by just over 400 votes — making it the closest such race in the country.

Four Democrats vying for their party’s 2020 7th District nod participated in Saturday’s forum. Carolyn Bourdeaux, the college professor who narrowly lost the 2018 race against outgoing Republican Rep. Rob Woodall; former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves; activist Nabilah Islam; and entrepreneur Rashid Malik were all there.

They each answered questions about charter schools, income equality and climate change.

On the latter, Bourdeaux, Eaves and Islam all said the federal government should take bold steps, including reentering the Paris Climate Accord. Bourdeaux said the United States should strive to be a net carbon-neutral country by 2050.

Malik said more emphasis should be put on personal responsibility.

“I request you all today to go home, plant a tree or plant a seed, that will protect us,” he said. “Responsibility is on our shoulders.”

US Congress District 7 candidate Rashid Malik (third from left) and other candidates wait before Candidate Forum hosted by Gwinnett Democratic Women at George Pierce Park’s community room in Suwanee on Saturday, September 28, 2019. (Hyosub Shin /
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The forum, held in a community room at Suwanee’s George Pierce Park, also included Democratic candidates from more local races, including those for a handful of seats in the Legislature, the Gwinnett County Commission and Gwinnett County sheriff.

But perhaps the most interesting proposal came from the district attorney’s race.

Candidate Wesley Person, a longtime local defense attorney, said that if he were elected he would push the County Commission to pass ordinances decriminalizing marijuana. He said an ounce or less of marijuana should be treated as a civil offense.

“This way you would be able to get people treatment and help without giving them a criminal record,” Person said. “We can be smart on crime.”

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