Clyde, Pandy draw partisan battle lines in 9th Congressional District debate

Republican Andrew Clyde (left) will face Democrat Devin Pandy in the 2020 general election for Georgia's 9th Congressional District.

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Republican Andrew Clyde (left) will face Democrat Devin Pandy in the 2020 general election for Georgia's 9th Congressional District.

5th District candidate Angela Stanton-King’s opponent refused to debate

The two candidates in Georgia’s 9th Congressional District general election are opposites on nearly every policy topic.

Andrew Clyde, the Republican and front-runner in the race, said in debate Monday that he wanted to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and implement a flat tax to replace the graduated system that taxes wealthier people a higher percentage.

That contrasted with Democrat Devin Pandy, a self-described progressive and military veteran who supports a universal basic income. The two participated Monday morning in a debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.

Clyde, who owns a gun store in Athens, also mentioned that he disagreed with those who say recent severe weather events are a byproduct of climate change.

“We have four seasons of the year; that climate changes every year four times, so I believe that,” he said. “But I do not believe in climate change. I also do not believe in the Green New Deal, which is a part of that. I’m very glad that our president removed us from the Paris climate change agreement.”

Pandy, who lives in Gainesville, said there was scientific data that backs up his opinion that human behavior has impacted the climate.

“Humans may not have started it, but we’re definitely making it exponentially worse,” he said. “It wouldn’t be something that then sets the entire west coast on fire if it wasn’t real.”

The two candidates also disagreed on whether another round of coronavirus stimulus is needed. Clyde said he was in favor of re-opening the economy to get more people back to work instead of more government spending. He opposes using federal funding to increase the weekly benefits for people unemployed during the pandemic by $600.

Pandy said new stimulus is needed to keep businesses and families afloat during the economic downturn. He also accused Clyde of hypocrisy, saying his opponent preached local control then sued the Athens-Clarke government to have his business recognized as “essential” so it could remain open during a period of sheltering-in-place.

That suit was dismissed after Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order that prevented local laws from being enforced.

Pandy also pointed out that Clyde had accepted Paycheck Protection Program funding, a government program for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clyde said the program was created for situations like his, where he was trying to avoid laying off workers.

“I thought it was a very good program because it, it keeps people working," Clyde said. “The ultimate stimulus package is to get people back to work and keep people working.”

A debate among the 5th Congressional District candidates was also scheduled for Monday, but Democrat Nikema Williams refused to share a platform with her Republican opponent, Angela Stanton-King.

Instead, Stanton-King answered questions from journalists for 15 minutes where she discussed her opposition to abortion and why she believes it’s time to re-open parts of the economy that closed or slowed down during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m a mother I’m also a business owner, so I think that it’s very important for us to get people back to work and to get our children back to school,” she said. “But we have to figure out the safest way to do that. And I think that the safest way to do that is by listening to the experts, making sure that we are protecting the most vulnerable and that we are making data-driven decisions.”

Williams is considered the front-runner in the district where voters overwhelming support Democratic candidates and were represented by John Lewis for nearly 34 years.

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