Lt. gov candidate uses opponent’s absence at debate to hammer record

The top vote-getter from last month’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor skipped a second televised debate Monday, denying himself an ability to respond to his opponent’s questions about past transgressions.

During the debate, hosted by the Atlanta Press Club, Charlie Bailey asked Kwanza Hall, represented by an empty podium, to explain why he violated Atlanta’s city charter by taking a job for the city days after his term as a councilmember ended. The charter prohibits elected officials from holding city employment until one year after leaving office.

A 2018 investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News found that Hall began being paid as a senior adviser to then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and for working for the city’s economic development agency.

An outside investigation was unable to determine who hired Hall to work for the Bottoms administration. In a draft report on the investigation obtained by the AJC, Hall told attorneys that he was unaware that about $15,000 had been deposited into his account.

Hall told attorneys that he thinks someone “surreptitiously” put him on the city payroll to “damage his reputation.” The draft version of the report said Hall compared himself “to a rape victim who is blamed for the rape occurring.” That statement was not in the final report.

“Why did you do that, Mr. Hall?” Bailey asked rhetorically during Monday’s debate. “Why did you take that money illegally? Why did you compare yourself to a rape victim when you were caught? And why do you have so little respect for the voters of this state? Now he can’t answer that question because he’s not here.”

Hall also did not participate in a May 3 press club debate before the primary.

Hall and Bailey received the largest shares of the nearly 691,000 ballots cast in last month’s nine-way Democratic primary, with about 30% and 18%, respectively. The runoff is required since neither candidate got more than half of the vote.

The runoff election takes place June 21.