LaGrange-Troup Chamber of Commerce to host virtual candidate forum

Published 6:31 pm Thursday, May 7, 2020

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The LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce is holding a candidate forum Tuesday night for school board candidates, but it appears only half of the candidates will participate.

The forum will take place on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and will be held via Zoom.

It will be streamed on The LaGrange Daily News Facebook page.

“The mission of the County Chamber of Commerce is to champion our member businesses and to serve as a catalyst for advancing the region’s economy and our member’s success,” Chamber President Connie Hensler said. “As such, we have a responsibility to offer opportunities for members to get that to get to know candidates seeking public office. We’ve invited all the candidates to participate, and we look forward to hearing from them on issues that are important to our citizens. I feel like it is our responsibility to offer these opportunities for people to get to know the candidates.”

All eight school board candidates have been invited to participate, but the four TRACER-endorsed candidates have said they will not attend, as they do not believe the chamber would put on a fair forum.

Hensler said incumbents Cathy Hunt, Joe Franklin and Brandon Brooks have agreed to participate, as has Ferrell Blair.

Bill Gregory, who serves as spokesperson for TRACER, said a couple of their four candidates have participated in chamber forums before and felt they were biased. Therefore, Tommy Callaway, Frank Barnes, Tripp Foster and Nick Simpson do not plan to participate.

“The bias that exists there, their opinions in previous debates was their opponents had the questions and the answers written out and read from them as they sat on the debate stage,” Gregory said. “We do not want to participate in something like that.”

Hensler said it’s disappointing that all the candidates may not participate.

“Well, I am very disappointed that some candidates have chosen not to participate,” Hensler said. “What we are trying to do is to provide information to the community members and make our forum available to all of the candidates.”

She said if the TRACER candidates change their mind, they would be welcome to participate.

Gregory said the TRACER candidates would like to do a face-face forum at some point, but they are also trying to follow the restrictions put in place for people 65 and older.

“Here’s the issue. Most of us on this side are older than 65,” Gregory said. “And Gov. Kemp put a hiatus on us doing anything. We want to certainly abide by the executive order, but we also want people to be able to see and hear our candidates’ opinions.”

The chamber is accepting questions from the community for the forum. The link is on the chamber’s Facebook page.

Each candidate will have a set amount of time for an introduction and to answer questions. The chamber is still working on a moderator for the forum.