The University of Georgia Chapter of College Republicans hosted an official debate between the four Republican candidates for Secretary of State of Georgia in the Miller Learning Center on Wednesday night. Fox News WGUA 98.7 FM broadcast the debate live on air along with All On Georgia conducting a livestream on the internet.
The four candidates in the running for Secretary of State are City of Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, State Rep. Buzz Brockway (District 102), State Sen. Josh Mckoon (District 29), and State Rep. Brad Raffensperger (District 50).
McKoon offered his insights on the issues that would arise during the debate before it began.
“I think that the most important thing people have to ask themselves as Republican primary voters is who is the best candidate to be on the ballot against John Barrow in November,” he said.
John Barrow was the U.S Representative from Georgia’s 12th congressional district from 2005-2015, and is also the likely Democratic frontrunner in the upcoming Secretary of State race.
“He has won elections in districts drawn for Republicans. He’s a very smooth operator,” McKoon said. “You need someone who has had experience debating the Left, who can prosecute the case against John Barrow, and who is ready to do this job from day one.”
The debate began at 7PM with a brief introduction by UGA CR President Ethan Pender, followed by two-minute opening statements by each of the candidates. Belle Isle, the only UGA graduate on the panel, gave the first opening statement, advertising himself as pro-life, a 6th generation Georgian, as well as the only candidate who has both business and political experience. Each candidate referenced the importance of election integrity.
Debate moderator and WGUA News Director Tim Bryant began the first half of the debate with questions regarding voter security.
Raffensperger said the issue is hard to quantify. He suggested proactive measures such as putting the word “non-citizen” on drivers licenses issued to non-citizens to prevent illegal voting.
Brockway admitted he was also “skeptical” about how massive the extent of voter fraud is in Georgia; however, he said, that the only way to ensure fraud doesn’t occur is to maintain voter identification laws as well as protect the voter lists.
The second half of the debate covered state licensing reform. One issue discussed was that of misappropriated licensure fees.
Belle Isle said that when money collected from licensee applicants does not end up with the proper board, the result is an under-resourced Secretary of State office. He ensured that he would prioritize the proper allocation of funds as part of his effort to create a more efficient Secretary of State office.
McKoon criticized the vast difference in the lengths of the training periods required for different professions to obtain licensure, arguing that some professions have too intense of a licensing process and that some professions shouldn’t need licensing at all.
He said that in Georgia, a cosmetologist requires 10 times as many days in training than an emergency medical technician.
The debate concluded with each of the candidates being asked to offer one praise and one criticism of the incumbent Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, who is running for governor in 2018.
The candidates had little to criticize about the incumbent but offered praise for Kemp’s tenacity towards conservative governance under the Obama administration as well as his resilience in the face of budget cuts and lawsuits.
Closing statements followed with each candidate reminding the audience why they should vote in the upcoming race.
The qualifying period for candidacy will take place March 5-9, and Georgians will vote for their new Secretary of State on Nov. 6 of this year.
Connor Foarde is the Campus News Editor for the Arch Conservative