The field for the vacated District 43 seat in the Georgia Senate is a crowded one.
Eight candidates are vying for votes in Tuesday’s special called election to represent parts of Newton, Rockdale and DeKalb counties.
Six of those candidates participated in a debate at hosted by the Newton County Democrat Party and the Newton County Conservative Liberty Alliance at the Washington Street Community Center Monday.
Diane Adoma (R), Tonya Anderson (D), Marcus Jordan (D), Sharon Sawyer (D), Janice Van Ness (R) and Stan Williams (D) all spoke to a crowd on topics ranging from the religious freedom act, Georgia Lottery school funding, transportation, gambling and the Newton County Board of Commissioner’s form of government. Bill Kennedy, Angela Moore and Rodney Upton did not attend.
The debate was moderated by Landis Stephens of the Newton Democratic Party, Aaron Brooks of the Newton Conservative Liberty Alliance and Bryan Fazio of The Covington News.
Each candidate introduced themselves and stated their qualifications during a three minute period, and then went into more specific questions for two minutes. Halfway through the debate was a “lightning round” requiring “yes” or “no” answers from each candidate on questions such as “Do you support campus carry?” “Do you support medical marijuana?” and “Have you ever taken lobbyist/special interest money?”
During the “lightning round” all the candidates mostly stuck to party lines.
When asked what law was currently on the books that the candidates would like to change, Anderson and Sawyer said they wanted to raise the minimum wage; and Van Ness said she wanted a change to adoption laws.
Each candidate used the forum to state their strengths, such as Van Ness’ work with children and education as owner of Peachtree Academy, Sawyer’s connection to all three counties—living in Newton, working in Rockdale and being born in DeKalb, and Williams’ experience in the business sector, political sector and with the department of justice and school system.
Sawyer has been a financial claims specialist with Acuity Brands, formerly Lithonia Lighting, for over 16 years and works to find solutions to payment disputes between customers and the company.
She previously was a commercial collector for radar detector manufacturer Beltronics for more than seven years and spent 15 years as a bookkeeper in the commercial collection division at Dun and Bradstreet, a corporate credit rating company.
Jordan is the Chief Appraiser for the Newton County Board of Tax Assessors and has been a management level supervisor for the past 12 years.
His current duties include supervisory responsibility in accordance with county policies, procedures and applicable laws, including: hiring and training in job skills, planning and directing work, addressing complaints and resolving problems. He also coordinates and directs the appraisal and valuation of real estate and personal property, including the production of Newton's nearly $2 billion annual tax digest.
Williams has served as the Chair for the Rockdale Democratic Party 2008 through 2010, board member for the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Guinn Memorial Library, Rockdale United Way advisory board, Rockdale County Public Schools’ Superintendent's Advisory Board, Leadership DeKalb Class of 1991, Leadership Atlanta Class of 2003, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education board member, and is a member of the Citizens Progressive Club, Rockdale NAACP. Williams worked for 25 years in various management positions with IBM and as director at the Rockdale County Juvenile Court Evening Reporting Center after that.
Van Ness was a Rockdale County Commissioner for eight years before losing to Doreen Williams, a Democrat, in the 2014 general election. She's the owner and founder of Peachtree Academy, a daycare and private Christian school, mother to four children and a wife to her husband Ken.
Anderson is a Lithonia resident, who has been a state representative since 2013, and lists her occupations as a certified life coach.
Adoma is currently a resident of Lithonia, Georgia. She graduated from Kennesaw State University with a bachelor's in business administration. She has a master's in business administration from the University of Phoenix with an emphasis in business management.
Adoma and her husband are franchise owners of H&R Block locations in Rockdale County. She is also a producer and host of Adoma and Company Radio and the owner of Diane Adoma Consulting, LLC.
Moore is a Lithonia resident and public relations specialist, who previously ran for Secretary of State in 2009.
Upton is a Conyers resident and contractor, who ran for the state house in 2010.
The candidates are vying for the seat vacated by Ronald Ramsey, who was serving his fifth term, before being appointed as an associate judge in the DeKalb County’s new traffic court earlier this year.