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Candidates to meet in forum
Senate District 17, House District 111 candidates invited

Candidates for a special election to two seats in the state legislature have been invited to face voters in a forum this week.

Voters in state Senate District 17 and House District 111 will chose their legislators Jan. 9 after the incumbents resigned their seats last month.

Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, resigned to focus on his bid for lieutenant governor. Rep. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, resigned the House District 111 seat to run for the seat Jeffares ceded.

The forum will be from 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Emmanuel Community Church, 1400 Highway 212 SW, Conyers.

Candidates for the District 17 Senate seat are Conyers pastor Phyllis Hatcher; McDonough business owner Nelva Lee; Strickland, a McDonough attorney; and retired civil engineer Ed Toney, of Hampton.

Hatcher is a Democrat while Lee, Strickland and Toney are Republicans.

Senate District 17 includes southern and eastern Newton County and splits Covington. Jeffares served the district since 2011.

House District 111 includes part of Henry County, and its candidates also have been invited to Thursday’s forum. Running for the House seat are Democrats Tarji Leonard Dunn, a real estate broker, and El-Mahdi Holly, a substitute teacher from Stockbrige, as well as Republicans Geoffrey Cauble, a general contractor from Locust Grove, and Larry K. Morey, a real estate developer from McDonough.

In both races, all four candidates will appear on the same ballot. If no candidate receives more than half the votes, the top two vote-getters will meet in a runoff on Feb. 6.

Early voting is already underway.

The General Assembly begins its annual session Jan. 8. The state Constitution requires the General Assembly’s session to begin on the second Monday of January each year, but this year that falls on the day of the College Football Playoff national championship game in Atlanta — a game which could feature the University of Georgia.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionreported the legislature could delay its second meeting day until Wednesday this year due to the national championship game. Gov. Nathan Deal’s annual address to lawmakers has been delayed to Thursday.

Sponsors of the forum include the NAACP in Newton, Henry and Rockdale counties; the Newton County National Action Network and the Rockdale-Newton Section of the National Council of Negro Women Inc.