By Rebecca Gaunt
The Mableton Improvement Coalition and Austell Community Task Force invited local candidates for the General Assembly, Cobb school board and solicitor general to participate in a virtual candidate forum last week.
Both hoping to replace longtime Cobb Solicitor General Barry Morgan, Republican Courtney Brubaker and Democrat Makia Metzger differed on the topic of prosecutorial discretion.
When asked what types of crimes they might opt to not prosecute, Brubaker said, “I think that a distinguishing factor between me and my opponent is that I understand that the Cobb County solicitor general…is to enforce the laws. Does prosecutorial discretion exist? Absolutely. But to make broad brushstrokes that you will not prosecute crimes is a slippery and very dangerous slope to go on to.”
Brubaker continued saying that the place to change laws is the legislature. Opting not to prosecute certain types of crimes is to “legislate from a position that is not a legislative position.”
Metzger responded, “There are lots of crimes in the books that we don’t prosecute because they just wouldn’t be cost effective, they would not be practical and they don’t make sense. I believe adultery is still in the books and we don’t prosecute adultery because that’s a private matter. There are certain things that, yes, within my prosecutorial discretion would not be in my purview.”
Metzger added, “I’m not going to waste resources and taxpayer dollars just to show that I’m the prosecutor of law and order. I think that is a dangerous way to lead.”
Metzger said her goals for the office are improved transparency, reducing recidivism through pretrial diversion and the expansion of victim advocacy services.
Brubaker is also supportive of the office’s diversion program.
“I believe that diversion, when used in the appropriate situations for the appropriate individuals, is very beneficial,” she said.
Cobb school board Post 2
Democrat Becky Sayler fielded questions on current hot button issues in education. Her opponent, Republican Stephen George, was not present despite being on the schedule.
Sayler, a teacher who previously taught in a Post 2 school, said, “I really love public education. I believe in the transformative power of public education. I’m really eager to be a part of solutions that will help our children learn better, help support our teachers as they go about their jobs, and to help parents feel like they have a part in their children’s education.”
Sayler addressed the divisive concepts bill passed by the Georgia legislature earlier this year, which has been criticized for potentially creating a chilling effect in which teachers are afraid to talk about certain historical subjects. She’s concerned it could stifle classroom discussions on topics like the Civil War and Jim Crow laws.
A question submitted from the public asked for her position on the “CRT curriculum taught in schools.”
“CRT is not taught in schools,” Sayler replied. “It’s been banned by Cobb County. But as a teacher myself, I am a big fan of kids having access to information and having those conversations in classes where kids make connections.”
She shared a story about a time students in her class made connections between their personal experiences as immigrants and a lesson about the events leading up to World War II and the scapegoating of Jewish people.
“That might be something today that I wouldn’t be able to comment on with this divisive concepts law,” Sayler said.
She continued, “I think that when we put these limits on what teachers can say and do surrounding these issues, we’re really shortchanging the magic that happens in the classroom.”
Sayler also talked about the need to improve the district’s literacy programs to focus on phonics and science of reading and target dyslexia with appropriate programs. She also hopes to expand the pre-k program and revisit the controversial new armed personnel policy.
House district 39
Republican candidate Olivia Angel and Democrat Terry Cummings are vying for the seat previously held by Erica Thomas. Thomas did not run for reelection.
Asked whether they’d review the Heartbeat Bill if elected, Georgia’s restrictive abortion law, both said yes.
Angel said, “I would see what’s in there because for me it’s very important that people get healthcare. However, according to God, my God, Jesus Christ, that Jeremiah from the Bible, one chapter verse 5, every heartbeat before you are even born, you are conceived and God already knows your future. So I will say I will stand by my answer in the April forum that I am pro life and we should protect kids in the womb…I have to review that bill.”
Cummings called the bill “fundamentally and absolutely wrong.”
She said, “It’s just very ironic to me that Georgia would pass a law to not regulate guns at all, but now you’re going to regulate how women make decisions about their own body.”
With regard to Medicaid expansion, Cummings said she supports expanding the program to help cover the medical costs of uninsured Georgians, the elderly, veterans and keep care in rural areas.
“The only reason we don’t have it is because of politics,” she said.
She used Atlanta Medical Center South’s closing as an example. The East Point hospital served a large proportion of low-income residents. Wellstar is closing it due to financial losses from unreimbursed care. City leaders have said Medicaid expansion could have saved it. Wellstar said expansion wouldn’t have been sufficient to keep it open.
Angel said she’d like to see what’s in the plan for expansion.
“I heard it has strings attached to it. I want to see what’s in that bill. I want to see why they want to expand Medicaid,” she said. “I don’t want the federal government to oversee our Medicaid or healthcare at all in our state…I really think that Obamacare actually solved all these issues.”
House district 38
State Rep. David Wilkerson is unopposed in his bid for reelection. He highlighted the Mableton cityhood referendum that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
“I have always opposed any cities being created. I did believe that if one city was going to have the opportunity to be discussed, the others should be as well. But I just want to make sure that I’m very clear that I do not support the city of Mableton. I actually oppose it, primarily because I believe the county is stronger together,” he said.
The forum can be viewed in full on YouTube.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.