Our View: It’s Debatable
GA Politics

Our View: It’s Debatable

We think it’s a mistake to throw out more than half the 6th district field from the start, especially because voters know so little about most of the candidates.

The Republican Jewish Coalition held a candidate forum for the 6th Congressional District on Sunday, April 2. It’s a shame that the one Jewish Republican on the April 18 ballot wasn’t part of the show.

The blame for the absence of David Abroms lies not with the RJC, but with its partner in the forum at Dunwoody’s Le Meridien hotel, the 6th District Republican Party, which has decided it doesn’t have time for all 11 Republican candidates if it is to stave off Democrat Jon Ossoff and keep a seat it has held nearly 40 years.

“This is not a social experiment in inclusiveness. This is not about fairness,” said Michael Fitzgerald, the GOP chairman for the 6th District. He said the party’s only job is to select a candidate, and “it’s damned serious business.”

But it’s funny how the Republicans are going about that serious business.

As soon as 18 candidates qualified for the special election to replace Tom Price in mid-February, the GOP announced that it would hold three events and only five of the 11 Republicans would be invited.

We think it’s a mistake to throw out more than half the field from the start, especially because voters know so little about most of the candidates. It wouldn’t take much for a political newcomer to grab voters’ attention if given a forum, but the Republican Party is running scared.

Super-PAC-financed ads attacking Ossoff had the predictable effect of solidifying Democratic and anti-Trump support behind the Jewish former congressional aide and thus all but guaranteeing that a Democrat will make the June 20 runoff, to be held if no one wins a majority April 18.

Meanwhile, voters aren’t getting enough information about their choices.

Hundreds of people attended the April 2 forum, and about half identified themselves as RJC members. They were treated to job interviews: Each candidate took the stage alone and answered the same series of questions while the others waited outside.

The format was better than a traditional debate format, used at the first GOP-sanctioned candidate event March 26. But there were no questions about Israel, and there was that annoying absence of Abroms, Keith Grawert, Bruce Levell, William Llop, Amy Kremer and Mohammad Ali Bhuiyan.

We don’t get:

  • The lack of transparency. The party says it is using the most recent reliable polls, and Fitzgerald said two impartial statisticians are working as consultants. But the party has not been public about the polls and numbers involved.
  • The fixation with five. The party could have set a poll threshold, perhaps 5 percent, to make the debates. Instead, it has insisted on five candidates. We’ve seen only one poll with all 18 candidates named. In it, four Republicans — Karen Handel, Bob Gray, Dan Moody and Judson Hill — were clustered near the top, and Kurt Wilson and Abroms were close for fifth. So four candidates or six would make sense; five is just arbitrary.
  • The establishment myopia. Voters across the spectrum are frustrated with being told how to vote and with perceptions of the parties weighting the process for or against a candidate. The GOP is feeding that frustration.

The Republicans have one more try, a roundtable discussion Sunday, April 9, at 6 p.m. at the Metropolitan Club in Alpharetta. It’s probably too late to change the number of candidates, but we hope both parties in the future will heed the need for openness and let the voters learn about the candidates before the field is culled.

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