CHATSWORTH, Ga. - Only one of the two remaining candidates for Murray County sole commissioner attended the first forum since the field has been narrowed down from 15 candidates to the two top vote-getters.
Greg Hogan, a former Eton, Ga., mayor and owner of a small trucking business in Murray County, answered a prepared list of questions and also took questions from the crowd of about 50 people attending Thursday's meeting.
Businessman Bruce Reed, who received the most votes during the June 13th election, did not attend.
According to Kevin Tisdel, a Murray County Tea Party member who helped organize the forum, Reed emailed one of the organizers Thursday morning and asked for a list of questions that would be asked in the forum. After receiving the list, Reed responded in an email that he did not plan to attend.
In the email, which Tisdel read at the forum, Reed said he believed the little time he has left would be better spent in door-to-door campaigning. Reed had previously declined to attend a Tea Party organized forum, but did attend one organized by the local newspaper, The Chatsworth Times.
The runoff election will be held on July 19, with early voting in the race beginning next week.
State officials have said they are investigating the June 13 election after receiving a citizen complaint, but have said that will not halt the runoff election. Officials declined to give any details about the investigation.
Former Sole Commissioner David Ridley resigned in March, shortly after a county employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against him with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The employee has since filed a lawsuit against the county and Ridley.
During Thursday's forum, Hogan told the group that jobs and the county budget would be his two top priorities if he was elected.
He will work to recruit businesses related the newly opened Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, which is about 50 miles from Murray County. Hogan also said he would consider reducing the inventory tax for businesses in the county.
Adding a 1 cent sales tax would be his first choice before increasing the millage rate, Hogan told the crowd.
During the forum, Shane Williams said he thinks all the residents need to take more responsibility for their county. He said only about 22 percent of the registered voters cast a ballot in the June election.
"I ask the registered voters to get out and vote, to check the candidates out," he said after the forum. "My vote is for sale - but you got to earn my vote."
Williams, a logger and pastor, said the mood in Murray County is "poor" right now, with high unemployment, the lawsuit against the county and the state investigation.
"Can't just one man fix our problems; we are all going to have to fix Murray County," he said.