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Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Georgia State House District 1 candidate Colton Moore talks with people before a debate at Dade County Public Library on Thursday, April 19, 2018, in Trenton, Ga.

Georgia District 1 Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, has formally challenged the incumbent in Senate District 53, Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, to a debate at the end of April.

"Since 2018, we have both represented over 50,000 constituents in Northwest Georgia." Moore wrote. "However, our leadership styles, ideas and problem solving abilities could not be more different."

Moore went on say voters deserve to see the differences of all candidates in a formal debate before the June 9 election.

In a text message response, Mullis said he plans on participating in a forum for the counties he represents, but none that Moore will be in charge of.

"Mr. Moore struggles in telling the truth," Mullis said. "He will not be in control of any forum in which I participate."

Moore challenged Mullis to a debate on April 30 at the Dade County Library for WKWN radio.

Mullis said having a neutral organization over a debate is the key, such as a chamber of commerce, in order to help inform voters while being fair to all parties.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / State Sen. Jeff Mullis speaks before a bill-signing ceremony at Gordon Lee High School on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Chickamauga, Ga.

Mullis also said he plans to be at a forum scheduled for May 14 in Dade County with WKWN radio. That's the only one Mullis is aware of on the calendar, he said.

Republican Todd Noblitt has also filed for the Senate race.

Moore announced he was running against Mullis in early March.

Mullis, who has held his seat for two decades, is chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, and is one of the more seasoned senators in Atlanta, known as an important ally for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Moore was elected to the House when he was 24 years old in 2018 when he beat incumbent state Rep. John Deffenbaugh, R-Lookout Mountain, by 2,184 votes to 1,858.

Moore has said he and Mullis have been at odds ever since he was first elected.

The most recent rift between the two was about Cloudland Canyon State Park. Moore had reached out to the governor and others at the state level to ask for the park to be closed after residents in Dade County worried about the park being overcrowded amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Dade County Commission Chairman Ted Rumley said he and Moore spoke with Gov. Brian Kemp and his office about closing the park before the governor issued a statewide shelter-in-place order. After the order was issued, however, state parks remained open and outdoor activity was labeled "essential."

Dade County joined 11 other counties asking the governor to close the park.

The following Saturday, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Mark Williams, visited Cloudland and decided to close the park down because of how crowded it was.

After the park was closed, Dade County Commission Chairman Ted Rumley said at a news conference Mullis had made some calls and had Williams visit the park.

The park was closed for less than 24 hours and was open to visitors the next day.

Moore accused Mullis of spreading "fake news," claiming Mullis lied about the park being closed.

Mullis denied those allegations and says he never said the park was closed, a news website in Dade County reported.

"I never said it," Mullis told Discover Dade. "I have never said it."

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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