A1 A1
NW Ga. 14th congressional district candidates speak on COVID-19 response

Nine Republican candidates are vying for their party’s nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, in the Northwest Georgia 14th Congressional District seat.

The winner will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in the Nov. 3 general election.

The district covers the counties of Floyd, Chattooga, Polk, Gordon, Catoosa, Dade, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Walker and Whitfield, and part of Pickens County.

As of Sunday, the party primaries are still scheduled for May 19. A runoff, if necessary, is slated for July 21.

Gov. Brian Kemp has said he does not have the authority to change the dates under his current state of public health emergency that runs through April 13. Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger initially said he did not have the power, either, but indicated last week he might if the emergency order is extended.

Registered voters have been mailed applications to request absentee ballots, which can be returned by mail, email or fax to their county election office. The ballots requested must be mailed out via the U.S. Postal Service and returned by mail or in person by Election Day.

The Floyd County Elections Office, at 12 E. Fourth Ave., is closed to the public due to the coronavirus threat.

April 20 is the deadline to register to vote in the May 19 primary. Visit the Georgia My Voter Page at ww.mvp.sos.ga.gov to check your status or find out how to register.

We asked each of the Republican candidates to answer one question, in 200 words or less. Candidates Ben Bullock, Kevin Cooke and Andy Gunther did not respond to an email sent to the campaign address registered with the secretary of state.

Please explain what you would be focusing on in Congress right now to assist Northwest Georgians in their coronavirus response.

John Barge

I would ensure Washington, DC was doing everything it could to work with President Trump to get Northwest Georgians the help they need by:

♦ Making sure our field offices safely stay open and operational to serve the district.

♦ Fighting to make sure our doctors and nurses receive the PPE they need to stay safe as they fight the silent enemy on the front lines.

♦ Working to get COVID-19 testing into the district, so we can turn the tide.

♦ Helping parents who are faced with closed schools for the rest of the year, as they are adapting to the world of virtual learning, and work with our rural communities that lack internet connectivity to help them get it.

♦ Work with those eligible to help them to receive their stimulus checks.

♦ Aid small businesses and corporations to ensure they benefit from the CARES Act, as they apply for loans to protect their employee’s livelihoods.

♦ Start working on ending U.S. dependence on Socialist Communist China for pharmaceutical drugs, pharmaceutical supplies, along with other key resources. China lied and is the source of this virus, our relationship with them is forever changed and it’s time to ensure we are never in this position again.

John Cowan

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for healthcare expertise in Washington. As a doctor, I’m the only candidate in the 14th District race who can get to work immediately on policies that ensure we never again face such a threat to our public health, economy, and national security.

In Congress, I will work to reopen and continually fund vaccine labs. Many of these facilities closed long ago, and no one today doubts the urgent need for them.

Beyond cures, we must invest in preventative measures avoiding costly, reactive steps. We’re seeing Americans unify and innovating in order to defeat this virus. This dedication to a common purpose must continue.

What can’t continue is the status quo in global affairs. I’ll push for our government to treat foreign viruses as a national security threat. This includes rethinking our global supply chains and dependence on China for many of our critical medicines. I applaud President Trump’s holistic actions to attack this Chinese virus with full force.

As a conservative, I know the government alone can’t save us. We need God’s favor. I hope all Georgians will join me in praying for President Trump as he leads us through this difficult time.

Clayton Fuller

President Trump is doing an incredible job. I’ve seen firsthand how liberal Democrats put countless roadblocks in the President’s way — and it is no different now. We need a fighter in DC who, as a Trump appointee, has already had President Trump’s back, and will do so again on Capitol Hill. I am that person.

Border security, national security, and economic freedom are the three issues I’d focus on in this crisis. This global pandemic must show us the importance of finally securing our borders. I’ve supported border security missions in the Air National Guard, and I understand how important it is to Build The Wall. I was the first candidate to talk about the threat posed by China, and I’m the foremost China-hawk in the race. I’d orient all policy to counter this existential threat to our nation. The Trump Administration gave me a national security award, showing I’m the most knowledgeable candidate in the field to ensure we counter China.

Finally, it is time for a new era of economic freedom. I’d work for the elimination of the payroll tax for the next year, and reduce federal spending by eliminating wasteful bureaucracies.

Marjorie Greene

As Northwest Georgia’s voice in Congress, I would focus on getting the medical resources needed to respond to this pandemic, that small and large businesses have access to capital to keep workers employed and a solution can be found ending the coronavirus threat and getting America back to work.

As the owner of a commercial construction business, I would follow President Trump’s lead by rallying businesses and community leaders throughout Northwest Georgia to provide additional medical aid, food, and other necessities.

Sadly, Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats are using this crisis to force countless billions in new spending on Socialist pet projects like taxpayer-funding for Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics, radical Green New Deal regulations on business, industry and individuals and funding rewarding illegal alien-harboring sanctuary cities.

President Trump needs strong conservative voices like me in Congress to fight back on behalf of Northwest Georgia taxpayers against these blatantly unconstitutional, Socialist power grabs.

My immediate focus would be to fight for Northwest Georgia, heal our state and nation and get America back to work.

But most importantly, we need to Save America by Stopping Socialism. That’s why I’m running for Congress.

Bill Hembree

Tough times require strong leaders and we are fortunate to have the strongest of leaders at the helm of our national efforts to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. I believe American ingenuity and dedication will get us through this crisis and we will be stronger than ever before. As your representative in Congress, I want to be part of the charge to lower costs and improve access to quality healthcare across Northwest Georgia.

The Democrats are attempting to use this crisis as a power grab to move their liberal agenda forward. I will align with President Trump’s initiatives to reduce barriers and extend more affordable healthcare options to Northwest Georgia citizens.

I would be working along side President Trump to help bring pharmaceutical productions home to the United States. I would focus on getting our hardworking medical professionals the supplies and personal protection they need.

It will take the continued leadership of those who understand American small business, like myself & embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of our people. As your representative in Congress, I will help create an environment where our economy is unleashed to soar even higher than before this pandemic.

Matt Laughridge

First, it’s important to know how we got here. The economy was thriving – record job growth and all-time market highs. Then, the Chinese Communist Party covered up a new disease ravaging their own people, and the “Chinese Coronavirus” spread across the globe. Now, liberal politicians want to hijack the resulting health and economic crisis to cram socialism down our throats, while the mainstream media uses it to attack President Trump.

In Congress, I’d ensure no one is able to take advantage of a national emergency to turn America socialist. We need vaccines, tests, support for workers and employers, and resources for local officials. We DON’T need backdoor “Green New Deal” regulations or political stunts. I’d support much-needed response efforts and oppose harmful regulations on businesses or workers – especially during times of great economic burden.

Then, we’ve got to revive the economy. Career politicians can’t get that done. It’s crucial, now more than ever, that we have serious businesspeople in Washington to restore the job and wage growth we enjoyed under most of Trump’s first term.

Finally, I’ll hold China accountable. We’re spending trillions to fix THEIR virus. I’ll sponsor legislation to make the Chinese communist government pay those costs.

Berry offers new grading system during coronavirus closure

As colleges navigate school closures due to the coronavirus, professors are working with students through online classes.

While most local colleges have kept their regular grading system, Berry College is following a nationwide trend where colleges have implemented a pass or fail system.

Provost Mary Boyd said the purpose of offering the choice is to support students.

“Students can elect to converge one or all of their courses,” she said. “Neither of them would factor into a student’s GPA. The reason we did that is that we’re really aware of the different situations students have when they had to return home and continue their work through remote teaching and learning.”

One of the things she acknowledged was that students have varying access to the internet. Some students have broadband, and some might have slower internet service. Also, with many families having to learn and work from home, she pointed out that students could have difficulty getting screen time since they’re likely sharing it with multiple family members.

The reason the college chose to have students opt-in instead of just implementing the new grading system across the entire college has to do with varying student goals.

“Different students may have different career goals,” Boyd said. “For example, for students in education, having a GPA there is very important to be able to teach in the K-12 system. Then we have students who might want to go to graduate school, and they believe it might be in their advantage to stay on the regular grading system.”

Georgia Northwestern Technical College officials said they are trying to be flexible with students who have labs, which require in-person instruction.

“We recognize and understand there are courses which are not conducive for an online learning environment,” said Elizabeth Anderson, the school’s vice president of academic affairs. “We are being flexible and will work with our students in our labs as soon as we have the approval to do so.”

Most courses at the college, however, are being completed online, and she said they are still on a regular grading system.

“For the courses being completed online, our faculty are using normal grading policies as outlined in their course syllabus while adapting assignments as needed to best meet the needs of our students,” Anderson said.

Dawn Tolbert of Shorter University stated the college is also continuing to use a normal grading system and has moved all instruction online.

Georgia Highlands College is part of the University System of Georgia, which means the college will comply with USG’s decision to keep standard letter grades.

“We trust our faculty to teach and grade students effectively. In times of adversity, we should reach higher, not lower,” the USG said in a statement.

“Continuing letter grading for the final few weeks of the semester will allow faculty to assess the performance of students in the same manner as they always have,” it reads.

Scarlet Ford, a fourth-grader at Alto Park Elementary School

Fielder Center could be emergency shelter

A move to address the safety of Rome’s homeless population during the current shelter-in-place order will be taken up by the Rome City Commission during a called meeting Monday afternoon.

The commission is set to vote on a memorandum of understanding between the city and local nonprofits that will set up a temporary emergency shelter at the Fielder Center in East Rome. The effort is being headed by Alli Mitchell, executive director of the United Way of Rome and Floyd County.

The meeting will begin at 2:30 p.m. and will be a web-based meeting with the public able to watch on Facebook Live through the city’s Facebook page, @CityOfRomeGa.

Mayor Bill Collins said they believe the Fielder Center — which includes community rooms, restrooms and a gymnasium — would be a good place to provide shelter and help for those who are homeless and give them somewhere they can follow Gov. Brian Kemp’s emergency declaration to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“We think it is an excellent facility to house our homeless population, and all of the entities that deal with the homeless on a regular basis feel pretty much the same way,” Collins said. “This is something that has been on the lips of a lot of citizens who are concerned about what we are doing for our homeless population.”

The MOU would set up the basis and responsibilities for the shelter, which would fall mostly to nonprofits like the United Way, The Davies Shelters and others, according to City Manager Sammy Rich. He said the shelter would initially be set up for 90 days at the most, with local nonprofits in charge of staffing.

More details are expected to come out during Monday’s meeting. Commissioner Craig McDaniel said he has been told there are anywhere between 50 and 70 people in the community who have no place to go. And he said layoffs and business closures brought on by the response to the new coronavirus will only add more to that.

“I think everybody has gotten an education on the homelessness issue. I think it was almost a negative look years ago, but there are a lot of people who are homeless because of many different circumstances,” McDaniel said.

The city commission was originally to spend Monday’s meeting discussing the option of extending its own shelter-in-place order through the end of the month, but Kemp issued a statewide order last week that overrode any local government orders.

The governor’s order runs through April 13 when the current state of public health emergency approved by the state legislature expires.

Rome Office of Tourism works on promoting Rome while practicing social distancing

Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism has been faced with quite a challenge over the last few weeks: how to continue promoting Rome to visitors when no one can travel right now.

Communications Director Kristi Kent said the office began helping groups reschedule some of their upcoming spring events when the coronavirus outbreak started emerging in Floyd County in mid-March.

Since then, Kent and the rest of the staff have been trying to figure out virtual ways to promote Rome on social media and their website.

Recently, they did a poster contest called “Signs of Hope”, where people got the chance to create posters with a positive message about Rome to lift people’s spirits.

“We’re currently promoting ‘Superstar of Service’, which is an opportunity for locals to find people who are in the hospitality and service industry who have gone above and beyond,” Kent said. “They can nominate people online or they can mail in their nomination.”

The nomination deadline is April 26 at 11:59 p.m.

“Superstar” and other activities are posted on the romegeorgia.org website.

The office of tourism is also hosting a video and photo contest. They’ll ask people to vote on the submitted entries that they believe best showcase what Rome has to offer. The voting will take place from April 6 to April 9.

Kent also said that they are putting together a mascot for the Rome History Museum to draw more families’ interest.

The mascot, a wolf known as Capi the Wolf, is inspired by the Capitoline Wolf outside Rome City Hall and Auditorium on Broad Street.

A “Where’s Waldo” type of contest will launch April 8. Families can look for Capi in the windows of some of the businesses along Broad Street and Fifth Avenue. The contest will run through the end of April.

For those wishing to stay home, they’re offering Georgia’s Rome crossword puzzles and word searches on their website.

Kent and the rest of the staff are also trying to put together virtual museum visits and are welcoming people to submit virtual events for their calendar.