The Fayette County Republican Party will host a debate Monday night for candidates heading into the July 26 Primary Election Runoff.
Six candidates running in three races have been invited to participate: Ben Coker and Rudjard Hayes running for the open district attorney’s seat currently held by Superior Court Judge-elect Scott Ballard; Karen Mathiak and incumbent John Yates running for the 73rd District Georgia General Assembly seat; and Mike Crane and Drew Ferguson running for the open Third U.S. Congressional District seat being vacated by Lynn Westmoreland.
The event, which is free to attend, will take place at the party headquarters, 174 North Glynn Street (Hwy. 85) in Fayetteville. The building is located behind Arby’s and Captain D’s.
The district attorney race in particular may heat up Monday, especially as the veracity of claims made by candidate Rudjard Hayes has been recently challenged.
Direct-mail pieces distributed by Hayes’ campaign as well as recent newspaper advertising claim Hayes has tried more than 300 felony jury trials with a 98-percent success rate during his 10-year span working as an assistant district attorney in the Griffin Judicial Circuit, which includes Fayette, Spalding, Upson, and Pike counties, and the Coweta Judicial Circuit, which includes Coweta, Carroll, Heard, Meriwether, and Troup counties.
Erik Manning, whose wife Cindy Manning was also a candidate in the district attorney race until the Primary Election in May, wrote a letter to the editor which was published in Wednesday’s editions of this newspaper and which challenged Hayes on several of the claims he has made in his political advertising.
Manning calls Hayes claim of trying over 300 felony jury trials “simply a lie.”
Manning said he has talked with many other prosecuting attorneys, and they say in this area of Georgia it is more likely that prosecutors would try maybe three to five felony jury trials a year. Manning said he remained quiet about Hayes’ claims during the three-way primary race, but he said after his wife lost he felt it was important to challenge Hayes’ information in time for voters to discover the truth before the July 26 runoff vote.
According to Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Scott Ballard, Hayes began working for his office in January 2005 and worked a little more than two years before quitting in early 2007. Ballard said this week the felony jury trials Hayes would have prosecuted during those years would not have proportionately supported Hayes’ claim.
Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Pete Skandalakis confirmed that Hayes worked for him prior to working for Ballard, and he said he also did not believe Hayes could have tried anywhere close to 300 felony jury trials in his total of 10 years as an assistant district attorney in both districts.
Skandalakis, who worked as an assistant district attorney in the Coweta Judicial Circuit for seven years before being elected district attorney in 1991, says that in all of his 32 years in that office he himself has not come close to trying 300 felony jury trials.
Hayes in his direct-mail pieces also claims he has “Experience managing multi-million dollar budget,” but both Ballard and Skandalakis say he never managed anything like that kind of budget while working for them.
Hayes further claims he is the only candidate in the race to run a “large DA office,” yet Ballard confirmed this week that Coker, who is approaching his 11th work anniversary, currently manages both the Pike County and Upson County offices for the Griffin Judicial Circuit and has done so successfully for several years.
Hayes would not return phone calls and other messages Friday. He reportedly told his assistant he would return calls from this newspaper on Monday morning.