The two remaining candidates for the District 80 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives took the stage together in Brookhaven on Aug. 6 and discussed education reform, ethics, taxes and problems with DeKalb County’s government.

Along the way, Republican J. Max Davis and Democrat Taylor Bennett, who face one another in the Aug. 11 runoff election, also managed to take a couple of quick swipes at one another during a forum sponsored by the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce.

“The folks who run and control DeKalb County are behind my opponent,” Davis told more than 100 residents who attended the hour-long forum at Oglethorpe University. “They do not want me in there.”

Bennett responded: “He said it best. The people of DeKalb County do want me in there because I am the best option.”

House District 80 candidates J. Max Davis, left, and Taylor Bennett chat before a forum at Oglethorpe University on Aug. 6.
House District 80 candidates J. Max Davis, left, and Taylor Bennett chat before a forum at Oglethorpe University on Aug. 6.

The two seek the legislative seat vacated by the resignation of former Rep. Mike Jacobs, a Brookhaven Republican, after his appointment to a judgeship. They were the top two finishers in the July special election in the four-candidate race to represent District 80, which covers Brookhaven and portions of Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Dunwoody.

Davis, the founding mayor of Brookhaven, touted the young city’s accomplishments during his term as mayor. In its first two years, he said, Brookhaven had paved roads, built sidewalks, established a police force and spent much more on the parks than the county had.

“I want to continue the positive momentum I started as mayor of Brookhaven,” Davis said. He said he also wanted to follow the lead of his father, a long-time Republican legislator.

Bennett, a former Georgia Tech quarterback, said he wanted to bring change to the Republican-dominated state House.

Asked about a proposal to allow cities such as Brookhaven to start their own school system, Davis said he supported the plan. “We need better educational options for our children,” Davis said.

Bennett said he didn’t oppose the approach, but said it would put the responsibility for paying for the system on local taxpayers. He argued that the state should provide more money for local schools.

“We systematically [underfund] education and that’s not acceptable,” Bennett said. “We have to invest in it if we’re going to ask our children to be invested in it.”

Davis said he wanted to cap property tax hikes and sharply criticized DeKalb County’s government. “DeKalb County has too much money,” Davis said. “It’s time to run off the spigot.”

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.