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GOP candidates meet in Tuesday debate in Forsyth
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One week before the July 20 primary, Republican gubernatorial candidates will face off Tuesday in Forsyth County.

The local Republican Party is holding a debate to give county voters one last look at the hopefuls.

"Candidates want to feel out where the best place is to be the week before the election and, fortunately, they think Forsyth County is important enough to come here right before the primary," said Ethan Underwood, chairman of the local GOP.

The debate is the fourth the party has held in the past three weeks. The earlier gatherings focused on the local contests for county commission, school board and state House.

While seven Republicans are running for governor, Underwood said only the four who are polling more than 5 percent were invited.
"When you get too many candidates in the room, it's hard to have a dialogue and we wanted to take the folks that we think have the most likely shot at being in the runoff," he said.

As of Friday, Karen Handel and Nathan Deal had confirmed they will participate. John Oxendine has declined the invitation and Eric Johnson is pending, Underwood said.

Also in the Republican primary are Jeff Chapman, Ray McBerry and Otis Putnam.

The winner of the Republican race, which could be determined in an August runoff, will face Libertarian candidate John Monds and the winner of the Democratic primary.

Democrats vying for the seat include Thurbert Baker, Roy Barnes, Bill Bolton, Carl Camon, Randal Mangham, DuBose Porter and David Poythress.

The event Tuesday won't be a forum.

Questions will be asked of each candidate, with opportunities for rebuttals.

Underwood said he expects lively debate and a packed house.

"We have a high Republican population and a large voting base," he said. "Every vote is going to count in this general primary, so I think each candidate is trying to get consistent Republican voters and get as many of them out as possible."