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McCall, Cooper set for April 30 debate in Democratic primary for 9th District Congress seat
9th District Democrats deciding on challenger for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins

A second Democratic primary debate is coming to Hall County, this one to help voters decide who will challenge U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, in November for his seat representing Georgia’s 9th District.

Gainesville teacher Josh McCall and Clayton Army veteran David Cooper are running for the Democratic nomination in the 9th District, which covers Northeast Georgia from the western edge of Fannin County in the northwest to Elbert County on the South Carolina border.

Hall County Democratic primary debate for 9th District seat in Congress

When: 6 p.m. April 30

Where: Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St.

Cost: Free

The two men are set to debate at 6 p.m. April 30 at the Gainesville Civic Center, according to the Hall County Democratic Party, which organized the event. The primary is May 22, though early voting begins the same day as the debate.

McCall, a teacher at Riverside Military Academy, declared his candidacy in early 2017 and has been an active presence on the Hall County political scene since then. Cooper jumped into the race in 2018 but has been a busy volunteer for Democratic candidates nationwide, including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid. He worked for the Environmental Protection Agency after leaving military service.

Jody Cooley, a Gainesville attorney who was a candidate against Collins for this seat in 2012, will moderate the debate. General topics — the environment, tax reform and others — will be provided to Cooley and the candidates by the executive committee of the party, according to Leigh Miller, second vice chair of the Hall Democratic Party.

Specific questions will be developed by Cooley based on the original list and feedback from the candidates, Miller said Friday.

While the 9th District is one of the most conservative in the nation, it has a dedicated, active bloc of Democrats that have been energized by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential victory and his time in office.

Key election dates

Registration deadline: Close of business April 24

Early voting: Starts April 30

Primary: May 22

Last day to mail an absentee primary ballot: May 18

General election: Nov. 6

More info: Hall County Elections Office

Groups like Indivisible Lumpkin and McCall himself have organized gun control rallies, health care marches and protests outside Collins’ Gainesville office since Trump took office in January 2017.

And with a passionate base of support lifting their sails, the two candidates in the 9th District have come out strong for left-wing campaign platforms.

Both men support universal health care, and McCall has made it a major part of his campaign given the Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, in 2017.

“From birth to death, every American must have guaranteed access to life-saving health care without a price tag, because our lives are worth more than money,” McCall says in his platform online. Cooper is calling for a ban on “combat-style weapons,” silencers and continuous-fire modifications, which includes bump stocks. He also believes the Second Amendment doesn’t give an individual right to own firearms.

“Nothing in those 27 words authorizes unabridged gun ownership for other uses (outside of national defense): hunting, home defense, vigilantism, personal defense, or supplementing law enforcement,” Cooper says of the amendment on his website.

He wants to restore net neutrality and revive the Fairness Doctrine for the airwaves, and both men have made the roasting of Trump a major part of their campaigns.

On Twitter, McCall calls Trump a “tyrant” and says he “fanned the flames of xenophobia” that led to the deaths of child refugees trying to escape Syria. Cooper calls the 2017 tax reform legislation the “Trump Tax Theft of 2017.”

But even set in bright contrast to Collins and Trump, the two Democrats aren’t one-dimensional candidates.

McCall’s campaign is shot through with Christian principles and rhetoric. He wants to eliminate federally required standardized testing in schools, and he believes international trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are “fundamentally un-American.”

Cooper, meanwhile, is calling for term limits for members of Congress.

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