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House District 143: Lonzy Edwards, James Beverly have spirited debate on WMAZ-TV

Republican Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited Macon on April 6 and signed a local bill sponsored by Rep. James Beverly who is running for re-election.
Republican Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited Macon on April 6 and signed a local bill sponsored by Rep. James Beverly who is running for re-election.Georgia Public Broadcasting/ GPB

On Saturday, April 26, State Rep. James Beverly and former Bibb County commissioner Lonzy Edwards appeared on Central Geogia's largest television station, WMAZ-TV and its weekly public affairs program, "Close-Up".

This isn't the first time that the two candidates debated. On Thursday, April 24, the League of Women Voters in Bibb County sponsored an event at the Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in downtown Macon

Edwards and Beverly are both Democratic candidates for the East Macon-based House District 143 seat in the Georgia General Assembly.

Both answered questions involving issues such as each other's position to Macon-Bibb consolidation among other things which included each other's professional credentials and qualifications.

Beverly signed his name to House Bill 1171 in the spring of 2012, known as the Macon-Bibb consolidation law which was pushed by local Republicans led by State Rep. Allen Peake and State Sen. Cecil Staton.

Despite opposition for HB-1171 from Beverly's mostly African-American state House district, the two-term state representative sided with legislation that reconstructed local government and specifically dissolved the majority-black Macon City Council and made the sheriff the 'top cop' over the appointed police chief.

Beverly cited poverty as an issue that he wanted to address and touted publicly on WMAZ-TV, but his affirmative vote for Allen Peake's consolidation legislation is seen by Edwards as a 'payoff' for his support of Macon-Bibb consolidation.

It is not likely that HB-1171 will make local government more efficient for Macon-Bibb, but make things such as passing a budget more complicated in the short-term and long-term.

Republican Governor Nathan Deal, who has been a vocal opponent of President Barack Obama and opposed Medicaid expansion which would help the poor and disenfranchised, came to Macon in April in support of Rep. Beverly's House Bill 896 which would expand the Macon-Bibb Community Enhancement Authority.

Edwards challenged Beverly about the expansion of the Community Enhancement Authority by saying 'where's the money'? In essence, this poverty initiative is viewed mostly as an unfunded mandate which would have a minimal impact.

Local Republicans got what they wanted by reducing the electoral impact of African-Americans in Macon-Bibb and got a bonus from Beverly by his signature being added to HB-1171 and staying primarily quiet about all the details of the proposed consolidation law in 2012.

Beverly ran unopposed in 2012 and had little resistance or pushback in the form of political opposition until early March 2014 when Edwards decided to qualify as a candidate for House District 143.

Edwards admitted that Macon-Bibb consolidation is a reality, but expressed a desire to proposal changes via legislation if elected.

Prior to Macon-Bibb consolidation passing, questions were raised in regard to how commission districts were drawn and after the governor had signed the new law, details emerged in June 2012 such as a two-thirds mandate was required to pass a budget instead of a simple majority.

If the consolidation bill was flawed, then Beverly should not have voted for it and take the principled stand despite Republicans being in control of the local delegation and the General Assembly.

Early voting begins on Monday, April 28 and the general primary is scheduled for Tuesday, May 20.

There are no Republican opponents and the winner of the Edwards-Beverly contest will be the new state representative of House District 143.