Candidates For House District 31 Debate Last Time Before Election

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By Ashley Thompson

The two candidates in the runoff for the House District 31 seat met to debate one last time before next week's election. The seat was left vacant after Barry Mask left office early to take another job.

What began as a respectful debate turned a little ugly toward the end. Both candidates are conservative republicans but that's about where their similarities end. Mike Holmes and Jimmy Collier come from different backgrounds and have different visions.

Collier and Holmes debated everything from medicaid and government assistance to legislation about boating DUIs. But the gloves came off at the closing of the forum, when the candidates exchanged shots at each other over campaign ads.

One attacking Holmes, suggests he represents special interest groups because he has support from numerous organizations, including the NRA.

"I'm not who he's painted me," says Holmes. "I'm not a politician. I've never run for public office. I'm a grassroots conservative activist and that's a lot different than a politician."

But Holmes isn't the only one playing defense. Collier says an ad put in the paper by Holmes implies that he's nothing more than an auto dealer, which he says he resents. Collier says he believes Holmes is sticking his noseup at him.

"My other money has come from individuals in the district and the money I put in myself," says Collier. "So I don't have to vote for this group or that group. I'm going in with an open mind."

With the legislature already in session, candidates will have to jump right in ready to go. A fact many constituents are well aware of.

"I think the person who would get in office needs to have been going down there and keeping up on all this stuff," says voter Butch Stanfield. "And we have one candidate that has and one candidate that hasn't."

Some who came to hear the candidates speak say the forum helped them make up their minds.

"I don't want to say what my vote is going to be but I certainly have my mind set," says Lucy Macklemore.

Though some voters left still unsure. Charles Kelly says his main concern is whether either candidate would legalize casino gambling in the county. But he says he never got an answer.

"We're broke and that's the one big bill, that until republicans and democrats and everybody else wake up to, we're going to be in sad shape buddy," Kelly says.

The runoff election is next Tuesday, January 28th