Winner in Republican primary race will take on Democratic candidate Kerry Hamm in November
Editor’s note: This article was written and published by Elberton Star Reporter Rose Scoggins and University of Georgia classmates Tyler Wilkins and Kyle Peterson as part of their Multiplatform Story Production class at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The three Republican candidates will attend a forum hosted by The Star and WSGC radio Monday, May 26 at 6 p.m. (See details in story on this page)
By Rose Scoggins and Tyler Wilkins and Kyle Peterson
Three Republican men are seeking the District 33 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, for which incumbent state Rep. Tom McCall will not try to regain after more than 25 years of service.
Voters in the district will choose between Georgia Republican Leadership Academy Chairman Bruce Azevedo, Madison County Commissioner Tripp Strickland and Elberton attorney Rob Leverett in the Statewide General Primary on June 9. Whoever wins the primary election will face off against Kerry Hamm, the lone Democrat running for the seat, assuming no other Democratic candidates enter the race.
The district encompasses all of Elbert and Lincoln and parts of Columbia, Madison and Wilkes counties, all rural counties with Republican majorities.
With the onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the primary election for state legislative seats was rescheduled from May 18 to June 9, the same day that the Georgia Presidential Preference Primary will now take place. Between a two-month delay and the Statewide General Primary coinciding with a primary that traditionally boasts higher voter turnout, it’s hard to estimate how high voter turnout will be for the District 33 race.
Despite the unusual, unprecedented circumstances the candidates are facing, all three Republican candidates still hope to bring something different to their districts by winning the election.
• Bruce Azevedo
“I’m kind of a community-type guy,” said Azevedo, concerning his more than 25 years of both local and multinational community service. “I like to help people.”
Azevedo, a retired Navy Supply Corps chief warrant officer, would be “concentrating a lot on economic development,” the burning of railroad ties and the potential drainage of toxic waste into public waters. He also hopes to form an agricultural advisory committee that would report directly to him when issues arise.
Born and raised in California, Azevedo decided to make Georgia his home once he retired from the Navy.
“I just liked the Georgian people,” said Azevedo. “The people in Georgia really accepted me here.”
• Tripp Strickland
Strickland said McCall made progress for the district’s agricultural industry during his 25 years of service, serving as chairman for the Georgia House Committee for Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. And Strickland believes he’d be the right person to represent the district, as his constituents value agriculture, in which he has a strong background.
“I feel like I can be an advocate for [agriculture] more so than the other two [candidates],” Strickland said, who owns Georgia Metals in Danielsville. “This area has had that representation and advocacy for so long through McCall, and I don’t think it’s something that the other two are familiar with.”
Living on a farmhouse in Madison County for most of his life, Strickland has strong roots in the community, serving as both a county commissioner and on several other local government boards.
However, his name recognition doesn’t reach as far in other counties as it does in Madison County. In an effort to reach voters in other counties with which he’s not as familiar, Strickland said he’s mostly using word-of-mouth techniques, like speaking to customers at local restaurants in Elbert County while eating breakfast.
• Rob Leverett
Leverett, who comes from the same county as incumbent McCall and has experience representing local governments, said he would have “big shoes” to fill if elected. He also said he hopes to continue some of the work McCall has done over the past 25 years, including focusing on the agricultural field.
“I think sometimes agriculture gets overlooked or under-promoted because it’s not modern enough,” Leverett said. “It’s an essential part of the economy of our state. Movies and tourism are wonderful and they need to be promoted too, but agriculture bears such an essential function, and I particularly like eating.”
Leverett said he hopes Elbert County’s “more geographically centered” location in the district will allow him to connect with more voters in Madison, Columbia, Lincoln and Wilkes counties.
“I have a real desire to be of service to every part of the district and am trying [...] to meet people, get to know the elected officials,” Leverett said.