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SW Georgia congressional candidate convicted in Jan. 6 Capitol riot case walks out on debate

Chuck Hand, a GOP candidate for the 2nd congressional district, abruptly left during Sunday’s Atlanta Press Club debate. J. Glenn Photography

Tensions in Georgia’s GOP primary for the 2nd congressional district came to a head Sunday at the Atlanta Press Club’s debate, with one candidate abruptly leaving after reading a prepared statement.

Wayne Johnson, a former Trump administration official, and Chuck Hand, who is a construction superintendent who was convicted of a misdemeanor for his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, are in a June 18 runoff. Johnson was the top vote-getter last month, winning about 45% of the vote. Hand came in second with 32%.

Whoever wins this month will face longtime Democratic incumbent Congressman Sanford Bishop of Albany in a southwest Georgia district that leans Democratic. Early voting starts Monday.

“I’m not interested in debating the issues of the 2nd District with a man who doesn’t even reside in it, especially one who orchestrates attacks on my wife,” Hand said in brief remarks during the debate at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta.

“This race is very simple. It’s either 8th District money or 2nd District heart. The choice is yours. It’s the dollar versus the change,” he said. “Now this is where I get back in my truck and head back to southwest Georgia because I got two races to win.”

Wayne Johnson, a GOP candidate for Georgia’s 2nd congressional district, answers questions during Sunday’s Atlanta Press Club debate. J. Glenn Photography

Hand is referring to a press conference held in late May in Columbus by third-place finisher Michael Nixon, who hired a law firm to investigate claims against Hand and his wife that Nixon said were passed along to him earlier in the race.

Nixon, who has endorsed Johnson, said he wanted the public to be aware that Hand and his wife “bring with them to this race significant criminal backgrounds and a demonstration of financial irresponsibility.”

After the debate, Johnson acknowledged that he does not currently live within the boundaries of the 2nd District. The Macon resident said he employs people in the district and owns properties inside the district and that he will move to a home he owns in Plains if elected, though it is not required. 

“I just didn’t think he wanted to stand in front of people and answer to what Michael Nixon put forth,” Johnson told reporters after the debate. “I’m a little bit – I won’t say surprised – I’m a little bit disappointed, because voters need to know who they’re sizing up to be their representative. And when you’re absent, nobody can size you up.”

After Hand left the Georgia Public Broadcasting studio, he was stopped by reporters who were covering the debate. Hand went on to take questions for about 18 minutes and provided remarks he said he planned to deliver soon at his own press conference in Columbus.

Hand called Nixon’s press conference “character assassination” but seemed to acknowledge that some of the claims publicly outlined by Nixon were true, such as the couple’s bankruptcy and his wife’s past conviction for a drug-related charge. His wife leads the local GOP party in Taylor County, which is home to about 8,000 people. He serves as vice chair. 

“It’s perfectly fine to attack me as a candidate. I expect that. But to come out and publicly attack my wife, that’s a completely different situation,” Hand said. “My wife has paid her debt to society, long before I ever met her. And she’ll tell you it was the best thing that ever happened to her. It changed her life for the better and now she walks with the Lord.”

But Hand disputed some of the details related to his arrest for the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, saying he grabbed a piece of aluminum fencing because he was concerned it would hurt someone and not because he planned to use it as a weapon. Hand was sentenced to 20 days in federal prison and six months of probation for his role on Jan. 6. 

He also says he was not convicted of older charges of criminal trespassing or driving under the influence of alcohol. He said he has been in recovery since 2017.

Sunday’s debate was part of the Atlanta Press Club’s Loudermilk-Young Debate Series. A shortened version of the debate went on without Hand, who was represented by an empty podium, with Johnson picking up the question about the in-the-works farm bill that Hand walked out on without answering.

Johnson said he has concerns about a U.S. House GOP proposal that would cut aid for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

Chuck Hand (left) and Wayne Johnson stand at their podiums during Sunday’s Atlanta Press Club debate at GPB’s studio shortly before Hand abruptly left the studio. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

“The farm bill has a lot of positives but at the end of the day, it’s not doing enough for the small-town farmer, particularly the Black farmer and rancher, and it’s also not doing enough to maintain these very important food nutrition programs,” Johnson said during Sunday’s program.

Johnson said he planned to ask Hand how he would win over Democrats to beat Bishop in November as part of the debate series’ custom of allowing the candidates to ask each other a question.

“This race will boil down to can we get 50,000 Democrats to vote Republican and can we get the Republicans to hold and vote Republican,” Johnson said. “Sanford Bishop has actually done, I think, a very good job over the years of coalescing both Democrats and Republicans.”

In his comments to reporters, Hand argues he is the best candidate to take on Bishop, calling himself the “2nd District First candidate.” 

“I’ve been doing the work on the ground for years working on defeating Sanford Bishop. That’s what it’s about. Standing in there just talking if, ands and buts, if we can get the job done, what would we do? That’s pointless. The job is defeating Sanford Bishop and I’m the candidate that can do that,” Hand said. 

Nixon told reporters last month that he shared what he had learned about the Hands because he wanted it to come out before a Republican candidate faced Bishop in the fall. 

“I would rather take care of dirty laundry inside the GOP before anything gets past the election so that way we do our due diligence,” Nixon said. 

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The post SW Georgia congressional candidate convicted in Jan. 6 Capitol riot case walks out on debate appeared first on Georgia Recorder.

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