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Mercer to host state superintendent debate ahead of November elections

A student enters the School of Medicine at Mercer University. Photo by Emily Rose Thorne.
A student enters the School of Medicine at Mercer University. Photo by Emily Rose Thorne.

The candidates for state superintendent will debate the future of Georgia’s public schools at the Mercer University School of Medicine auditorium Oct. 16.

Otha Thornton Jr., a Democrat, will challenge incumbent Republican Richard Woods for the superintendent seat in the Nov. 6 election.

Thornton is a military contractor and the first black president of the National Parent-Teacher Association, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He served in Iraq and worked as communications personnel director for the White House.

He opposes the recent push from some leading conservatives to arm teachers with guns, a decision Woods told the AJC should be made at a local level.

Thornton supports increasing funds for public education, while Woods prioritizes school choice and increasing flexibility in standardized testing methods.

In his platform, Woods also rejects federal education regulations and advocates for states to make individual decisions on topics ranging from school lunches to bathroom policies for transgender students.

The two candidates will face off Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.

While Mercer is hosting the event, several civic advocacy and education groups in Macon and Atlanta will sponsor it. The Macon chapter of The League of Women Voters is one organization involved in bringing this piece of the democratic process to Mercer.

Voter Service Chair Carolyn Hargrove said the non-partisan organization is bringing the debate to a college campus to motivate young voters.

“Forums and debates are two ways we educate voters about candidates and issues. We also have a long history of voter registration,” she said in an email.

The League is sponsoring the debate not to support a particular candidate, but to educate voters, Hargrove said.

“We strongly encourage Mercer students to attend,” she said.

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