Incumbent candidates for local, federal races likely to be no-shows at this weekend’s primary debates

Charlie Bailey debates an empty podium in 2022.

Charlie Bailey debates an empty podium at the Atlanta Press Club debates in 2022. (Credit: Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon)

Apr 25, 2024

ATLANTA — One of Georgia’s prominent media organizations is pleading with incumbent state and congressional candidates to participate in its primary election debates slated for Sunday.

For the first time in The Atlanta Press Club’s 30-year debate history, incumbents facing challengers in the May 21 primary have either declined or not yet committed to participating in the organization’s well-known debate series. The possible no-shows include candidates in four Congressional races as well as the Georgia Supreme Court, and the Fulton County District Attorney races. 

“This is the first time that we've had so many [incumbents] not participate,” debate organizer Lauri Strauss told State Affairs.  Strauss declined to speculate why candidates aren’t participating.

Hoping to encourage more participation, the organization issued the following statement:

“The Atlanta Press Club believes it is the responsibility of people running for public office to answer questions from their local media that will help inform voters before they cast their ballots. If a candidate is running for public office, the candidate should be willing to participate in the democratic process, which includes attending debates and fielding questions from journalists and opponents.”

Candidates have until Friday to RSVP. 

Strauss said candidates who fail to appear will be represented on stage by an empty podium during the debate. 

District Attorney Fani Willis has declined to participate and Democratic U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath and David Scott have yet to RSVP. Strauss said the organization is still in talks with Georgia Supreme Court Justice Andrew Pinson’s staff  about his appearance in the debate.

Willis, declined earlier this week to participate, citing constraints around talking about sensitive cases like the criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump.

McBath currently represents the 7th Congressional District and is now running in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District against two Democratic challengers, Jerica Richardson and Mandisha Thomas. McBath declined to participate in the press club’s general election debate in 2022, forcing her Republican challenger Mark Gonsalves to debate with an empty podium. McBath won with 61% of the vote.

The debates will air live  on April 28 on, on The Atlanta Press Club’s Facebook page ( It will be rebroadcast in early May on

RaceTape and Livestream
Sun. April 28
GPB-TV BroadcastWABE Broadcast
Congressional District 6 Democrats10:00 a.m.April 29 at 7:00 p.m.May 1 at 4:30 p.m.
Congressional District 13 Democrats11:15 a.m.April 28 at 4:00 p.m.May 1 at 5 p.m.
Congressional District 3 Republicans1:00 p.m.April 28 at 5:00 p.m.May 2 at 3:30 p.m.
Congressional District 2 Republicans3:00 p.m.April 29 at 5:00 p.m.
Georgia Supreme Court4:45 p.m.May 2 at 4:30 p.m.
DeKalb County CEO5:45 p.m.May 2 at 5:15 p.m.
Fulton County District Attorney6:45 p.m.May 1 at 4 p.m.

Have questions or comments? Contact Jill Jordan Sieder on X @journalistajill or at [email protected] and Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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