Chuck Hand (Photo courtesy of Thomasville Times Enterprise)

ATLANTA – What began as a debate between the two Republicans who made the June18 runoff in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District shortly evolved into a monologue.

After making an opening statement Sunday evening, construction superintendent Chuck Hand walked off the Georgia Public Broadcasting stage in Midtown Atlanta, leaving it to Wayne Johnson, the other Republican looking to challenge longtime U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, in the general election in November.

“I’m not interested in debating the issues of the 2nd District with a man who doesn’t even reside in it,” Hand said before walking out of the debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.

Johnson, who worked in the Trump administration as head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Student Finance, lives in Macon, which is outside the 2nd District. However, federal law does not require members of the U.S. House to live in the district they represent.

After Hand’s departure, Johnson reminded voters that Hand pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Johnson accused Hand of not being honest with the public about his activities that day.

“Mr. Hand’s depiction of his and his wife’s involvement on Jan. 6 is a far cry from what the official record shows,” Johnson said.

Johnson spent the rest of the “debate” fielding questions from two reporters and a moderator on various issues facing the federal government.

Johnson said illegal immigration in general and the nation’s policy toward asylum seekers in particular need to be brought under control. He said the Venezuelan national accused of murdering 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley on the University of Georgia campus in February was allowed into the U.S. in 2022 as an asylum seeker.

“We have got to get control of this free-wheeling asylum policy … (and) slam the border shut,” he said.

Johnson also said he opposes a proposed $30 billion cut in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) commonly known as food stamps.

“It’s going to impact low-income families significantly,” he said. “It’s also going to impact the farmers that produce food for SNAP.”

Johnson supported eliminating federal support for student loans.

“What we need to do is stop making student loans and do defined-amount grants,” he said. “We shouldn’t burden somebody as they’re leaving school with loan obligations. We should empower them with the fact that they got an education.”

Johnson defended in vitro fertilization as a “wonderful tool for people that are struggling to have children” in a nation with a declining birth rate but argued the federal government shouldn’t pay for the procedure.

The 2nd Congressional District encompasses Southwest Georgia from Columbus and portions of Bibb County south to the Florida line.