Empty seat drives home O’Toole’s decision to skip Tea Party event

A seat was left empty on stage when state Senate candidate Marlene O’Toole did not appear at the Villages Tea Party debate Monday evening at Savannah Center.

David Gee and Dennis Baxley flank an empty seat designated for Marlene O'Toole.
David Gee and Dennis Baxley flank an empty seat designated for Marlene O’Toole.

A chair and card with O’Toole’s name on it were placed between State Senate District 12 candidates David Gee and Dennis Baxley who were both present at the debate.

Tea Party president Aileen Milton shared how the event came to be, informing the audience that all the candidates agreed to attend the debate before it was even publicly announced.

Milton also stated that O’Toole even “told her what kind of format she wanted,” but suddenly withdrew from the debate during a recent event at the Republican Headquarters grand opening.

“She was invited, don’t believe she wasn’t,” Milton asserted as she explained that O’Toole was supposedly telling people she was not invited to the event.

Candidates for Congress Justin Grabelle and Daniel Webster were there for the debate.

Former U.S. Senate Secratary for the Majority Elizabeth Chryst moderated the event and asked the candidates questions related to seven topics: immigration, tax reform, health care laws, veteran affairs, trade deals, Second Amendment rights, and education.

All the candidates on stage answered general questions, while some questions, such as ones that dealt with trade deals, were tailored to federal and state interests.

Discussing border security, the candidates were on board with stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the country, but had different ways of tackling the issue. While Grabelle and Gee proposed ridding the country of sanctuary cities and counties, Baxley claimed he did not believe in sanctuary havens.

On the topic of education, the question posed was why have we let our higher educations be taken over by the liberal agenda.

Gee took the opportunity to criticize O’Toole by stating, “let’s start with Mrs. O’Toole please,” and continued explaining how government overreach, through programs such as Common Core, have marred the education system.

The rest of the candidates agreed that education should return to the states and community.

Every candidate agreed on fair tax, repealing and replacing Obamacare, and improving the treatment for veterans, but they also gave their own versions of solutions to address each issue.

There were heated moments among the candidates during the rebuttals in an attempt to gain support and votes from the audience.

All the candidates will face off in their respective races in the Aug. 30 primaries.