A fire alarm sounded toward the beginning of Georgia's gubernatorial debate on Tuesday evening, serving to punctuate an already-awkward exhortation by Libertarian candidate Ted Metz to government employees put out of work by his plans to "get another job."
The debate came just one day after it was revealed that Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams had torched the state's flag in 1992 because it contained Confederate battle flag markings.
“Mr. Metz, you’ve promised to cut spending by slashing what you call ‘obsolete, inefficient, unnecessary and unconstitutional agencies.'” Greg Bluestein, a political reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, began. “What specifically would you eliminate and what do you say to Georgians who might depend on their services?”
“Get another job,” Metz responded, before the insistent dull buzz of a fire alarm sounded.
"What is that noise?" Metz asked. A moderator remarked: "The beauty of live TV."
Also during the debate, Metz, who has no realistic chance of prevailing in the gubernatorial contest, acknowledged halfway into his answer on a question about scholarships for illegal immigrants that he was not sure what the question actually entailed.
"I, uh, missed the question, I suppose," Metz said, as he proceeded to outline some general comments about his plans for immigration.
Metz was joined on stage by Abrams and the Republican nominee, two-term Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who are in a neck-and-neck race.
On Monday night, it emerged that Abrams had helped light a state flag on fire on the steps of the state's Capitol in June 1992, as part of a protest that her campaign on Monday night characterized as an effort to "overcome racially divisive issues." The flag at the time incorporated designs from the Confederate battle flag, and Abrams, then a freshman at Spelman College in Atlanta, was one of about a dozen demonstrators involved, according to newspaper accounts.
The issue came up swiftly on Tuesday. Asked about the issue, Abrams responded that she and others “were deeply disturbed” by the flag, and noted that Kemp had also voted to remove the Confederate battle flag symbols.
"I'm fighting now for Georgia values," Abrams said.
Kemp, who as secretary of state oversees elections in Georgia, then responded to a question regarding whether he should resign because of potential conflicts of interest.
"It's our county elections officials that are actually holding the election that is going on right now," Kemp said, adding that "local, bipartisan election boards" are responsible for keeping the voting tallies.
Kemp also said he would not recuse himself if the race came down to a recount.