WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (AP) — Local finances have taken center stage as voters in one middle Georgia city decide a mayoral runoff on Tuesday.
Current Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms has faced criticism from challenger LaRhonda Patrick as Toms seeks a third term after an $800,000 tax lien was levied against the city by the IRS.
Toms tells local news outlets that the IRS has already canceled half the supposed debt after Warner Robins successfully challenged the claim.
"When you look at this idea, even from my opponent, that there’s $800,000 of back taxes owed, that’s absolutely inaccurate,” Toms told WMAZ-TV.
Patrick says mistake or not, it creates a problem for the rapidly growing 80,000-person city and its taxpayers.
“It’s going to affect our credit rating, our bond rating, our interest rate when we start developing, its going to affect our taxes,” Patrick said.
Toms is a Warner Robins native, retired firefighter and U.S. Air Force veteran. He says the city had improved its parks and added police officers and firefighters during his tenure. He said he will continue his efforts to redevelop downtown Warner Robins.
“I’ve worked for this city for 35 years; it’s what I know, what I do,” Toms told the Telegraph of Macon. “If we’re able to win, we’re going to keep moving forward like we’ve been doing. Things are going well, and I hope the people will give me a chance to continue moving forward with the progress we’re making.”
Patrick, also a native, is currently city attorney for Fort Valley. Patrick would be the first Black person and first woman to be elected mayor of Warner Robins. A white woman served as acting mayor in 1993-94.
“I think I’ve shown voters I’m a true nonpartisan candidate,” Patrick said. “I put people over power. I stand for making sure that people are on the agenda, and I’m going to rally for what’s best for the city.”
Toms said he believes the city is already “as transparent as we could possibly be” when it comes to finances. But Patrick said several lawsuits could threaten the city's financial health. She promises a committee to help her oversee finances if elected.