PERRY, Ga. — The sharpest exchange that occurred at Thursday night’s debate between Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) and state Rep. Austin Scott (R) took place moments after the event ended.
As the crowd was beginning to file out of the debate hall at the Georgia National Fairgrounds, Marshall and Scott were still onstage, less than a foot apart, pointing their fingers at each other, clearly in the midst of a heated discussion.
Although the two were out of reach of a microphone, Scott’s louder voice could be heard repeatedly demanding to know whether the Congressman had made a state open records request concerning Scott’s divorce proceedings.
Scott’s 10-year-old divorce records have become a subject of heightened interest in the 8th district contest ever since a Democratic activist filed a motion earlier this month asking that they be unsealed. A state Superior Court judge has scheduled a hearing on the motion for the week before Election Day.
After Scott walked off the stage Thursday night, Marshall gave his version of what the two had been arguing about to reporters.
“He asked me whether or not my campaign had made an inquiry concerning the divorce records. My campaign made an inquiry of all his records,” the Congressman said.
Marshall said the inquiries were part of the “standard research” that candidates carry out against each during an election.
But “when we found out they were sealed, we backed off,” Marshall said, referring to the divorce records.
Scott declined to offer his take on the post-debate exchange, except to say, “Desperate people do desperate things, and he’s a desperate person that will do anything he can to save his job.”
The divorce records, and whether Marshall had a role in bringing them to light, was the subject of one of the questions the Congressman was asked during the debate Thursday night.
“I had nothing to do with the filing of the petition. It really gripes me that people accuse me of having had something to do with that,” Marshall said. “Had I wanted to get this done it would have been done a long time ago. It would not have been brought up at the very last minute.”
The Congressman said rumors about Scott’s divorce were first started by the campaign of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), whom Scott had once been viewed as a possible challenger against earlier this year.
Scott said during the debate that he and his ex-wife are “at peace with our divorce” but that they will both “respect the ruling of the court” when it decides whether their records should be opened to the public later this month.
In an interview Thursday afternoon with Roll Call, Marshall said that since the divorce issue has come up, the public should have a right to know what’s in the sealed documents
“I’ve heard consistent allegations of what’s in there, and it’s not pretty stuff,” Marshall said. “There are things that go on in marriages that can shed light on the character of the individual.”