Georgia Republican convicted in Jan. 6 riot walks out of House primary debate against ex-Trump admin official

Georgia Republican Chuck Hand, a congressional candidate convicted of a misdemeanor related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, walked out of a televised House primary runoff debate on Sunday. 

Hand, a construction superintendent and vice chair of the Taylor County Republican Party, is competing against fellow Republican Wayne Johnson, a former official in the U.S. Department of Education during the Trump administration, in a June 18 primary runoff election in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District. 

The winner of the Republican nomination will take on 16-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Sanford Bishop in November.

The debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club and hosted at the Georgia Public Broadcasting studio began Sunday with Johnson responding to a question from the panel about what economic policies he’d support in Congress that would help southwest Georgian families who are struggling financially. Johnson argued voters mindful of inflation and the cost of gas, groceries, insurance and housing were dissatisfied with President Biden and Bishop’s economics and were looking toward “Trump and Johnson economics,” before a second panelist then posed a question to Hand. 

The panelist asked Hand about his thoughts on House Republicans’ plan regarding a new farm bill and if he’d support a “controversial proposal to cut food aid for low-income Americans.” In response, Hand delivered a prepared statement. 


Georgia Republican Chuck Hand walks out of a debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club with Republican Wayne Johnson on Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Atlanta. (J. Glenn/Pool via AP)

“I’m Chuck Hand, lifelong resident of the 2nd district. I’ve worked side by side with the people of the 2nd district solving problems since 2018. I’ve only seen this man next to me come around when it’s election time wanting to run for office,” Hand said. “I’ve been wearing tires slam out in southwest Georgia meeting with voters and building relationships in our communities for years now. I’m not interested in debating the issues of the 2nd district with a man who doesn’t even reside in it – especially one who orchestrates attacks on my wife.” 

“I’m more concerned about beating Sanford Bishop, representing you and passing the America First agenda and putting Donald Trump back in the White House,” Hand said. “This race is very simple. It’s either 8th district money or 2nd district heart. The choice is yours. It’s the dollar versus the change. Now this is where I get back in my truck and head back to southwest Georgia because I got two races to win.” 

Hand then walked away from the podium and exited the stage.

“You’re not staying?” asked anchor Donna Lowry. “You’re leaving, sir? OK.”

“Wow, I don’t even know how to react,” Johnson said.

Hand is one of at least four people convicted of Jan. 6-related offenses running for Congress this year, all as Republicans. He was sentenced to 20 days in federal prison and six months of probation.

Hand refused to debate Johnson after Michael Nixon, who finished third in the four-way May 21 primary, gave a press conference last month endorsing Johnson. 

Nixon brought up a 2005 criminal trespass charge and a 2010 DUI charge against Hand, both of which were dismissed.

At the press conference, Nixon also cited federal court documents to argue Hand’s participation in the Jan. 6 riot was more serious than Hand had claimed. Nixon claimed that Hand and his wife, Mandy Robinson-Hand, chairwoman of the Taylor County Republican Party, “bring with them to this race significant criminal backgrounds and a demonstration of financial irresponsibility.” 

Johnson alone on debate stage

Georgia Republican Wayne Johnson stands alone on the Atlanta debate stage on Sunday, June 9, 2024, after Chuck Hand walked off. (J. Glenn/Pool via AP)

“Most astounding is a felony conviction and multi-year sentencing for the unlawful trafficking of Opioids to people who live in Middle Georgia,” Nixon told reporters. “I believe that there is no telling of the emotional heartache and physical harm that has been caused to people by this unlawful and immoral behavior of trafficking of Opioids, which is recognized by all as having a devastating impact within our communities and upon our families.” 


The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Robinson-Hand served a year in prison and spent nine years on probation following a felony oxycodone conviction in 2008. She and her husband both pleaded guilty to “parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol Building,” a misdemeanor offense, related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.  

Speaking to reporters afterward Sunday, Johnson said Hand’s exit from the debate stage is more proof that Hand isn’t fit to be the Republican nominee.

“I would like to assume that Chuck Hand’s departure, the way in which he did it today, was his withdrawal from the race,” Johnson said, according to The Associated Press. “But it certainly should cause people to pause and think about why he did it and what he was trying to get by doing it.”

Hand and Johnson on debate stage

Georgia Republican Chuck Hand, left, speaks during a debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club with Republican Wayne Johnson on Sunday, June 9, 2024. (J. Glenn/Pool via AP)

After Hand walked out of the debate, he answered questions from reporters for nearly 20 minutes, saying he believed Johnson had helped orchestrate the attacks by Nixon. Hand was particularly critical that Nixon brought up the earlier conviction of his wife for illegal sale of oxycodone. 

“It’s perfectly fine to attack me as a candidate. I expect that. But to come out and publicly attack my wife, that’s a completely different situation,” Hand said. “My wife had paid her debt to society long before I ever met her.” He also attacked Johnson for not living in the bounds of the district, which isn’t required for congressional candidates. 


Johnson told reporters he lives just outside the district in Macon, saying he has invested in businesses in the district and would move to a house he owns in Plains, Jimmy Carter’s hometown, if elected.

Johnson won almost 45% of the vote in the May 21 primary while Hand won almost 32%. 

Because no one won a majority, voters will decide the nominee in a runoff. Early in-person voting begins Monday ahead of the June 18 election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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