Right-Wing Blogger among Candidates for State House (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — Buzz Brockway, 43, has been ruffling the feathers of Georgia’s political establishment for years as a blogger and commentator on local, statewide, and national politics.
This year, though, he is campaigning to be a State House representative for House District 101 in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Atlanta Progressive News spoke with Brockway and other candidates for State House about their campaigns this year in order to provide our readers with an overview of State House races in the Metro Atlanta area, as well as a few interesting ones across Georgia, for 2010. We will follow-up shortly with an overview of State Senate races.
APN’s Board of Directors has also made some initial endorsement decisions to be unveiled over the next few days. One of them is former State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas, who is running for her old seat in State House District 55 in Atlanta.
BUZZ FOR STATE HOUSE DISTRICT 101
Brockway is one of two Republicans running in the Primary Elections for State House District 101, Lawrenceville; the other candidate is Jesse Jones. There are no Democrats running in the race.
“I’ve been blogging for Peach Pundit for five years now, I did some blogging on my own before that,” Brockway told APN in an interview.
“It’s a great way to express your opinion. It forces you to refine your thoughts and you have to put it in words and actually defend yourself, your views, it forces you to dig a little deeper,” Brockway said.
But Brockway says he’s always been active in politics, even while blogging.
“I’ve been active in the Republican Party out here in Gwinnett County for 14 years. I was Chairman from 2003 to 2005 of the Republican Party of Gwinnett County. I was chairman and managed a few campaigns for local politicians out here,” Brockway said.
“I’ve been passionate about issues for a long time and really looking for an opportunity to run,” Brockway said.
The incumbent, State Rep. Mike Cohen, a Republican, decided not to run again, after he received a state-level appointment.
How does being a blogger affect Brockway’s campaign? “Well, I think it’s kind of good and bad. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve written out there, I kind of have a history of taking opinions on a lot of stuff.”
“I am aware of the issues people are taking about. I think I have a pretty good handle on what folks are interested in. I’m used to articulating. I think that will come in handy,” Brockway said.
Make no mistake, Brockway is not a progressive. “I’m pretty Conservative. I’m pretty far to the right,” he said, clarifying, “I’m not a bomb thrower.”
“On both [social and economic policy issues], I think the government should stay out of it, but in my personal life I’m pretty Conservative,” he said.
For most voters in the District, though, he says his blog has not even been an issue. “It’s weird, I guess the general public doesn’t know that I’m a blogger, not that it’s a secret. Peach Pundit is well read in political circles.”
Brockway says if he wins the election, he will continue to blog. “If I win, I’ll have to give careful thought about how I blog. When you’re an elected official, every word is parsed and observed,” he added.
In District 39, Cobb County, State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan faces a challenger in the Democratic Primary, Betty Gray.
In District 40, Cobb County, two candidates are facing off to replace State Rep. Rob Teilhet, who is running in the Democratic Primary for State Attorney General. Stacey Evans is a Democrat; Scott McDearman is a Republican.
In District 44, Atlanta, State Rep. Sheila Jones, a Democrat, is being challenged by Steven Lee in the Primary.
In District 45, Marietta, Republican incumbent, State Rep. Matt Dollar, is being challenged by RuthE Levy, an activist with the East Cobb Democratic Alliance. This is Levy’s second time running for this seat, in a heavily Republican district. She also previously ran for State Senate and lost.
“I’m running in a Republican District where people are increasingly unhappy with the state of our schools and the economy. People are worried about their jobs. Another one is HB 1184 where insurance companies would not have to cover mammograms, pap smears, or hospital stays after C sections; he [Dollar] voted for it,” Levy said.
“I’m going out there and talking to people, passing out flyers, shaking hands. These flyers, I print them at home, put them on bright colors and hang them on doors. Democrat or Republican, people are upset about the schools. When I talk to the women, most of them get pretty upset that they would pass a bill not to cover other things that affect women. This person obviously did not think about his mother. It doesn’t seem to me he cares about women if he’s gonna vote yes,” Levy said.
“It’s time to replace our Dollar with someone who makes sense,” Levy wrote in one of her campaign flyers.
“They say you have to touch people seven to nine times in order to get them to know you recognize your name and get them to change. This is my third time running. I’m hoping all the touches in the first two times will be cumulative,” Levy said.
“I’m hoping people will wake up and realize it’s time for a change. They do have a choice, and that choice is me,” Levy said.
In District 50, Johns Creek, Fulton County Commissioner Lynne Riley–a Republican who advocates for the creation of a Milton County to secede from Fulton–is the only candidate running for the State House seat. She is giving up her Fulton County commission seat.
In District 51, Norcross, Brooke Nebel has qualified to appear on the ballot in November as an Independent candidate. She is challenging State Rep. Tom Rice, a Republican. Rice is also facing Neal Towery in the Republican Primary.
Nebel was previously running as a Democrat, but became disgusted with the Democratic Party of Georgia.
In District 55, Atlanta, “Able” Mable Thomas, a progressive activist, is running for her old seat. She gave up the seat in 2008 to run for US Congress against US Rep. John Lewis, and lost.
State Rep. Rashad Taylor won the seat in 2008 and also has taken on leadership roles with the Kasim Reed for Mayor and John Eaves for Fulton County Commission campaigns.
Thomas, incidentally, endorsed Mary Norwood for Mayor against Reed, and is supporting Norwood in her current campaign for ballot access to run against Eaves. (CLARIFICATION: Thomas says she has not made an endorsement in that race, but is simply being supportive of Norwood’s right to get on the ballot.)
Thomas also previously served as a member of the City Council of Atlanta.
Thomas has been one of the few elected officials in Atlanta to be a progressive champion for causes like homeless people and residents of public housing in Atlanta.
Thomas argues that Taylor has poorly represented the citizens of District 55, and said that if she is re-elected, that Taylor “will be free” to work on as many campaigns as he wants to.
Previously, APN has endorsed Thomas in her campaign for US Congress in 2008, and is endorsing Thomas again this year in this race.
A review of APN’s archives shows that Thomas has appeared in at least 23 news articles since APN’s founding in 2005. Thomas protested Atlanta’s pandhandling ban, protested the Gateway Center evicting homeless women in the winter, protested at a pro-choice rally, protested the public housing demolitions, and held state hearings concerning the demolitions.
Thomas said she felt betrayed by State Sen. Vincent Fort, a fellow progressive colleague, who is endorsing State Rep. Taylor over former State Rep. Thomas. Fort said that Taylor is his protege. But Thomas said that she, not Taylor, has been the one willing to fight alongside Fort.
“When he’s having a press conference, who does he call?” Thomas asked. “Not Rashad Taylor.”
As Campaign Manager for Eaves’s re-election campaign, Taylor is also responsible for the efforts to disenfranchise thousands of Fulton County voters.
As previously reported by APN, Eaves’s campaign has attempted to challenge several thousand signatures collected by the Norwood campaign for the mere technicality that the Norwood campaign pre-printed the word “Fulton” on the petition instead of the voters writing it in themselves.
In District 59, Atlanta, Brad Ploeger has qualified as an Independent candidate to challenge State Rep. Margaret Kaiser, a Democrat in Atlanta, in November.
In District 60, Atlanta, former Atlanta City Councilwoman Gloria Tinubu, a Democrat, is the only candidate running for the seat being vacated by State Rep. Georganna Sinkfield, who after 28 years in the State House, is running for Secretary of State of Georgia.
Tinubu previously also served as a Board Member for the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, although it is unclear why she left.
In District 61, Atlanta, State Rep. Ralph Long is being challenged in the Democratic Primary by Emory McClinton. Long was one of the only elected officials to endorse Mary Norwood for Mayor in 2009.
In District 65, Atlanta, State Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague is being challenged in the Democratic Primary by George Sneed.
In District 70, Newnan, an Independent candidate, Keith Tompkins, has qualified to challenge State Rep. Lynn Smith, a Republican, in the General Election.
In District 74, Clayton County, State Rep. Roberta Abdul Salaam is being challeneged in the Democratic Primary by Emory Wilkerson.
In District 76, Clayton County, three candidates are running for the seat being vacated by State Rep. Mike Glanton. Glanton is running for the seat being vacated by State Sen. Gail Buckner, who is running in the Democratic Primary for Secretary of State.
The three candidates, each Democrats, are Carlotta Harrell, Thomas Pough, and Sandra Scott.
Harrell previously ran for State School Superintendent in 2006 and received the endorsement of APN. This year she has received numerous endorsements so far, she tells APN, including Planned Parenthood, Georgia Equality, and the AFL-CIO.
In District 80, Atlanta, State Rep. Mike Jacobs, a Republican, is being challenged by two Democrats. The two Democrats, Keith Gross and Sandy Murray, will face off in the Primary.
Gross is an openly homosexual activist who at one point was considering partnering with a firm to launch a new GLBT publication in Atlanta. However, apparently, those plans were shelved.
In District 81, Atlanta, State Rep. Jill Chambers, a Republican, is being challenged by Elena Parent, a Democrat. Parent has been receiving significant support from the Democratic Party of Georgia and in particular, State Rep. Stephanie Benfield of Atlanta. Parent reportedly invested a great deal of her personal funds into this campaign.
In District 82, Atlanta, two candidates are vying for the seat that became open with the retirement of State Rep. Kevin Levitas, a Democrat.
The only Democratic candidate to qualify is Scott Holcomb, a Democrat, who was previously criticized by Atlanta Progressive News for accepting donations from a Choicepoint Executive’s wife while running for Secretary of State in 2006.
Allan Williamson has also qualified to run as an Independent candidate in the General Election.
In District 85, Atlanta, State Rep. Stephanie Benfield, a progressive Democrat, is being challenged by a Republican, Kenneth Quarterman.
In District 88, Stone Mountain, State Rep. Billy Mitchell, a Democrat, is being challenged in the Primary by Simone Joye.
In District 89, Stone Mountain, State Rep. “Coach” Williams, a Democrat, is being challenged in the Primary by Rev. Kenneth Samuel, a progressive activist. As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Samuel has been a consistent community activist for a number of progressive causes.
In District 94, Dekalb and Rockdale Counties, five candidates are vying for an open seat. Incumbent, State Rep. Randal Mangham, a Democrat, is running in the Primary for Governor of Georgia.
Four Democrats–Andrew Bostic, Dar’shun Kendrick, Rhonda Peek, and Sherri Washington–will face off in the Primary. Kendrick previously volunteered for Reed for Mayor.
The winner of the Primary will face Steven Conner, a Republican, in the General.
In District 96, Norcross, Brian Mock, a progressive activist, is challenging State Rep. Pedro Marin, another progressive activist.
Marin, who is Hispanic, has emerged as a leader in statewide and national movements for immigration reform. As previously covered by APN, Marin has participated in forums and press conferences concerning alleged racial profiling in Georgia.
“He’s constantly on airplane going somewhere to talk about something that has nothing to do with our district,” Mock said.
Mock, a hotel manager, has criticized Marin for spending too much time on immigration issues while the District itself is falling apart due to lack of jobs, crime, and foreclosures. These are some of the issues Mock plans to address.
Mock said that Marin had recently met with President Barack Obama to discuss Puerto Rico. “I realize he’s Puerto Rican. But nobody in my district cares about whether Puerto Rico becomes a state or not. He’s on this crusade to be the leader of the Hispanic community, that’s something that really needs to be done in the private sector.”
Mock has sent out thousands of mailers and “been knocking on doors two to three hours a day for two months.”
“I’m finding more and more it’s a Republican district, but for some reason Republicans don’t come out to vote,” Mock told APN in an interview.
“I think he’s taking this for granted,” Mock said of Marin, “thinking he doesn’t have to go out and campaign because he’s a four-term incumbent.”
Mock said he would help address crime in his district because “I’ve got a good relationship with the sheriff in Gwinnett County and Norcoss, the Norcross City Council and Mayor, the County Commission. He [Marin] and the sheriff butt heads, they don’t see eye to eye on anything.”
Mock also wants to crack down on unlicensed businesses. “You know there’s five or six vans parked in a front yard with ladders on top. People running paint companies and construction out of their garages. I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s mostly Mexicans. That has no bearing on it but they’re not pulling their weight and not paying taxes.”
“You just see things that you disagree with. I’m just the kind of the person… instead of complaining… do something about it,” Mock said.
Marin did not respond to a message sent to his Facebook inbox seeking comment.
In District 103, Gwinnett County, Allan Burns, who previously ran for US Congress against US Rep. John Linder (R-GA), is running to unseat State Rep. David Casas, a Republican. Casas also faces Steve Ramey in the Republican Primary.
In District 159, Savannah, State Rep. Ann Purcell, a Republican, is being challenged by Tawana Garrett, a 30 year-old college student who is supporting former State Sen. Regina Thomas in her campaign against US Rep. John Barrow (D-GA).
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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