Majette Run Upsets Democrats, Harrell Presents Another Choice

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(APN) ATLANTA – Denise Majette’s announcement yesterday that she is running for State School Superintendent has displeased many Democratic party leaders throughout Georgia, sources tell Atlanta Progressive News. Majette, a former Republican who has no education experience, will face Carlotta Harrell in the Democratic Primary.

Majette’s decision could disgust voters, causing problems for the entire Democratic ticket, some party leaders said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Party leaders see her announcement as politically calculated, say she has no positions on education, and say she has upset both Democrats and Republicans over the last few years, sources said.

However, the Democrats have another candidate for this position, Carlotta Harrell, who has been running for the position for over a year, campaigning at many small town venues.

Harrell, 45, with ten years’ experience in the public school system, has garnered support from many Democrats, and has been traveling the entire state to speak with other educators and parents.

The Associated Press (AP) did not even mention Harrell in an article on Majette’s announcement; failing to mention grassroots candidates is a continuing irresponsible and sometimes misleading practice of that wire service.

“I am not dropping out of the race. Since Denise’s announcement, I have been receiving phone calls and emails of support all across this state. The children of Georgia are my passion and I will always fight for them whether elected or not,” Harrell said about Majette’s announcement. Harrell is a teacher in Stockbridge, an activist, and a former police officer.

If our children are our future, then State School Superintendent is a critical job. The Superintendent is the executive officer of both the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education (DOE). This position is responsible for personnel decisions, and enforcement of all the laws, rules, regulations, policies and standards pertaining to grades K through 12 in our public schools.

Denise Majette caused major drama behind the scenes by requesting a meeting with Harrell asking her to drop out last week, sources had shared with Atlanta Progressive News at the time. Majette had still not made up her mind and was looking at a number of seats, sources said.

Over the past several months, Majette has toyed with the ideas of running for US Congress, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Education, and two judgeships, sources told Atlanta Progressive News.

Democratic Party officials were trying to get Majette to run for either of two judgeships, sources said, saying she was more qualified to do so because of her legal background.

Denise Majette, the former Republican who unseated US Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) from 2002 to 2004, has numerous Republican ties and supported Alan Keyes in the 2000 Presidential Elections, court documents show.

Many Republican Majette supporters pulled their funding when she announced she was running for US Senate in 2004, sources told Atlanta Progressive News. Majette lost to Johnny Isakson, now a US Senator (R-GA). Those funders had spent their money on Majette to get McKinney out of office and would not support a US Senate run, sources said.

McKinney won her seat back in 2004, has continued to be a progressive maverick, and is up for reelection this year.

“The ONLY reason that Congresswoman McKinney lost the [2002] election was because of the Republican crossover vote which accounted for over 50% of the votes cast for Defendant Majette,” court documents said.

“Denise Majette regularly met with and sought counsel from Republican party operatives both before and during her candidacy… Denise Majette accepted campaign contributions from known Republicans and those known to encourage Republican crossover voting. Denise Majette maintains many Republican beliefs and positions,” according to court documents.

ANOTHER CHOICE FOR GEORGIANS

“I imagine a Georgia that gives children the educational opportunity to climb as far and high as their God-given talents allow,” Carlotta Harrell said.

“Carlotta Harrell is a phenomenal person, hardworking, and committed to quality. She can make a difference in the life of a child,” Sherilyn Ward, an attendee at a Harrell fundraiser in Henry County, on March 16, 2006, said.

Harrell decided to run for office because she saw so much need for improvement in our schools, the candidate told Atlanta Progressive News in an exclusive interview.

During her trips around the state, Harrell said she heard a lot of frustration with inequalities in the way our schools are funded, especially from rural and impoverished districts. She is concerned about the inability of poor school systems to attract new teachers when they have to compete with some Atlanta Metro-area salaries, as well as having to meet other basic expenses.

In contrast, when Harrell’s and Majette’s Republican opponent, incumbent Kathy Cox, 41, campaigned in 2002, Cox held up her own Fayette County School District as a successful model for other systems without acknowledging Fayette has the highest per capita income of any Georgia county.

Educators throughout the state also expressed dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program, which Cox supports, Harrell said.

“If God wanted us all to be the same, he would have made us that way,” Harrell said in objection to the federally-required tests.

“This program takes away teachers’ creativity to respond to the different needs and talents of our children with one-size-fits-all testing in reading, math and science,” Harrell said.

Harrell is also concerned that private companies may be contracted to administer schools which “fail,” as is provided for in the NCLB.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Harrell claims. There are many success stories across the country from formerly underachieving school systems. She would like to study their methods and adapt them to Georgia schools. For example, Harrell noted one school district improved dramatically just by asking parents for their cooperation. “The principal and teachers literally went door to door inviting parents to participate. They found most parents had no idea the school was so dependent on them.”

Republican incumbent Kathy Cox made a notable misstep in January 2004, when Cox decreed the word “evolution” would be deleted from all state curricula and replaced with the phrase “biological changes over time.” The superintendent later withdrew her order.

About the authors:

Betty Clermont is a Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. She may be reached at betty@atlantaprogressivenews.com

Matthew Cardinale is the Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.

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