APN 2014 Endorsements Pt 2: Wilson, Pitts, Darnell/Edwards, Muhammad, Robertson, Mann, Decline/SOS, Decline/HD 58
(APN) ATLANTA — The Atlanta Progressive News Board of Directors has made selections for the Georgia 2014 Primary and Non-partisan Election.
On May 06, 2014, we announced our initial list of endorsements, which including: State Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) for Governor of Georgia; former State Sen. Steen Miles (D-Decatur) for U.S. Senate; State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) for reelection to Senate District 36; and Kyle Williams for SD 42. We declined to endorse a candidate for U.S. House for Georgia’s fourth Congressional District, the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).
Today, we are endorsing Valerie Wilson for State School Superintendent; Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts (District 2) for Fulton County Chairman; both Commissioners Emma Darnell (District 5) and Bill Edwards (District 7) for Fulton County Commission District 6; former Atlanta Public School Board of Education Member Brenda Muhammad (District 1) for Fulton County Commission District 5; Shelitha Robertson for Fulton County Superior Court; and Jeff Mann for DeKalb County Sheriff.
We are declining to endorse in the Democratic Primary races for House District 58, the seat currently held by State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta); and Secretary of State.
STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: VALERIE WILSON
Valarie Wilson, the former Board Member and Chair of Decatur City Schools, has the experience and progressive values that qualify her to serve as State School Superintendent.
Wilson participated in an interview with APN, in which she expressed her concerns about for-profit charter schools. She also stated that she was strongly opposed to the constitutional amendment that re-created the statewide charter school commission to override local school board decisions.
APN reached out to former State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), but she did not immediately respond. Her deputy campaign manager, Michael Brewer, emailed to say that Morgan would participate an interview or complete a questionnaire. APN invited her to respond to the same questions that Wilson answered; however, Morgan failed to respond.
According to emails contained in APN’s email archive as well as Morgan’s legislative record, Morgan has been a staunch supporter of charter schools and privatization of public schools, and she supported the constitutional amendment as well.
Wilson has already been endorsed by the Network for Public Education, and we are pleased to join the Network in endorsing Wilson this year.
SECRETARY OF STATE: DECLINE TO ENDORSE
APN interviewed the two candidates for the Democratic nomination, Mayor Gerald Beckum of Oglethorpe, Georgia; and Doreen Carter, former City Councilwoman of Lithonia, Georgia. Both candidates demonstrated an appalling lack of knowledge regarding the issues, and both began campaigning only two months before the Primary, apparently because they saw that no other Democrats were running for the very important seat.
APN is declining to endorse either candidate, but is expressing a preference for Mr. Beckum because he stated his support for adding a voter verifiable paper audit trail to electronic voting [even though he does not seem to understand why a VVPAT is necessary], and because he was less wishy washy than Ms. Carter.
FULTON COUNTY CHAIRMAN: ROBB PITTS
We are endorsing Robb Pitts for Fulton County Chairman. He is challenging Chairman John Eaves, the current chairman, for the seat.
Earlier this week, APN unveiled a Fulton County Commission Scorecard, which scored the current commissioners on nine controversial votes. Pitts received a D or 62.5 on the Scorecard, while Eaves received an F- or 33.3.
As for his voting record, Pitts supported the ban of the use of bullhooks to torture elephants at circuses in unincorporated Fulton County; he initially opposed the privatization of Grady Hospital; and he supported a measure to oppose efforts by the State Legislature to limit the County’s taxing authority.
Eaves had the lowest score for any Democrat on the Commission, and his score was closest to that of Republican Tom Lowe (District 4), who is retiring. Eaves opposed ethics reform, opposed the bullhook ban, supported the privatization of Grady Hospital. [Pitts did not vote on the ethics reform bill, which would have limited campaign contributions from County vendors.]
APN is concerned about Pitts’s vote against the recent budget for Fulton County, which included a millage rate increase. Pitts at the time said he was against raising property taxes. However, the County needs revenue, faces an 85 million dollars shortfall next year, and has already severely cut services including library hours.
In an unpublished interview with Pitts, he told APN that he does not oppose bringing in new revenue for the County as a general matter, and that he believes he has the leadership capacity to make the case for new revenue across the county.
Eaves was recruited to run for the seat in 2006 by State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and former Atlanta City Councilman Derrick Boazman (District 12) because they thought he was progressive; Fort said he was soon very disappointed in Eaves, who led the charge to privatize Grady Hospital almost immediately after joining the Commission.
Eaves’s attendance at various meetings has been atrocious: he has missed 89.2 percent of Ft. McPherson Redevelopment Authority Meetings; 66 percent of Atlanta-Fulton Library Board of Trustees Meetings; 31 percent of Atlanta Regional Commission Meetings; and 79.2 percent of the Employee Pension Board Meetings, according to a mailer circulated by the Pitts campaign.
At a recent forum, Eaves said he does not have to attend the meetings because he sends staff members.
Eaves is also shown in a photograph in the mailer to be asleep at one meeting.
When Atlanta Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) sought to get on the ballot in 2010 as an independent, in order to challenge Eaves, he launched a petty challenge of Norwood’s petitions because they pre-printed the word “Fulton” on them [a challenge rejected by the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections].
Also, in May 2012, Eaves had the Clerk cut off the microphone on Commissioner Darnell while she was speaking, then spent some 700 dollars in taxpayer resources to rewire the microphone so he could control it from his desk.
In 2010, APN had a candidates forum, in which Pitts, but not Eaves, participated.
Pitts has a long record of working with APN on news coverage, and also coordinated with APN’s News Editor on presenting a surprise proclamation to Senior Advocate Ben Howard on his eightieth birthday.
Pitts is accessible and has the leadership capacity to move Fulton County forward while addressing serious fiscal challenges.
FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT 6: EMMA DARNELL AND BILL EDWARDS
We have to go ahead and endorse both Darnell and Edwards, as there is nothing in their voting record to distinguish them from each other. They both have 100 percent, A+, voting records.
It is a shame that they have been redistricted to run against each other, obviously as a consequence of the Republican Legislature wanting to send a message that they oppose progressive leadership on the Fulton County Commission.
FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT 5: BRENDA MUHAMMAD
Brenda Muhammad is the only candidate running for Fulton County District 5 with experience holding elected office, having served previously on the APS Board of Education.
Muhammad was unseated last year by Leslie Grant, and was more critical of charter schools and supportive of public schools than Grant, in that race.
Muhammad also told APN in an unpublished interview that she is supportive of revenue for Fulton County. Muhammad is accessible and responsive.
Among other candidates, Marvin Arrington, Jr., is running for this seat. APN interviewed Arrington, Jr., in 2012, when he ran for State House, and at that time, he stated his support for nuclear power and maintaining the current burdensome petition requirements for independent and political body candidates wishing to run for office.
APN also interviewed Nate Hunter, who works for Muhammad’s campaign, who says he witnessed Arrington, Jr., pulled over on the side of the road, taking a Muhammad yard sign out of the ground, on Headland Drive near Ben Hill Road. Muhammad said she also received a call from a woman who witnessed Arrington, Jr., pull a yard sign off of the woman’s private property.
FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT 4: (Editor’s note)
We did not weigh in the Fulton County District 4. In 2010, we did not endorse Joan Garner, who is seeking reelection.
FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: SHELITHA ROBERTSON
We are endorsing Shelitha Robertson for an open seat on the Fulton County Superior Court. APN previously endorsed Robertson in 2009 when she ran for Atlanta City Council Post 3-at-large and almost unseated Lamar Willis.
In 2009, Robertson was involved in the immediate response to the Atlanta Eagle Raid, and she made phone calls that appear to have led to certain Eagle staff members being released from jail.
Also, in the 2009 race, Robertson expressed her support for the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.
HOUSE DISTRICT 58: DECLINE TO ENDORSE
State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta) and her opponent, Erica Long, both completed APN questionnaires.
In 2010, we endorsed Bell. However, this year we are concerned about two votes that Bell has taken to cut early voting. Bell voted to cut early voting from 45 days to 21. Then, she voted to give municipalities the flexibility to cut early voting from 21 days to six.
APN gave Bell the opportunity to send follow-up information about why she voted to cut early voting. She said she would send the information but did not.
We believe that elections integrity and access to voting–including early voting–are fundamental to progressive change. We believe that elections are the absolute last place where cuts should made. In fact, it really does not matter where a candidate stands on any issue, if the voters’ ability to select the candidate of their choice, is curtailed.
As for Erica Long, she has an impressive professional record; however, we are troubled by her support for charter schools and the charter school constitutional amendment.
Therefore, we have decided not to endorse in this race.
DEKALB COUNTY SHERIFF: JEFF MANN
We are endorsing Jeff Mann for Dekalb County Sheriff.