APN Endorsements 2016 Pt. 2: Shannon, Westlake, Thomas, James, Fort (UPDATE 1)


endorsements 2016 1(APN) ATLANTA — The Atlanta Progressive News Board of Directors has made decisions in two State Senate races and three State House races, with more endorsement decisions to come leading up to the May 24, 2016 Primary Election and Non-partisan General Election.


APN is endorsing two Democratic challengers: Renitta Shannon over State Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur) for House District 84, and Brian Westlake over State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) for House District 82.


APN is also endorsing three Democratic incumbents who are on our short list of Metro Atlanta progressive champions: State Sens. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) for Senate District 39 and Donzella James (D-Atlanta) for Senate District 35, and State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) for House District 56.  Each are facing Democratic challengers.


Previously, APN endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for the Democratic nomination for President of the U.S.




We have already sent out numerous additional questionnaires in State House races as well as U.S. Senate, some with deadlines coming up or that have already passed.  Several more are already published on our website.


We have also made attempts to contact numerous additional campaigns to obtain contact information, and have interviews pending with several candidates for DeKalb County Commission.  So, please stay tuned for the many resources that we are putting together to help our readers make an informed and empowered decision at the ballot box this May 24.




Renitta Shannon’s questionnaire responses were among the best we’ve ever seen.  We completely agreed with her response to every question, and her answers were thorough and thoughtful.




Rep. Mayo completed an APN questionnaire with rapid turnaround following the close of the Legislative Session, which we appreciate.




However, Rep. Mayo has been a champion for charter schools and privatization of public education, as evidenced by his 2012 vote for the Charter School Commission referendum.




Later approved by voters despite highly misleading ballot language, the Commission was imbued with new authority to override the decisions of local school boards and the State Board of Education with regard to the approval of new charter school applications.


[An earlier version of an APN article containing Rep. Mayo’s questionnaire stated he did not vote for the Commission; however, he did.]


Rep. Mayo also gave an interview to the American Federation for Children, an Orwellian-named organization that promotes charter schools, in which he used coded language like the “status quo” and the need for reform and change and trying something new.




Rep. Mayo also took some troubling votes that are reflected on the APN Scorecard, including supporting raccoon trapping; and supporting the dismantling of the State’s Soil & Water Conservation Agency.


Shannon has strong roots in the progressive advocacy community and ties to progressive organizations.


We are absolutely delighted to endorse Renitta Shannon.




Brian Westlake is a progressive Democrat and educator running on a platform of supporting public education.


State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) has a commendable and inspiring decades-long record of public service, in which she has become one of the most powerful Democrats in the State House.  She keeps her constituents well-informed with one of the most comprehensive and consistent newsletters in the Metro Atlanta area.


Her partnership with Republicans and Gov. Nathan Deal has led to such things as child welfare reform.


However, her voting record is absolutely dreadful and cannot be supported by any means.


She has a C- on the APN Scorecard, and that is so out of touch with the progressive District that she represents.  (UPDATE and CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated her score was a D; however, it has been recalculated after Atlanta Progressive News has learned that Rep. Oliver’s vote on HB 397/Soil & Water Conservation Agency had been misrecorded).




Not only did Rep. Oliver support the Opportunity School District referendum, another privatization agenda pushed by the Governor to have the State take over so-called “failing” schools, but she spoke in the Floor of the House in favor.  She admits this vote in her APN questionnaire.




In the two year period currently covered by the Scorecard, 2014 and 2015, Rep. Oliver also supported the LaVista Hills referendum, and a proposal to allow some municipalities to even further reduce their early voting period.


Brian Westlake is a strong supporter of public schools who has earned the endorsement of the Georgia Association of Educators and the Organization of DeKalb Educators.


His APN questionnaire was quite strong, although we took issue with his answer on nuclear power, in which he stated that we need to explore all options to fossil fuels.  Because, no, actually we don’t.  We’ve already explored the option of nuclear power and concluded it is unconscionable.


Rep. Oliver’s response was no better, though.  Unlike Westlake, she offered no critique of nuclear power, saying that her position was “mixed,” although she did oppose the 2009 Georgia Power ratepayer subsidy (“Construction Work in Progress” or CWIP).


APN endorsed Westlake in 2010 when he ran for the Democratic nomination for School Superintendent.


Prior to that, he was active in Gov. Howard Dean’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for President of the U.S. in 2004, and the grassroots movement that came out of that campaign.


We believe that Westlake’s values are needed at the Capitol, and more importantly, are a better reflection of the voters in the District.




It should come as no surprise that we are supporting these three progressive champions, who we have endorsed many times before.


We are of the position that there is a very short list of progressive elected officials in the Metro Atlanta area who have strong and consistent voting records, and who are willing to speak out on issues that matter to progressives.  All three are on our list and are facing Primary challengers.


We did not send questionnaires to these challengers because our very short list is very short – we see great value in these progressive leaders and feel protective of them.


A search of our archives will reveal their history of service and leadership to the progressive community in Georgia.




UPDATE AND CORRECTION 1: As noted above, this article has been corrected in two connected ways: first, to remove an incorrect statement regarding Rep. Oliver’s vote on HB 397/Soil & Water Conservation Agency; and second, to provide a correct, recalculated grade of C-, to replace the previously reported D.  The APN Combined Scorecard for 2014 and 2015 has been updated with the new vote information and score.

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