Despite the past Republican voting record of the 10th Congressional District, Democrats, in the current political environment, can win in November if they have the right candidate, Chalis Montgomery told Oconee County Democrats last month.
Montgomery, in a primary contest on May 22 for the Democratic nomination, said Democrats can win if they have a candidate who can “speak a shared language” with people in the district.
Montgomery was the featured speaker at the regular meeting of the Oconee County Democratic Committee, but the two-hour-long session also included presentations by Eric Norris, Lisa Lott and Allison Mauldin, candidates in the May 22 General Election for two open Superior Court judgeships in the Western Judicial Circuit.
In addition, Dee Dawkins-Haigler, one of three candidates in the Democratic primary for Secretary of State, incumbent Georgia House representatives Deborah Gonzalez and Jonathan Wallace, and Marisue Hillard, running for the Georgia Senate, also gave brief introductory comments.
Early voting for the May 22 primary and nonpartisan judicial General Election started on Monday, and by the end of the day on Friday, only 515 of Oconee County’s 28,284 registered voters, or 1.8 percent, had cast a ballot.
Of those 515 early voters, 389 used the Republican ballot, 123 used the Democratic ballot, and three used only the nonpartisan judicial ballot. The Republican and Democratic ballots also include the judicial ballot.
Norris And Judicial Elections
Norris, who currently holds one of the two Superior Court judgeships being contested on May 22, had spoken briefly at the Oconee County Democratic Party meeting in March but was invited back for a lengthier presentation at the meeting on April 17.
Norris spent much of his time explaining the jurisdiction of the Superior Court and making the case for the importance of the decision voters will make on May 22.
“You want someone with experience,” Norris said. “You want someone that is adherent to the Constitution, who understands individual liberties, understands the need to secure and protect our community, but also has compassion and understanding.”
Norris said his nearly two years on the Superior Court, his time spent as Oconee County Magistrate Court judge, and his work in private practice gave him the needed experience.
“This is a nonpartisan race, ladies and gentlemen,” Norris said. “It has nothing to do with R or D. It is completely independent, and that is what the judiciary is about.”
Norris is being challenged by Mauldin for the four-year term that starts on Jan. 1 of 2019. The election on May 22 is final.
Lott And Public Service
The Western Judicial Circuit, made up of Clarke and Oconee counties, has four Superior Court judges.
Norris was appointed to this position two years ago and is facing his first election, and Regina Quick was appointed to her position last fall and also is facing her first election.
Lott, who is challenging Quick, had spoken briefly to Oconee County Democrats in February, but she and Norris had been given second billing in announcements about the April meeting.
“I have devoted most of my career to public service” Lott told the Democrats at the April 17 meeting. “I have considered it a duty and an honor to represent the state as a prosecutor, and it has been a duty and an honor to represent those less fortunate as public defender.”
Lott was chief assistant in the Public Defender’s Office of the Western Circuit prior to resigning to run for the Superior Court judgeship.
“Being involved in the community in which you live is an important part of understanding the community which you wish to serve,” Lott said, and she cited her work with a number of local organizations, including with the Athens Land Trust, as evidence of her involvement.
Mauldin And Balance
Mauldin, chief assistant district attorney in Greene County in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, told those at the Democratic Party meeting that one of her motivations for running for the Superior Court judgeship was to create a balance between Clarke and Oconee counties.
Mauldin lives in Clarke County, and she noted that Chief Judge H. Patrick Haggard, Judge Lawton E. Stephens, and Norris all live in Oconee County.
Because of her work in Greene County, Mauldin said, “I bring something to the table that nobody else does. I know how other Circuits handle their cases. I can take the good and bring them to improve an already really great system.”
Even though she works outside the area, “I am involved in this community. And I know this community,” Mauldin said. “I would like to actually serve my community.”
Norris, Mauldin, Lott and Quick appeared in a judicial candidate forum at the University of Georgia Law School on April 25 during which they responded to questions about issues of law and of administration of the Superior Court.
Montgomery On Silence
Montgomery told her audience that she has “discovered the awful weight of silence on our lives,” and this discovery led her to decide to run for office.
She said she has learned that “our country is better when everyone has a seat at the table, even if you have to pull up a folding chair.”
She said she wants Medicare for all, a full employment plan, to establish a living wage, to eliminate right to work legislation, and “equal pay for equal work.”
“There are parts of this country who have been long forgotten,” Montgomery said, “and it’s why we’re in the mess we’re in today.”
Montgomery called for a targeted approach to infrastructure investment that “sends infrastructure to the “long forgotten.”
Including Oconee County, the 10th Congressional District consists of all or parts of 25 counties stretching from the eastern edges of Atlanta to the Savannah River and from Barrow, Clarke and Oglethorpe counties in the north to Johnson County in the south.
Montgomery On Hice
In addition to Montgomery, two other Democrats have qualified for the May 22 Democratic primary for the 10th Congressional District: Richard Dien Winfield, a University of Georgia professor of philosophy from Athens, and Tabitha Johnson-Greene, a registered nurse in Sandersville southeast of Milledgeville.
Incumbent Jody Hice, a pastor from Monroe, has opposition in the Republican primary from Bradley Griffin, from Jasper County, who is CEO of a digital marketing services company, and Joe Hunt, from Oconee County, who is vice president of Franchise Relations at Zaxby’s.
“I have a background in music education and in children’s ministry,” Montgomery said. “But I really have a background in people.
“I have a background in serving people,” she continued. “I have helped hungry families. I have talked to struggling kids. I have talked to and served our immigrant community.
“So it is time that we make sure that we have a nominee who could go out there and speak a shared language,” Montgomery said.
“It is time we made sure we have a fighting chance to take this seat.”
Dawkins-Hagler, from Lithonia in DeKalb County, served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2008 to 2017 before deciding to run for Secretary of State.
She accused incumbent Brian Kemp of purging voters from the voter records “arbitrarily.”
“Everything they can do to roll back the hands of time, they will do it,” she said.
Representatives Gonzalez and Wallace used their time to provide an update on their work in the legislative session just completed.
Gonzalez and Wallace won special elections in November for the 119th House District and 117th House districts respectively. Parts of Oconee County are in the 117th District, with the remainder in the 119th.
Gonzalez and Wallace have no opposition in the Democratic Primary but will face Republican candidates in November.
Hilliard told the Democratic gathering on April 17, as she had a month earlier, that she was motivated to run for the 46th Senate District seat now held by Republican Bill Cowsert because of gun violence.
“I got tired of writing letters to the editor,” she said. “I got tired of calling my Congressman. I got tired of never being heard.”
I was not able to attend the meeting of the Democratic Committee on April 17 because of a conflict with the Town Hall meeting held by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners.
Robert Wyatt, treasurer for the Committee, agreed to use one of my cameras to record the session, which took place at the Chamber of Commerce in Watkinsville. Wyatt estimates that 50 people attended.
Ann Stoneburner vice-chair of the Oconee Democratic Committee, presided at the session.
Norris’ presentation begins at 02:09 in the video below.
Lott began to speak after her introduction at 27:10.
Mauldin began at 40:47.
Dawkins-Haigler began at 46:31.
Montgomery began at 51:07.
Wallace began his comments at 1:26:49.
Gonzalez spoke at 1:33:30.
Hillard began to speak at 1:47:36.