Challengers in contested election races

By Michael Davis

Two candidates are assured of spots on the November ballot in the only two contested races for seats on the House side representing parts of Clayton County under the Gold Dome: Republicans in the races for Districts 60 and 74.

The Democratic ballot for the July 20 primary will be heavy with choices but one Republican has declared candidacy in each of the two contested House races.

House District 74 brought more candidates than any other House race for posts with constituents in Clayton County, leaving one candidate calling the race "crowded."

Four Democrats will share the July 20 primary ballot and one of those will go on to vie for the seat against a lone Republican candidate, Emory Wilkerson, in November.

In District 60, the primary will place a Democratic candidate on the November ballot with Ruth Braley Barr, that race's only Republican.

Challenging incumbent state Rep. Georganna Sinkfield, a Democrat, Darin Werner qualified for the July 20 Democratic primary in the Sixtieth.

Werner, a former Republican Party 2nd vice-chair, described himself as a conservative Democrat.

Bucking the trend in the House of Democrats aligning with the GOP, Werner switched parties two years ago.

The 38-year-old Delta Air Lines employee ran unsuccessfully for a House seat while living in Stone Mountain in 1994 and 1996.

"I've always had a desire to serve and you have to start somewhere," he said.

The incumbent, Sinkfield, first won a House seat in 1982 and most recently served on the Appropriations and Banks & Banking committees. She chaired the House Children & Youth Committee for the 2003-2004 session.

With no incumbent, the race of House District 74 drew four candidates for the Democratic ballot?one of those will go on to challenge Republican Wilkerson in November.

A 43-year-old attorney from Fayetteville, Wilkerson said that running for state office is a "logical step" for him. "I have spent my entire adult life working in public service," he said.

In the State Farm Insurance Company's corporate law division, Wilkerson said he's helped to draft several pieces of legislation with state lawmakers and says he knows what it takes to get legislation passed.

Fayetteville resident, but Jonesboro attorney Johnny Felan Castaneda, is a Mexican-American transplant from Texas who has been in Georgia since 1970.

"I just feel like it's time," the 62-year-old said of his campaign for office. "I need to do something to pay back the community."

Castaneda has been an attorney in the Jonesboro area since coming to Georgia and serves as a part-time judge in Atlanta, he said.

With a focus on education, North Cutt Elementary School principal George Jeburk also entered the race as a Democratic challenger.

The 55-year-old Jeburk said he would also "work with regional planners and the (Atlanta Regional Commission) to develop transportation plans for the area."

Democratic candidate Roberta Abdul-Salaam said she is concerned about healthcare and jobs.

"There are thousands of people out there working two and three jobs to make ends meet," she said. "People should be able to earn a decent living so they don't get caught in that vicious cycle," she added.

The race for District 74 is the 48-year-old's first foray into politics.

As is John E. Jones' campaign. The 49-year-old commercial airline pilot from Fairburn, Ga. said that he decided to run because of "the simple fact that when I looked around to see who was stepping up, I thought that I was the better candidate."

Jones, who has lived in Fairburn for seven years, said he's concerned about rising crime rates and that lawmakers need to be "innovative and creative in doing things that cut down on the crime rate."

In Clayton's two state Senate races, the two incumbent Senators, Terrell Starr in District 44, and Valencia Seay in District 34, are running unopposed in the July Democratic party primary. However, Edith Mullin of Fayetteville is challenging Seay as a Republican candidate.