By Joel Hall
On Friday, State House District 78 Representative Wade Starr (D-Fayetteville) told the Clayton News Daily he will not seek a second term.
Starr's announcement changes the dynamics in a crowded contest featuring six announced candidates, and at least one in-waiting.
As of Friday, Shannon Newton and Tina Mangham -- two of Starr's rivals in the 2006 race -- and former District 78 representative Mike Barnes, filed their intent to campaign with the State Ethics Commission.
Earlier this month, Shegale Crute-Ralph dropped out of the Clayton County District 3 Board of Commissioners race, against former husband, Wole Ralph, and filed to run for the District 78 House seat.
Other competitors include Richard "Glenn" Baker, a retired Georgia Power employee, and Jonathan Newton, a spokesperson for the Clayton County Sheriff's Department.
Starr has given his support to John T. Walker, a Jonesboro parole officer and director of Student Engagement for Clayton County Public Schools. Walker said he plans to file for the legislative post, and his application is in the mail.
Meanwhile, Crute-Ralph said she decided to pursue the District 78 House seat after the reality of Commissioner Ralph running for re-election became more apparent.
"There was a lot of dialogue out there about Wole running for the chairman's seat," said Crute-Ralph. "When it got closer to the race and he became more adamant about running for his seat ... I felt I needed to do the diplomatic thing, and decided to take a different course.
"In leadership roles in the county, we have to put the needs of the county first," Crute-Ralph continued. "Given the current political climate of the county, I thought that it wasn't a race I needed to run."
Crute-Ralph believes the District 78 House seat is a "good fit," given her experience working with legislators, while serving with Clayton County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and as a board member of the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services.
"You have to be conciliatory, working with people on both sides of the aisle," said Crute-Ralph. "It's an environment that I'm used to."
Starr, whose father died on Jan. 31, said he was stepping down to focus on his family, and did not intend to run for any other political office. "My father passed away and I'm trying to do some other things," he said. "If I would have run, I feel like I would have been re-elected. Who is running didn't really play into my decision ... I need to focus on spending more time with my family."
Starr, who will have served one term in the House, said this past legislative session was "disappointing" because of the "infighting" among House Speaker Glenn Richardson, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and Gov. Sonny Perdue.
"It led to big issues like transportation and trauma care not being dealt with," said Starr. "We're losing business to places like Charlotte, Richmond, Houston, and Dallas, because we can't move goods efficiently through Atlanta. Unless we can fix this ... we will suffer."
Starr said in stepping down, that he would support John T. Walker, because he believes Walker is best suited to deal with the issues of education and transportation.
"I've known him for years, and I know that he would make an excellent state representative," said Starr. "We can't afford to continue to elect people who don't have the experience, or the temperament, or the judgment to lead us. He doesn't have any particular agenda, other than what's in the best interest of the county."
"I'm a consensus builder," said Walker. "I think I have a tremendous attribute in pulling the stakeholders together."
Qualifying for State House seats will take place at the state capitol this week, from Monday to Friday.