By Joel Hall
With De'Mont Davis and Artansa Snell being knocked out of the running, incumbent Gail Davenport and challenger Gail Buckner will vie for the Senate District 44 seat on Tuesday during the Aug. 5 runoff.
Buckner, a former eight-term Georgia House representative, had a strong showing in Clayton County, where the majority of citizens in the senate district reside. She received 46 percent of the vote, compared to 37 percent for Davenport.
Davenport dominated the polls in the smaller Henry County section of the district receiving nearly 66 percent of the vote, compared to 18 percent for Buckner.
Buckner, who was admittedly a late-comer in the race for the senate, said she had little time to campaign in Henry County prior to the primary. However, she believes her support in Clayton will make the difference on Tuesday.
"I've done some personal calling and reaching out in Henry County, but 95 percent of the district is in Clayton County, so that is where my focus has been," said Buckner. "Everyday I am somewhere in the district speaking to groups, making phone calls, and reaching out to groups ... I've gone all throughout the county and have been well-received everywhere I have gone."
A life-long resident of the Clayton County and a product of its school system, Davenport said she is "in tune" with the people's needs. She believes her deep roots in the county will resonate with voters.
"I think I did very well and I am glad that my supporters went to the polls and voted for me," said Davenport. "I continue to speak at churches and [with] church groups, for civic organizations, meet and greets one on one, and I've been asking people to go back to the polls and vote for me."
Nearing the completion of her first term in the senate, Davenport believes her "record will speak for itself." She said she has been a champion of grants for the Clayton County school system, Clayton County Community Services (CCCS), local youth initiatives, and has supported legislation to reduce crime, solve transportation problems, and make health care more affordable.
Buckner, however, believes Clayton voters supported her because of her 16 years of experience in the House and what she describes as a "the lack of performance of the incumbent."
Buckner contends that Davenport "drug her feet" in supporting House Bill 1302, which gave legislators to ability to appoint an ethics board to oversee the Clayton County school system.
"She was slow to respond in helping solve the Clayton County school board dilemma," said Buckner. "Davenport should have been at the table helping write the bill. She was not.
"When problems and issues exist in the community ... I will have a seat at the table," said Buckner. She said her experience overseeing billions of state dollars while serving on an appropriations committee in the state legislature for 10 years gives her a unique advantage.
Davenport said she supported House Bill 1302. "It came to my desk in April before the session ended and I signed the bill," she said in past interviews. She said she believes she has done well in the senate and will continue to reach out to citizens until every vote is cast.
"The citizens of this district want effective leadership in their senator," said Davenport. "I plan to reach out to this community and bring citizens together to help solve these issues which are of concern."