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Seay touts experience as reason to stay in Senate

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) is seeking a fourth term in the State Senate on the premise that experience and leadership is what Clayton County needs in the legislative delegation.

The incumbent senator, who is facing opposition from a high-ranking member of the Clayton County Democratic Party, said Clayton County needs veteran legislators like herself to make sure the county has a leadership role in the Georgia General Assembly. Seay was first elected to the senate in 2002, and was re-elected in 2004 and 2006.

She served as the vice chairperson of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and chairperson of the Clayton County legislative delegation from 2005-06. She is currently the secretary of the senate's State Institutions and Property Committee. She also is a member of the appropriations, public safety, transportation, and urban affairs committees.

"We still have a lot to accomplish," Seay said. "We need to get Clayton County at the leadership table, and the way we do that in the legislature is by having some people in there with some seniority."

Seay previously served one term in the House of Representatives, from 2001-2003, and was the District 4 representative on the Clayton County Board of Education for seven years before she became a legislator. She is a retired banker, and is now the president and Chief Executive Officer of Seay and Associates.

Seay is a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Council of Negro Women. She is also an active member of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus; Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials; National Organization of Women Legislators; Women in Government and the Women's Legislative Caucus. She and her husband, Walter, attend Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta.

Stephanie Campbell, an account technician, who also served as the first vice chairperson of the Clayton County Democratic Party in 2007, is Seay's opponent. Campbell ran an unsuccessful bid to become the mayor of Riverdale last year.

There is a question mark in her recent past, however. Campbell and her daughter, Quintashia Cloud, 29, were arrested by a Riverdale Police officer on Jan. 24, after they got into a verbal and physical fight.

The mother and her daughter began to argue when Cloud showed up at Campbell's home to pick up some belongings, according to statements from both ladies to police officers. Campbell said she was hit by Cloud, but the daughter told police it was the other way around. In both statements, Cloud ended up on the floor underneath her mother, who eventually got up and called the police.

Campbell appeared before a Clayton County magistrate judge the next morning and bond was set at $3,000, which was posted, according to court records. The case also was bound over to State Court in February. According to court records, it is still pending. The file is still in the possession of Solicitor General Leslie Miller Terry's office. The solicitor general said there were no witnesses who were willing to testify.

The Clayton News Daily attempted to reach Campbell by e-mail; at a phone number provided by the State Ethics Commission; another phone number listed on the Riverdale police report and on Whitepages.com; through her daughter, and through Clayton County Democratic Chairman Kevin Thomas, but those efforts were unsuccessful.

Seay said she was not concerned about her opponent's ties to the Clayton County Democratic Party. "I'm going to run on my record, and do what I've always done," Seay said. "My record speaks volumes."

Twenty of the bills she sponsored during the 2007-08 legislative session were signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue. Those bills ranged from a bill of rights for deaf children, to making petitioners to a child-placement agency submit to criminal background checks, to requiring the state commissioner of transportation to develop benchmarks for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Seay said getting a bill passed, which lets high school seniors register to vote at their high school on a particular day in April, is one thing she is particularly proud of accomplishing during her five and a half years as a senator.

Seay, an alumni of Clayton State University, was also pleased to get Thomas K. Harden, the university's president, in front of the senate appropriations committee during a hearing when it looked like Clayton State would be significantly hurt by $6.9 million in budget cuts. Seay said the money was restored to the budget after Harden spoke to the committee.

Two major bills she was happy to see signed into law created an ethics commission for the Clayton County Board of Education, and made sure high school juniors and sophomores from the county could still earn the HOPE scholarships, if the school system loses its accreditation in September.

While the ethics commission bill was still in the house, Seay was reaching out to other senators in an effort to get their support for the legislation. During the same time, she reached out to Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, who was working on a bill which dealt with HOPE scholarships for students at the unaccredited Morris Brown College.

She got him to add language to the bill which let high school seniors qualify for the scholarships as long as their school system was accredited in the recent past.

"You learn and build relationships with other senators over a period of time," Seay said. "I have built those relationships that can help Clayton County as we move forward."

The incumbent senator said their are several issues she wants to tackle if she is elected to serve another term in the senate. She said health care and education will always be issues to deal with because, "We don't settle them, we just deal with them." She said transportation is another area she will need to work on during the next two years.

The senator said she has traveled around the state, and to "forward-thinking transportation" cities like Washington D.C., and she believes the local Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is the hub which the Atlanta area can build on. She would like to see MARTA expand its rail system south of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, so more of Clayton County can take advantage of its services.