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Sinkfield bests Buckner in Sec. of State race

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

State Rep. Georganna Sinkfield (D-Atlanta), the longest-serving woman in the history of the Georgia General Assembly, will go on to challenge incumbent Secretary of State, Republican Brian Kemp in November. On Tuesday night, Sinkfield won an impressive victory over long-time General Assembly member, State Sen. Gail Buckner (D-Jonesboro), during a runoff to determine the Democratic nomination.

In another race, Republicans overwhelmingly chose political newcomer Mike Crane to lead the charge against U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), the long-serving incumbent congressman in the 13th Congressional District. On Tuesday night Crane, beat Clayton State University Health Services Medical Director Deborah Honeycutt by a 67.5-to-32.5-percent margin state-wide, and by a 66-to-34-percent margin in Clayton County.

Sinkfield, who was sworn into the Georgia House in 1983, won with 62 percent of the vote state-wide, compared to 38 percent for Buckner. In Clayton, where both Sinkfield and Buckner serve as members of the county's legislative delegation, Sinkfield had about 55.5 percent, while Buckner had 44.5 percent of the vote.

Sinkfield could not be reached for comment following the election results on Tuesday night.

Buckner blamed Tuesday's election numbers on low voter turnout and a lack of voter education efforts by the current Secretary of State's office. In Clayton, voter turnout was a dismal 6.23 percent, with only 9,166 votes cast out of 147,075 registered voters.

"If there had been a greater turnout, I believe my vote total would have certainly improved," Buckner said. "It's unfortunate that the interim Secretary of State did not get involved with educating our citizens about this runoff. It's absolutely the job of the Secretary of State to educate voters.

"I'm disappointed that we had such a low voter turnout, but I am very proud that we ran a clean campaign, [and] our supporters stayed above the fray. Sometimes, you win, and sometimes, you lose, and tomorrow the sun will come up and we will get focused on something different."

Buckner, who has served 16 years in the House and is completing her first, two-year term in the State Senate, said her own political plans were uncertain at this point, but said that she will be helping Carol Porter in her race for Lieutenant Governor.

"I told her that if I became available after tonight, she could count on me for some good volunteer work," Buckner said.

In the race for representative in the 13th Congressional District, Crane scored an impressive victory over Honeycutt, who has challenged Scott in two previous elections. Crane, a Newnan resident, general contractor, and owner of Harvest Construction, Inc., could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Honeycutt, who campaigned on the platform of neutralizing President Obama's health-care bill, said she will continue to work toward that goal, as well as other issues. "I will continue to move forward and support the causes for which I continue to stand," she said. "Working on the health-care bill that we are now under, keeping it from being fully implemented, the Fair Tax, right-to-life issues ... there is lots of work to do."

Locally, the second time was the charm for House District 75 hopeful, Yasmin Neal, of Jonesboro. In her second bid for the seat, Neal, a detective with the Clayton County Police Department, was successful in defeating U.S. Army veteran and real estate property manager, Henry Shawn James.

Neal took 54 percent of the vote on Tuesday in her district, while James took away 46 percent of the vote. As a Democrat, with no Republican challengers, Neal will take her place as a member of the Georgia General Assembly in the new year.

"This will be my second go at it, and I did it, but at the same time, there was a lot of help from friends and family," Neal said. "The first time ... my budget was kind of limited, so that limited my ability to get out the word about myself. A lot of people came together to make this happen."

At 25 years old, Neal will become the youngest member of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation. She said that upon entering office, she would look for funding sources for the C-TRAN bus service, which was eliminated in March, and would work to protect Clayton County Public Schools from future budget cuts and furloughs.

"I want the citizens to know that I want to do good work," Neal said. "I want to make the citizens proud, especially since they elected me to this position."

James, who ran for the seat in 2009, said he respected the public's decision. "All I can say is that the people have made their choices, so I have to respect that and keep being involved and move forward," he said. "I've been participating in school board meetings, Board of Commissioners meetings, all the law enforcement meetings, and the HOA (homeowners association) meetings ... I just have to continue to get out there and do more."

Neal received a total of 358 votes on Tuesday, compared to 305 votes for James.