By Joel Hall
The Clayton County NAACP will host it's third, and final, event in a series of political forums for candidates in the July 20 general primary.
This evening, from 6 to 9 p.m., several candidates seeking State House and Senate seats will share their platforms and take questions from the public. The forum will be held at Travelers Rest Missionary Baptist Church, located at 2112 Rex Road, in Morrow. It will include those vying to join the Clayton County Legislative Delegation. The races up for grabs include those for seats in Senate Districts 34 and 44, as well House Districts 60, 62, 74, 75, 76, 77, and 78.
The NAACP's political action chairperson, Ruth Ash, said that many of the candidates this year are seeking elective office for the first time, and, as of Monday, 10 out of the 22 state candidates had confirmed their attendance at the forum.
"We seem to have an influx of candidates, and it seems there are some that voters don't know, and there are some who are new to politics," Ash said. "You need to know what your county is doing, but you also need to know what is going on in the state. Hopefully, this will give them [voters] a chance to know the candidates a little better, so they'll know who to vote for."
Ash said the candidates who have confirmed their participation, so far, include: Valencia Seay and Travis Spruill, in Senate District 34; Gail Davenport, Mike Glanton, and Dawn Randolph, in Senate District 44; Roberta Abdul-Salaam, in House District 74; H. Shawn James, in House District 75; Carlotta Harrell, in House District 76; James Brown, in House District 77; and Jackie Anderson-Woods, in House District 78.
"In a lot of instances, a lot of them [candidates] just show up [to the forum]," Ash said. She said all of the candidates at the forum will be given "at least two minutes" to describe their platforms, followed by a question-and-answer period.
Here is a breakdown of the current races:
* State Senate District 34
Incumbent State Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) will try to defend her seat against Democratic opponents Victor Hill, of Riverdale, and Travis Spruill, of Fayetteville.
Zannie "Tiger" Billingslea, of Riverdale, qualified to run as a Republican.
Seay, 56, a retired banker and former school board member, served in the State House in 2001 and 2002 and has served in the Senate from 2003 to the present.
Hill, 45, who is listed by the Secretary of State's office as "self-employed," served one term as Clayton County's sheriff, until being defeated in a 2008 re-election bid by current Sheriff Kem Kimbrough. While Hill served one term in the State House in 2003 and 2004, his four years as sheriff were rife with controversy, beginning with his first day in office when he fired 27 deputies. The firings resulted in a multi-million-dollar lawsuit.
Spruill, 29, is a self-employed business executive and founder of TSE Global Logistics. According to his campaign web site, he currently serves as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Billingslea, 45, is listed by the Secretary of State as a law enforcement officer.
* State Senate District 44
Attempting to fill the vacated seat of State Sen. Gail Buckner are Democrats: Former Sen. Gail Davenport, of Jonesboro; current State. Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), and Dawn Randolph, of Stockbridge.
Davenport, 61, a real estate agent, held the District 44 seat in 2007 and 2008, until being defeating by Buckner in the 2008 election. She is the founder and president of the Concerned Black Citizens Coalition of Clayton County and is actively involved in several civic organizations, including the NAACP and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
Glanton, 52, a U.S. Army veteran and ordained minister, is currently a member of the State House and chairman of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation. He currently serves as the president of the Clayton County Ministers' Conference and co-founded the Coalition of Clayton County Clergy.
Randolph, 44, is a public policy consultant. Over the last nine years, she has been assisting non-profit organizations around the state in advocating for drug-free communities, access to health care and open government, according to her web site.
* State House District 60
Gloria Bromell Tinubu, 57, an applied economist from Atlanta, will run for House District 60 unopposed as a Democrat. The Georgia Secretary of State's web site did not list incumbent State Rep. Georganna T. Sinkfield (D-Atlanta) as qualifying to seek another term.
* State House District 62
Incumbent State Rep. Joe Heckstall (D-East Point) will run unopposed. Heckstall, 60, is a motivational speaker.
* State House District 74
Incumbent State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale) will try to defend her seat against Democrat and former Riverdale City Councilman Oritha "Rick" Scoggins, as well as Fayetteville resident, Emory Wilkerson.
Abdul-Salaam, 54, elected to the House in 2004, will serve her fourth-consecutive term, if re-elected.
Scoggins, 55, a real estate agent from Riverdale, served two, four-year terms on the Riverdale City Council, until being defeated in 2009 by Riverdale Councilwoman Cynthia Stamps-Jones.
Emory Wilkerson, 49, an attorney, is also running as a Democrat.
* State House District 75
Current State Rep. Ron Dodson (D-Lake City) did not qualify to seek another term, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's web site. Hoping to fill the seat are: Kristy Dubuisson (Democrat), 25, a sheriff's office service clerk from Forest Park; Henry Shawn James (Democrat), 37, a U.S. Army veteran and real estate property manager from Riverdale; and Yasmin Neal (Democrat), 25, a detective from Jonesboro.
Neal ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2008. In 2009, James ran unsuccessfully as a Republican against Dodson in a special election to fill the unexpired term of former State Rep. Celeste Johnson.
* State House District 76
Seeking to replace Glanton in House District 76 are: Carlotta Harrell (Democrat), 49, a consultant from Ellenwood; Thomas Pough (Democrat), 24, a correctional officer from Jonesboro; and Democrat and former Clayton County School Board Member Sandra G. Scott, 48, a DeKalb County elementary school teacher living in Rex.
In 2008, Scott was one of four Clayton County school board members removed from office by Gov. Sonny Perdue amid the system's accreditation crisis.
* State House District 77
Incumbent State. Rep. Darryl Jordan (D-Riverdale) will attempt to defend his seat, in November, against Republican James Brown. Brown, 63, is an entrepreneur from Riverdale and Jordan, 55, is a retired educator.
* State House District 78
Incumbent State Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro), 63, a retired Georgia Power employee, will try to defend his seat against Democrat Jackie Anderson-Woods.
Baker, who is currently serving in his first term in the House, is past president and board member at-large of Lake Spivey Community, Inc.
Anderson-Woods, 34, is a business owner and co-founder of Woody's Jump N Play, a 9,000-square-foot indoor, inflatables park in Henry County.