By Joel Hall
Education funding, political cooperation, and public transportation, were topics high on the lists of concerns for candidates seeking membership in the Clayton County Legislative Delegation, during a forum hosted by the Clayton County NAACP Tuesday night.
Ten hopefuls for State House and Senate seats were at the Travelers Rest Baptist Church in Morrow. Attending were incumbent State Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro), and Jackie Anderson-Woods, for House District 78; Carlotta Harrell, for House District 76; incumbent State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale), and Emory Wilkerson, for House District 74; incumbent State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), former state senator Gail Davenport, and Dawn Randolph, for Senate District 44; incumbent State Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), for Senate District 34; and Shawn James, for House District 75.
* Seay, in one of her first public debates since being hospitalized in March for acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy -- a condition which causes the immune system to attack the nerves -- said she is ready to continue representing her district.
"The news of my death was a great exaggeration," said Seay. "I'm alive and well, and even though I've had some health challenges, I never stopped representing Clayton County. We need somebody we know, trust and love in that Senate seat ... It's too important to be given to anybody." The 10-year veteran said education funding will continue to be her top priority.
* Glanton stressed his success in passing legislation as the current chairman of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation. Randolph highlighted her experience in public policy research and advocacy, and Davenport emphasized her commitment to public transportation and education.
"Every piece of legislation I have gotten on to the House floor has been passed. I've been very busy for Clayton County. Clayton County is not in my heart, it is my heart."
Randolph countered, "I have been very instrumental in helping different groups: seniors, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, our juveniles who are struggling, men and women trying to find jobs ... and ways that the legislature can better their lives, or stay out of their lives, because there are two sides to that coin."
Davenport said, "As president of the local Rainbow PUSH Coalition, I was able to bring national leaders here to bring national attention to this serious issue (referring to National Rainbow PUSH leader Rev. Jesse Jackson protesting the loss of the C-TRAN bus service)."
* Harrell, who said she has 16 years of public safety experience and 12 years experience as an educator, said, "If we don't restore the funding to education, no matter how much we want to create jobs, it's difficult to get industry to come here."
* Abdul-Salaam, who was instrumental in passing legislation to allow state funding for public transportation in Clayton County, said: "If passed by the voters and the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, it will provide $49 million for public transit in Clayton County. Every single penny will be used for Clayton County transit."
Her opponent, Wilkerson, said he would work to increase state and county cooperation in order to maximize the county's potential. "The key is to pull everybody together on a very regular basis to talk about those issues [and] set up priorities, so we are not fighting each other, but pulling together," he added.
* James, a former military police officer, said he has "integrity, impeccable work ethic, and a strong commitment to the county. Education is extremely important to me. I am a proponent of school choice and school reform," he said.
* In the race for House District 78, incumbent Baker expressed the need to "continue the trend" of local representation on state committees dealing with jobs, education and transportation. "I think that Clayton County is a strong county. Jobs, education, transportation funding, these are three items that we need to continue to press on."
Anderson-Woods, a new face to Clayton County politics, said she was born for the position. "My father was one of the greatest legislators in the state of Mississippi, and I've studied from him and learned from him my whole life," she said. "I don't think a lot of people can say that they have been raised all their lives to serve the people. That's what I've been raised to do. I'm running because the system is broken, and we need to put people in there who are unafraid, and unashamed, to speak up for the people."