State Legislature 

The best lawmakers can bear either party's banner

Around 100 of the General Assembly's 236 districts lie in metro Atlanta, but the bulk of those seats aren't competitive because they're drawn either for Democrats or Republicans. Because there are so many legislative seats, we've limited our endorsements to contested races either inside or not-too-far outside the Perimeter.

click to enlarge Light blue line: County boundary - Red line: Senate District
  • Light blue line: County boundary
    Red line: Senate District

STATE SENATE

District 6: Who do you pick when the race is between moderate Republican challenger Dan Hoppe and centrist Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna? You go with the smart, proven incumbent. Stoner places bread-and-butter issues -- public school improvements and mass-transit initiatives -- at the top of his to-do list in the next session.

District 32: Retired U.S. Air Force officer RuthE Levy, a certified public accountant, wants to protect the retirement accounts of Georgia's public servants from risky investments. The Democrat isn't likely to get to do that, because she's running in an East Cobb bastion of Republicans. But she'd represent the district more effectively than incumbent Judson Hill, R-Marietta, who is a conservative ideologue on issues like abortion and gay rights.

District 33: After 26 years in the Legislature, Sen. Steve Thompson, D-Powder Springs, is a wily pragmatist who knows his central Cobb district and understands how to get things done even if he's in the minority party. His opponent, chiropractor Mark Grant, loves the Second Amendment, and rails against big-government Democrats.

District 40: A lawyer with a mechanical engineering background running for a second term, Sen. Dan Weber, R-Dunwoody, is an earnest legislator well-schooled in community issues and willing to buck GOP orthodoxy -- although some constituents were put off by his quixotic effort last year to ram through a city of Dunwoody. Martin McConaughy, a green-conscious retired math teacher, has slim hope of victory in this heavily Republican district. Providing he maintains his thoughtful approach toward lawmaking, Weber has earned a return ticket.

District 41: One of the Legislature's experts on environmental issues, longtime Sen. Steve Henson, D-Tucker, was instrumental in fighting off a Republican attempt to erode protections on stream buffers. He's equally solid in his support for protecting worker rights. His opponent, businessman Frank Auman, is a by-the-numbers Republican trying to woo a moderate district with right-wing positions on cutting taxes, immigration, school vouchers, blah, blah, blah. Henson's experience makes this race no contest.

District 42: Republican challenger Julia Daly is up against formidable competition in Sen. David Adelman, D-Decatur, who is running for his second term in the Senate. Adelman, the minority whip, is one of the smartest legislators in Georgia and a voice of reason on alternative transportation and many other issues.

STATE HOUSE

click to enlarge Light blue line: County boundary - Red line: Senate District
  • Light blue line: County boundary
    Red line: Senate District

District 34: Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, is a smart, ambitious guy who climbed the GOP ranks to become Gov. Perdue's floor leader. But he still maintains a strong independent streak, as when he went to the well to blast his party's tort-reform juggernaut. His young, long-shot Democratic opponent, educator Neil Garvin, supports increased funding for schools and better access to health care. It's probably healthy for the GOP to have a savvy moderate like Golick in a leadership position.

District 41: Although she chairs the House GOP caucus, Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, has shown an admirable willingness to clash with party leaders by taking principled stands, most memorably on health care issues (she's a nurse married to a doctor) and on a bill to legalize fireworks. Opponent Zachary Smith has good ideas on such matters as environmental protection, but he's a college student with another year to go until graduation. Until the Democrats locate a stronger candidate, we suggest the gutsy Cooper deserves re-election.

District 45: Republicans have a chance to vote for a true conservative: airline pilot and Navy veteran Darryl Wilson, who happens to be a Democrat. In professional and life experience, Wilson has it all over Rep. Matt Dollar, R-Marietta, a 28-year-old whose two terms have been marred by poor attendance and an unprofessional demeanor. East Cobb is still East Cobb -- meaning very Republican. If people vote for the person not the party, however, they'll back Wilson.

District 48: Committed to environmental protection, alternative transportation and full funding for education, Sandy Springs Democrat Jan Hackney is a well-connected go-getter who would be a worthy replacement for has-been Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell. The incumbent, who first served in the House back in the '70s and was re-elected in 2004, has run out of energy and ideas. He now serves mainly as a Republican placeholder. Hackney, a tireless community volunteer, would provide the dynamic public service her district deserves.

click to enlarge Mike Jacobs for state representative
  • Mike Jacobs for state representative

District 79: Rep. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, has enough maverick in him to buck the power structure. His opponent, Democrat Keith Kaylor, offers common-sense ideas, but Millar has proved that one can still be Republican and independent-minded in the House.

District 80: Rep. Mike Jacobs, D-Atlanta, hopes to help pass legislation in the next session that would enable "something bigger than MARTA" to synthesize all metro Atlanta transit. It's one in a number of important issues where the first-term Democrat has shown his smarts and promise. His opponent, lawyer Tom Elliott, shows sensitivity to education issues, but Jacobs demonstrates too much talent to abandon now.

District 81: Republican lawmakers tried to bulldoze stream buffer zones in 2004 and would have gotten away with it if not for House moderates like Rep. Jill Chambers, R-Atlanta. Democrat Bob Roche has some good partisan fervor to help drive his campaign, but Chambers has been effective on transportation and environmental protection issues, and she occasionally provides a breath of pragmatism in the GOP caucus.

District 82: A pair of soccer dads whose children play in the same league, attorney/business owner Kevin Levitas and business owner Steve Schultz are waging a competitive battle in DeKalb County to take over for retiring Rep. Paul Jennings, R-Atlanta, who barely defeated Levitas two years ago. Both candidates put education reform at the top of their to-do list. Democrat Levitas gets the edge with his impassioned, articulate advocacy for the Atlanta-Athens "Brain Train." A former prosecutor, he also wants to pass tougher driver safety laws, including making second-offense drunk driving a felony.


Clash of the Titans

The Endorsement Issue


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