On Wednesday, August 20, House District 144 candidate Joyce Denson appeared on 100.5 FM and the weekly public affairs program, "Ask Elaine". Denson, a Wilkinson County Democrat, will meet Republican incumbent Bubber Epps this November.
House District 144 is a seven-county district that includes all of Bleckley (Cochran), Twiggs (Jeffersonville) and Wilkinson (Irwinton/Gordon) counties along with parts of Bibb (South Macon), Jones (Gray), Houston (Bonaire) and Laurens (north of Dublin) counties. Denson spoke publicly to the media about her campaign for the first time and told radio listeners why she decided to run and what are some of the issues that she believes are important. Denson had qualified to run for office during the first week of March.
Denson told radio host Elaine Lucas and radio listeners: "If you want to move Georgia forward, you must get out and vote."
The Toomsboro native explained that increasing funding to public education is a priority. Denson also added that she would like to see smaller classroom sizes. In many Georgia schools, class size exceeds thirty and some are larger. A second issue mentioned is improving healthcare for constituents in her district and across the State of Georgia.
Republican Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia Republicans have resisted in expanding Medicaid and opt to do nothing on the state level.
Deal has continued to keep the stance that the Peach State cannot afford to expand Medicaid, despite the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for three years and 90 percent permanently after three years.
Denson also explained her opposition to the Republican-sponsored "Safe Carry Protection Act" which was passed last year and went into effect on July 1.
The new law allows licensed gun owners in Georgia and visitors from 28 other states to bring a gun into a bar without restrictions and carry a firearm into some government buildings that don't have security measures. It also allows school districts to decide whether they want some employees to carry a firearm and religious leaders to decide whether to allow licensed gun owners to tote to their church, synagogue or mosque.
House District 144 only has one Bibb County precinct-- the mostly conservative RUTLAND 2 precinct. In 2012, only thirty percent of voters cast a ballot for Barack Obama.
Denson works as a site coordinator at Midway Elementary in Milledgeville-Baldwin County as part of the non-profit initiative-- Communities In Schools. It is the nation's largest dropout prevention organization. The mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.
The nation-wide network of nonprofit organizations focuses on improving student and school success by providing needed support and services to students and schools.
This is Denson's first time running for office.
The main population center of House District 144 is a three-way tie between Bleckley, Twiggs and Wilkinson County.
There are approximately 30,000 registered voters scattered across House District 144 which encompasses seven different counties.
The following is a look at the registration totals as of November 2013 of three of the seven counties along with the other four counties with individual precincts:
BLECKLEY 5933 registered voters
TWIGGS 5297 registered voters
WILKINSON 5302 registered voters
JONES (Roberts, Davidson, Pope) 4318 registered voters
HOUSTON (Bonaire Middle School) 4304 registered voters
BIBB (Rutland 2) 2548 registered voters
LAURENS (Bailey, Burgamy, Harvard) 1972 registered voters
In 2012, Barack Obama won Twiggs County, 53 to 47 percent and it was almost a virtual tie in Wilkinson County, but Mitt Romney won with 51 percent of the vote.
For Denson to be successful, she will need to increase the win margin in Twiggs and her home county of Wilkinson via increased turnout among Democrats which can provide a pathway to victory over the Republican incumbent and Twiggs County native, Bubber Epps.
Bleckley County is a little more of a challenge for progressive Democrats, but the largest city and county seat, Cochran, has become a majority-minority city for the first time--according to the 2010 Census-- and has a plurality of African-Americans (48.1 percent).
Bleckley is one of the few counties in Georgia that has a 'sole commissioner' government, and it only has one voting precinct.
House District 144 does include the southeastern part of Jones County, near the city of Gray along with the northwestern rural part of Laurens County--three precincts outside of Dublin.
Epps, a former Democrat, switched parties shortly after the 2010 elections after running unopposed and saying publicly that he would not switch parties.
Epps' sudden move of changing parties has helped to put Georgia Republicans in a stronger position to achieve a supermajority in the Georgia General Assembly.