On Thursday, March 6, Joyce Denson of Toomsboro (Wilkinson County), qualified as a Democrat and will likely run against Republican incumbent Bubber Epps of Twiggs County for the House District 144 seat.
Prior to redistricting in 2011, the former House District 140 (now 144) was a Democratic-leaning Macon-based seat which had included a smaller population of rural areas outside of Bibb. However, the state House district has become more of a rural district that extends into seven different mostly rural counties.
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 initative-- Communities In Schools.
Communities In Schools 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.