The Democratic Primary is the same date as Athens’ local election — June 9.
APN breaks down the candidates, provides some analysis and offers a suggestion on how to vote. That suggestion is based on a 5-metric analysis; the candidate who wins the most categories will earn our recommendation. In the event of a tie, one, both or neither candidate might receive the recommendation (but you’ll know they’re pretty evenly matched).
The metrics are: experience (the candidate with the most relevant experience to the office they are seeking), ideology (the candidate who most vocally supports progressive values), platform (the candidate with the best-developed, most-progressive platform), strengths (the candidate with the strongest strengths, including electability and overall impact of candidacy) and weaknesses (the candidate with the most glaring weaknesses — this is the only category you don’t want to win).
President: Bernie Sanders
US Senate: Teresa Tomlinson
Public Service Commissioner, District 4: Daniel Blackman
US House, District 9: Devon Pandy
US House, District 10: Andrew Ferguson
Sheriff: John Q Williams
Check out APN’s analysis of the Presidential primary from last year if you’re still undecided. If you want, also check out my endorsement of Bernie Sanders from February, but remember that everyone has dropped out except Joe Biden.
Experience: Teresa Tomlinson
Ideology: Maya Dillard Smith (progressive)
Platform: Teresa Tomlinson
Strengths: Jon Ossoff
Weaknesses: Maya Dillard Smith
Final Score: Tomlinson 2, Ossoff 1, others 0
Teresa Tomlinson, former Mayor of Columbus, is the only one of this group with experience as an elected official (although Ossoff was a staffer for Congressman Hank Johnson as well). She was for a long time also the only candidate in the race with a well-developed platform, although just recently, both Ossoff and Amico have released theirs. While all three platforms are fairly similar, Tomlinson still wins this category (for being first, and also for being more specific in parts). There are three other candidates running but none of them have the fundraising or experience needed to be successful. That leaves Amico, the CEO of a trucking company, Ossoff, a fundraising dynamo and corruption-exposing journalist and Smith, the former head of the Georgia ACLU, as competitors to Tomlinson.
All of these candidates seem fairly moderate, with the exception of Smith, who is quite progressive on economic and racial justice issues. However, there are accusations of transphobia swirling around her (in fact, she was pushed out of the ACLU for this very reason). That’s a major weakness if you’re aiming for the progressive vote. Her fundraising also can’t hold a candle to Ossoff or the other two major candidates, so a vote for her would be a protest vote. I’m going to recommend Tomlinson by a hair over Ossoff.
APN’s Recommendation: Teresa Tomlinson
Public Service Commissioner, District 4
Ideology: Daniel Blackman (progressive)
Platform: Daniel Blackman
Strengths: Daniel Blackman
Final Score: Blackman 3, Noel 0
Both candidates here seem great — they both have relevant experience and a passion for renewable energy. What Blackman has that Noel doesn’t is a real platform covering more than just renewable energy and a promise to lower power bills. Blackman’s platform has six planks that include expanding rural broadband, promoting alternative energy jobs and strengthening utility assistance programs. You can’t go wrong here, but Blackman stands out.
APN’s Recommendation: Daniel Blackman
US Congress, District 9
Ideology: Devon Pandy (center-left constitutionalist)
Platform: Devon Pandy
Strengths: Dan Wilson
Weaknesses: Brooke Siskin
Final Score: Pandy 2, Wilson 1, Siskin -1
While Wilson has a fundraising edge over Pandy, neither candidate has any experience or any chance to beat whoever the Republicans decide to nominate. So vote for whoever you like, except for Brooke Siskin (it doesn’t seem like she’s a serious candidate).
APN’s Recommendation: Devon Pandy
US Congress, District 10
Experience: Tabitha Johnson-Green
Ideology: Andrew Ferguson (progressive)
Platform: Andrew Ferguson
Strengths: Tabitha Johnson-Green
Weaknesses: Tabitha Johnson-Green
Final Score: Ferguson 2, Johnson-Green 1
It’s becoming clear that winning in Georgia means exciting black voters, especially in a Democratic primary. Johnson-Green can do that, and she does have experience from her last run when she got a chance to debate Jody Hice. However, it didn’t do her much good (she was only able to win 37% of the vote in 2018). Her campaign has organizational weaknesses and she’s not a particularly inspiring speaker. She doesn’t seem ready, as a candidate, to run for such an important office. Andrew Ferguson may not be ready either, but he has the better platform and a better command of the issues. He deserves a chance to face off against Hice as Johnson-Green has already had.
APN’s Recommendation: Andrew Ferguson
Sheriff of Athens-Clarke County
Experience: Ira Edwards
Ideology: John Q Williams (progressive)
Platform: John Q Williams
Strengths: John Q Williams
Weaknesses: Ira Edwards
Final Score: Williams 3, Edwards 0
Ira Edwards is the first African-American Sheriff of Athens, and has held that position since 2000. He’s definitely got the experience, but there are real questions about how he’s handled his office in that time. The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office has been suffering from poor morale, slow recruitment and accusations of favoritism. Top-level management has been accused of maintaining discipline through fear and intimidation. Edwards refuses to even acknowledge that some of these problems are occurring in his office.
For progressives, it gets worse. Edwards began cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in late 2017 to deport undocumented Athens residents. He later reversed course after being informed by the current mayor, former ACC attorney and immigrant rights advocates that his actions were in fact a violation of the constitution and that he could be sued for false imprisonment. After backing down, he stated that he would continue cooperating with ICE if it could be done in a legal manner.
While his job performance is poor, it’s his cooperation with ICE that seems to be hugely damaging to his chances in a Democratic primary, given the current feelings of the Democratic electorate.
But, there’s more. After examining his donor list, APN discovered that Edwards gets a large amount of money direct from private prison contractors like Securus Tech. Since his office makes the recommendation on whether a particular contractor for the jail should be hired, this is an enormous conflict of interest that should concern every Athenian. Edwards also takes money from bail bondsmen who profit from incarceration; in fact, his biggest donor is a bail bondsman.
In contrast, his challenger has refused to accept money from the private prison industry or from bail bondsmen. John Q Williams is a sergeant in the ACCPD, and has done detective work while running anti-bias trainings for his fellow officers. He has a solid plan to reform the Sheriff’s Office and has said that he would not work with ICE to deport Athenians. As an additional benefit, his election could provide the groundwork for a closer working relationship between the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office. He is the clear choice for Democrats in this primary.
Disclosure: Williams is currently advertising on this website.
APN’s Recommendation: John Q Williams