ACC Democrats kick off local election season

Three candidates running in the May 21 primary and local election spoke at a meeting of the ACC Democrats last week in what seemed like a kickoff event for the local election season.

District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez

District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, the most prominent candidate of the three, is facing a serious challenge this year from independent Kalki Yalamanchili in the November 5 general election. Gonzalez’s office has been roundly criticized for losing a large number of cases, violating victims’ rights and failing to retain staff. 

Gonzalez did not address any of these criticisms in her speech last Thursday. Instead she cited falling crime rates from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, attempting to rebut a common argument that Athens is an unsafe place to live. For example, violent crime in Athens was down 6.8 percent in 2023, according to the ACCPD. Aggravated assaults were down 12 percent, although Gonzalez erroneously said that the decline was 22 percent.

“When you elected me four years ago, you gave me two mandates. The first mandate was ‘keep our community safe.’ Believe it or not, our community is safer.” Gonzalez said.

The same day she gave these remarks, Augusta University student Laken Riley was found dead on UGA campus, making national news. Gonzalez seemed to reference Riley’s alleged murder during her speech.

“Now you’re going to tell me, ‘But Deborah, we’ve heard a lot of stuff in the news, haven’t we?’ About things that are happening in our community. Yes, we have. Because even though it’s down 22 percent, we still have crime,” Gonzalez said.

Yalamanchili was in the audience but, as a Republican-leaning independent, he was not allowed to speak.

Gonzalez is not likely to face a primary challenge this year, but candidates have until Friday, March 8 to qualify.

Rashe Malcolm, candidate for Commission District 6

Rashe Malcolm, owner of Jamaican restaurant Rashe’s Cuisine, gave the first speech of her campaign after announcing her candidacy for ACC Commissioner in District 6. The seat is currently held by Commissioner Jesse Houle who announced last year that they would be stepping down.

Malcolm has never run for political office before. She will face off against former ACC Internal Auditor Stephanie Johnson, who has also announced her candidacy.

Lexy Doherty, candidate for US Congress District 10

Lexy Doherty, an educational consultant, also spoke to Democrats last Thursday about her run for US Congress. Doherty is asking Democrats to nominate her in GA-10 so she can ultimately face off against Representative Mike Collins (R).

In the primary, Doherty will compete against Jessica Fore, who ran unsuccessfully for the same district in 2022. Other candidates may include the enigmatic Tabitha Johnson-Green who has already run three times for this seat. If she decides to throw her hat in the ring again, she would become the favorite although that’s no guarantee of success. Johnson-Green lost to Collins by almost 30 points in 2022

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