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House District 90 candidates talk healthcare, jobs on Decaturish Twitch show

campaign coverage Decatur

House District 90 candidates talk healthcare, jobs on Decaturish Twitch show

File photo by Jonathan Phillips

By Patrick Saunders, contributor 

Decatur, GA — Three candidates for the House District 90 seat explored cityhood, pandemic relief, economic development and more on the Decaturish Twitch show on Jan. 21.

Entrepreneur Greg Shealey, community activist and educator Ed Williams and internal auditor Joel Thibodeaux took part in the event hosted by Decaturish editor and publisher Dan Whisenhunt. The Feb. 9 election is to fill the House District 90 seat of former state Rep. Pam Stephenson, whose daughter used a power of attorney to announce her mother’s resignation in September due to Stephenson’s personal health issues. HD 90 includes parts of DeKalb, Henry and Rockdale Counties.

To view the Twitch show broadcast, click here.

Seven candidates qualified for the race. All were invited but not all were able to attend the Twitch show.

Shealey’s top priority as a lawmaker would be pandemic relief, including help for frontline workers and more money for those who’ve lost their jobs, homes and healthcare.

“We need to protect those people,” Shealey said. “We need to get more money in their pockets right now.”

Williams prioritized tackling crime, healthcare and “making sure we have the proper facilities and infrastructure in place to meet the needs of people here in South DeKalb.”

Thibodeaux said he would focus on healthcare and crime. He noted the large number of African Americans in HD 90.

“Expanding Medicaid in the state will allow us to build our infrastructure for this ongoing response to the coronavirus as well as the discrepancies in healthcare that existed in [the Black] community before,” he said.

Candidates debate cityhood in DeKalb

Cityhood was a major topic throughout the Twitch show. Shealey and Thibodeaux both supported the creation of Stonecrest in 2017. Williams opposed the way it was done, saying that voters should have been given more options to choose from.

“It was a rush to create a city out of necessity for local control, but the citizens didn’t even know what the boundaries were,” he said.

Thibodeaux, who was chair of the Governor’s Commission on City of Stonecrest and is currently an internal auditor for the city, said creating it was necessary because DeKalb wasn’t fully supporting residents.

“It was about not having representation for over two years, and the county government did nothing to alleviate that,” he said. “And our community needed a solution, and Stonecrest was and is still that solution.”

Shealey and Thibodeaux support creating the new cities of Vista Grove and Greenhaven in DeKalb if that’s what voters want. Williams is opposed.

Candidates call for expanding public transportation

The candidates had different plans for how to boost economic development in HD 90. At least 20 percent of money coming from the federal level should be set aside for small businesses, according to Shealey.

“We need to work with businesses, organizations and individuals so they can tap into funding at the local level, the state level and the federal level,” he said.

Williams wants to pass legislation to incentivize federal institutions to offer low-interest-rate loans to businesses in the district. Thibodeaux wants to work with local communities to figure out their plans and the resources they have to offer the marketplace.

“Then you assist those communities by liaisoning with the governor’s Office of Economic Development and the resources at the state level in order to help those communities invest in themselves and get ready for economic development,” he said.

All three candidates want to expand public transportation in South DeKalb. The county has not been getting its money’s worth out of MARTA, according to Williams.

“We have been paying into the MARTA system for 50 years,” he said. “My position is that the DeKalb County citizens deserve to get their fair share.”

Shealey called for rail service over the I-20 corridor and shuttle service from HD 90 to the airport. Thibodeaux wants the MARTA line extended down I-20 into Stonecrest, shuttle service from Stonecrest to the airport and expanded bus routes.

“South DeKalb, particularly Southeast DeKalb, has been woefully neglected,” he said.

The other four qualifying candidates in the HD 90 race are:

– Stan Watson, a former DeKalb commissioner who came in second to Stephenson in the Democratic primary for the HD 90 seat earlier this year.

– Angela Moore, a public relations specialist who came in third in the Democratic primary for Secretary of State in 2010.

– Diandra Hines, an account executive

– Valerie Murphy, a senior systems business analyst

Decaturish has invited all candidates to submit up to two letters to the editor that will run this week.

Qualifying for the race took place Dec. 16-18. A runoff, if needed, will be held March 9, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The last day to register to vote for the election was Jan. 11. Advance in-person and absentee voting began Jan. 19.

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