Lithonia's Stokes first Democrat to enter 2014 Governor's race
Brenda Camp Yarbrough | 9/4/2013, 12:57 a.m.
Former State Sen. Connie Stokes of Lithonia announced over the Labor Day weekend that she will run for governor in 2014. Stokes becomes the first Democratic candidate to enter the race as the field of challengers to Gov. Nathan Deal grows.
But Stokes revealed her intentions on Aug. 31 in Newnan, a little earlier than she had intended.
“I’ll make a formal announcement in a few weeks,” Stokes said, explaining that word of her plans had been circulating Saturday among reporters covering more than 200 delegates who elected former State Rep. DuBose Porter the new Chairman of Georgia’s Democratic Party. The subject of Stokes’ political future came up during interviews that day.
Stokes, who served as floor leader for former Gov. Roy Barnes, said she plans to campaign on improving education and creating high-paying jobs.
“I feel like now is the time,” said Stokes, 59, now a business management consultant from Lithonia.
“I’m qualified based on my 10 years of leadership as a State Senator including my experience as Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.” Stokes said healthcare will be a key issue during the campaign and Gov. Deal’s decision not to create a Georgia exchange where customers can shop for insurance under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will prove to be a political liability in the campaign. The federal government created an exchange for Georgia health insurance buyers.
“I don’t think we can stand on the sidelines. We need a Democratic agenda, one that will create jobs that pay well, that focuses on our children and promotes a transparent and open government,” Stokes said.
Democrats have been searching for a candidate to challenge Deal, who already has two primary challengers. On Friday, state schools Superintendent John Barge, a Republican, announced he will be running for governor. Earlier, Dalton Mayor David Pennington said he would be challenging Deal in the GOP primary.
After serving for a decade in the state Senate, Stokes ran unsuccessfully for congress in the 4th District in 2004, losng to Cynthia McKinney in the primary. Stokes recovered to win a seat on the DeKalb Board of Commissioners, representing Super District 7 from 2004 to 2010.
Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker, told the Associated Press Stokes will be a knowledgeable and experienced candidate for governor, but added he wouldn’t be surprised if other Democrats enter the race as well.
“A lot of people know Governor Deal is leading the state in the wrong direction, but I certainly feel that Connie will be a good candidate,” Henson said.
Henson also hinted that Barge’s campaign, which is expected to criticize Deal on education funding, could be a benefit.
“Bringing forth the governor’s lack of concern in improving public education will be helpful whether it’s from a Republican opponent or Democratic candidates,” he said.