On Saturday, June 30th, State Senate candidate for rural South Georgia’s District 7 seat, Gene Mitchell, attended an NAACP candidate forum at the Ware County Courthouse in downtown Waycross.
Even though Coffee County (Douglas) is the largest population center in State Senate District 7, Waycross is the largest city in the district.
Recently, Mitchell, a progressive Democrat, had received an endorsement from Waycross’ mayor Clarence Billups and local attorney Jim McGhee.
Educaton and jobs were a few of the main themes discussed at the Ware County NAACP candidate forum. Additionally, there is a need for a representative who wants the whole community to grow and succeed and Mitchell believes he can fill that void in rural South Georgia.
“It’s time we stop letting those who do not have South Georgia’s best interest at heart represent us. Let’s work together to help south Georgia grow!”, says the 26 year-old first-time candidate who was a sergeant in the U.S. Marines and recent Mercer University graduate.
Waycross has lost approximately 4.5 percent of its population over the past decade according to the 2010 census. Right now, the population is 14,649.
The average median household income for the city of Waycross is approximately $25,845. However, Ware County overall is $36,000. The Peach State’s average median average household income is $49,347.
In May, the Georgia Department of Labor released unemployment figures and Ware County sits at 10.2 percent while the state of Georgia is at 8.9 percent.
The city of Waycross has voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates over the years and in 2008, President Barack Obama had won Ware County’s largest precinct (District 1) and the fourth largest voting precinct in Ware County–District 2B.
However, the issue of voter participation by Democrats and open-minded independents is a concern which has left the door over the years for previous Republican incumbents such as current Rep. Mark Hatfield and former State Sen. Greg Goggans to remain in office while providing ineffective leadership.
Georgia conservatives have been hostile towards public education and prompted the local newspaper in Ware County, the Waycross Journal-Herald, to say the following in one of the recent stories involving the local school budget:
Since 2008, the money that the state allocates for public education has dramatically and steadily decreased in [Ware County]. The growing shortfall has pushed the local system further against the wall with each passing year.
Wilton Deloach, a Ware County school board member had said the following: “The state has cut us to the point that they’re underfunding us by $7 million (a year).”
Mitchell has advocated that his first act in the state legislature is to propose a freeze on spending cuts to education and reinvest in our public system which would send a message to our schools that we believe in them.