Georgia Democratic voting rights chief to seek state House seat

Sara Tindall Ghazal
Sara Tindall Ghazal

The head of the state Democratic Party’s voter protection initiative is seeking elected office for the first time, running for a Marietta-based Georgia House seat long held by a Republican lawmaker.

Sara Tindall Ghazal said Thursday she’ll put voting rights at the center of her campaign against state Rep. Matt Dollar, arguing that “we need to fix our elections so we can fix our government.”

But she'll also emphasize support for new school funding, a call to expand Medicaid and opposition to a stalled push by Dollar to create a city of East Cobb, which she casts as an unpopular effort plugged by local developers.

“You can’t fix it from the outside,” said Ghazal, an attorney. “If you see a system that’s broken, then you try to fix it. That’s why I want to go in there. It’s about finding solutions, not about creating problems.”

The state Democratic party was the only in the nation to hire a full-time "voter protection" director when it hired Ghazal in 2018. She was deeply involved in the party's voting rights initiatives last year, including litigation challenging then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp's policies.

Dollar was first elected in 2002 and has rarely faced a serious challenge since he took office. In his first contested general election race since 2010, he defeated Democrat Essence Johnson last year by about 18 percentage points.

Ghazal is likely to be better financed and have support from party leaders as she competes in one of a sweep of suburban seats that Democrats are targeting to try to win control of the Georgia House. The party aims to flip 16 of the House's 180 seats next year to take control of the chamber.

A former Carter Center official, Ghazal worked in Jamaica, Liberia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe over the past two decades monitoring elections and working with foreign diplomats on pro-democracy initiatives.

She’ll be succeeded at the state Democratic Party by Saira Amir Draper, a former Southern Poverty Law Center attorney who served as Ghazal’s deputy. The mother of two teenage girls, Ghazal said she was inspired by her daughters to seek office.

“If not now then when?” she said of her decision to run. “There’s a crisis in confidence, and we have to restore confidence in our system and our government. Those of us who want government to work need to step up now.”

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