Steve Henson, leader of Senate Democrats, won’t seek re-election in 2020

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, the only white male Democrat in the chamber, said Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to his suburban Atlanta seat in 2020.

Henson survived a primary scare in 2018, when he finished 111 votes ahead of an unknown Democratic challenger, Sabrina McKenzie.

But Henson said the close call, his first contested primary in 16 years, was not the reason for a post-2020 departure.

“I’m over 60 now, and I have to attend to some personal matters and my real business. Plus, as minority leader, I need to focus this next year on making sure Democrats pick up seats. And I don’t want to be distracted by my own election,” he said in an interview.

Senate District 41 includes the cities of Stone Mountain and Clarkston in DeKalb County, but also stretches into Gwinnett County, which has experienced a tumultuous change in voting patterns in recent years.

Henson has served as minority leader for nine years. He currently leads 20 other Democratic senators in a 56-member chamber.  A majority of his caucus are women – a demographic shift that came into play this year in debates over health care and abortion.

Henson first came to the Senate in 1990, with a four-year interruption that followed a failed 1998 bid for state labor commissioner. He lost that race to Michael Thurmond, who is now the CEO of DeKalb County.