Democrats qualify in quest to unseat incumbent Gwinnett commissioners

Democrats Ben Ku, left, and Desmond Nembhard qualified this week for a May 22 primary for Gwinnett County Commission District 2. SPECIAL PHOTOS

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Democrats Ben Ku, left, and Desmond Nembhard qualified this week for a May 22 primary for Gwinnett County Commission District 2. SPECIAL PHOTOS

Among the four of them, two will get their shot at becoming the first Democrat to serve on Gwinnett County’s Board of Commissioners in more than three decades — and at being the commission’s first-ever non-white member.

But first, primaries.

A pair of Democratic candidates qualified this week for each of the two Gwinnett commission seats that will be on the ballot during November’s general election. Each Democratic coupling will battle through a May 22 primary to determine who will challenge the Republican incumbents — Lynette Howard in District 2 and John Heard in District 4 — come fall.

In District 2, which covers a diverse swath of the Norcross, Peachtree Corners and Lilburn areas, Democrats Ben Ku and Desmond Nembhard have qualified for the primary.

Both men said this week they are pro-transit — which has been a hot topic in Gwinnett and the rest of metro Atlanta recently — and that they would advocate for better pay for local law enforcement officers.

Ku, a software engineer who lives near Jimmy Carter Boulevard, is a Georgia native and Georgia Tech graduate who moved to Gwinnett County in 2014. He is a former homeowner’s association president and a Gwinnett 101 Citizens Academy alum and said he wants to advocate for greater accessibility and equality throughout the county.

The grandson of a Chinese immigrant who helped engineer the original MARTA system, he described himself as "committed to bringing rapid transit" to Gwinnett.

“I think [Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash] would be up for improving transit,” Ku said, “but I think she could use some help from the other commissioners.”

Nembhard, 46, has owned and operated the Kingston 30 Jamaican Restaurant near Lawrenceville for 10 years. Like Ku, he said Gwinnett County needs rail service, both for residents and for the health of the business community.

Infrastructure needs to be improved and the budget hasn’t been managed like it could be, Nembhard said.

“I just think the current batch of commissioners that we have, they are working looking in the past,” said Nembhard, who is Jamaican by birth. moved to the States as a teenager and became a citizen in 2009. “They’re not looking at today, and most importantly tomorrow. There’s no plan for tomorrow.”

In District 4, which covers most of the Lawrenceville and Buford areas, Democrats Greg McKeithen and Marlene Midgette Fosque both qualified for May’s primary.

McKeithen is a local attorney who has previously run for local judicial seats. Fosque lists her employment as “consulting.”

Neither made themselves available for comment this week.


The AJC's Tyler Estep keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Gwinnett County government and politics. You'll find more on, including these stories:

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