DeKalb commissioner running against Hank Johnson

DeKalb County will have at least one -- possibly two -- of its county commissioners running for Congress as it struggles to pass a budget without a tax increase.

Commissioner Connie Stokes will announce later this month her campaign against U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson.

Stokes declined to give specifics about her campaign, but told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that she is planning to seek the Democratic nomination for the 4th Congressional District.

DeKalb Commissioner Lee May, a Democrat, said he is also considering running for Johnson’s seat.

Stokes joins former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, who will also announce his bid for Johnson’s seat. Jones’ spokeswoman, Camille Kesler, said he will announce his formation of an exploratory committee on Friday. Jones, also a Democrat, lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2008.

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Stokes said her official announcement is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 30 at the DeKalb History Center in Decatur.

Last month, Johnson, a Lithonia Democrat, announced that he is battling Hepatitis C. On Monday, a spokesman for Johnson said he will run for a third term despite his health issues.

"I'm proud of my record as the U.S. representative for Georgia's 4th Congressional District. I will run on my record -- I look forward to a vigorous campaign in 2010 and re-election to a third term," Johnson said in a statement. "I am humbled by and appreciative of the many expressions of support that have come my way throughout my tenure."

This will be Stokes’ second bid for Georgia’s 4th Congressional District seat, which covers portions of DeKalb, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties.

Stokes, of Lithonia, represents the County Commission’s District 7 and serves as chairwoman of the commission’s budget committee. She previously served 10 years as a state senator.

May, who represents District 5, said in August that he was considering running for Johnson's seat. On Monday, May said he still has not made a decision. He said he has a "strong desire" to represent the 4th Congressional District, but not to run against an incumbent.

“I had hundreds of people who supported me when I said I had thoughts about running for that seat,” said May, who was appointed a second term as deputy presiding officer last week. “I’m still mulling it, but my focus is we have a major budget we have to get approved with about $50 million less in revenue.”

Last month, DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis proposed raising property taxes 11 percent to help cover a loss of about $50 million in revenue. Commissioners have said they are against a tax increase and are looking at other possible cuts.

The budget must be approved by March 1.

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