DeKalb elections: Open Super District 6 seat expected to draw a crowd

From left: Democrats Emily Halevy, Robert Murphy and Ted Terry have all announced plans to run for the open DeKalb County Commission Super District 6 seat. SPECIAL PHOTOS

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From left: Democrats Emily Halevy, Robert Murphy and Ted Terry have all announced plans to run for the open DeKalb County Commission Super District 6 seat. SPECIAL PHOTOS

The race to replace longtime DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon is heating up quickly.

Gannon, who has represented District 6 since 2005, announced last week she wouldn't be seeking re-election. Since then, well-known Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry decide to drop his bid for U.S. Senate and jump into the DeKalb race — while community advocate Emily Halevy has already secured an endorsement from Gannon.

Local Realtor Robert Murphy also intends to run. And DeKalb Democratic Party Chairman John Jackson expects plenty more action in the race to represent a district covering the diverse western half of the county.

“For an open seat, for someone that was in office for as long as Kathie Gannon was, I expect more to jump in,” Jackson said. “Including some big names.”

Terry, the so-called "millennial mayor" and one-time "Queer Eye" TV show guest, announced he was joining the commission race Sunday. Fundraising for his campaign to take on Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue was lagging behind opponents and, with Gannon's retirement, he sensed a new opportunity.

He said he wants to tackle issues like clean energy, decriminalizing marijuana possession and preserving greenspaces. He said his seven years as Clarkston's mayor — a position he plans to resign from in March — would inform efforts to address the often-fraught relationship between DeKalb and its cities.

“The same zeal and vigor that I brought to my advocacy for Clarkston as mayor, I’m going to take to DeKalb County,” Terry said.

One of his opponents, meanwhile, already has Gannon’s backing.

Halevy, an affordable housing advocate who runs a digital media company, said she earned the outgoing commissioner’s trust over several years. They didn’t always see eye-to-eye but learned to work together, she said.

Halevy said she wants to continue Gannon’s good work and be a voice for smart development that doesn’t drive out longtime or lower-income residents.

“We need leadership who values all of these grassroots efforts that are going on, on a myriad of subjects,” she said.

Halevy also shared a refrain that Terry, after jumping from one campaign to another, is likely to hear throughout the election season.

“I do want to be clear that I am in this race for what is in the best interest of DeKalb County citizens,” Halevy said. “It is not important to me what is in the best interest of Ted Terry.”

Murphy, who filed paperwork to run for the seat well before Gannon announced her retirement, said he moved to East Lake a few years ago and is a board member of the Red Clay Democrats.

He said his priorities as a commissioner would be collaborative problem solving, taking a proactive approach to transparency and driving voter engagement.

“In speaking with my neighbors and other residents of DeKalb County, I kept getting the same feedback time and again,” Murphy said. “The existing leadership just wasn’t getting the job done.”

The official qualifying period for candidates in District 6 and other local primary races is in March. A number of high-profile DeKalb jobs will be on ballots this year, including the CEO position, three other commission districts (1, 4 and 5) and sheriff.