Democrats seek to challenge DeKalb’s lone Republican commissioner

The only Republican member of DeKalb County’s Board of Commissioners will face Democratic opposition in her quest for re-election.

Nancy Jester first won her District 1 seat — which represents DeKalb’s more conservative northern tip, as well as the Chamblee, Doraville and Tucker areas — in a 2014 special election. She was unopposed in her 2016 re-election bid. That won’t be the case in 2020.

At least five Democratic candidates qualified this week to pursue the District 1 seat.

  • Breeanna Bellinger is a social worker whose campaign website described her mission as "creating an open door to the issues of the community and promoting inclusivity through enlightenment and support."
  • MD Naser, a native of Bangladesh, is an officer with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. He served one term on the Doraville City Council before mounting an unsuccessful run for mayor last fall.
  • Robert Patrick, who works as a senior planner for the Gwinnett County city of Norcross, was first elected to the Doraville City Council in 2012. He has also served as president of the DeKalb Municipal Association. He said improving infrastructure like the county's ailing water and sewer system and "having better relations on the commission" would be top priorities.
  • Ben Truman's qualifying paperwork listed him as a consultant.
  • Cynthia Yaxon's qualifying paperwork listed her as "retired, entrepreneur, writer."

Jester, who has been a vocal advocate for financial reforms and infrastructure improvements in her time on the board, said she’ll be ready for whoever ultimately emerges from the Democratic primary in May. She said her efforts have earned “broad bipartisan support” from constituents.

“We have a lot more to do,” Jester said. “But I’m optimistic about the processes that we’ve put in place, the work that we’ve been doing and that we’ll continue going in the right direction.”

DeKalb County Democrats chairman John Jackson referred to Jester as “the last standing Republican.” He said there’s already a road map for unseating her.

“Whoever the Democratic candidate for that seat is,” Jackson said, “they’re going to have to mobilize Sally Harrell’s support system.”

Harrell is a Democratic state senator from District 40, which covers much of the same northern DeKalb territory as Jester’s commission district. Harrell flipped the seat from Republican Fran Millar in 2018.

Other DeKalb County qualifying notes:

  • CEO Michael Thurmond, who eschewed a U.S. Senate run to pursue re-election, officially qualified on Wednesday. No challengers appeared to have qualified.
  • District 4 Commissioner Steve Bradshaw and District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson also did not appear to draw challengers for their re-election bids.
  • As expected, candidates to qualify for the county commission's Super District 6 seat included activist Maryam Ahmad; community advocate Emily Halevy; and now-former Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry. Longtime incumbent Kathie Gannon is retiring.
  • At least nine candidates qualified to run for sheriff, including incumbent Melody Maddox. (The same nine are also currently campaigning in a separate special election to fill the unexpired term of former Sheriff Jeffrey Mann, who retired amid controversy late last year. The winner of the March 24 special election will serve as sheriff only until the end of the year.)
  • Tax commissioner Irvin Johnson, a Democrat, qualified for a re-election campaign and drew a primary opponent: social worker Roslyn Allison McCaskill.
  • District Attorney Sherry Boston did not appear to draw any challengers.