Richard Keatley, left, and Fred Quinn are running for labor commissioner in the May 22 Democratic primary. The winner will face the incumbent, Mark Butler, in November’s general election.

Georgia Democrats vie for chance to unseat GOP labor commissioner

Two Democrats will face off this month for the chance to challenge longtime Republican state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

Former Georgia State professor Richard Keatley — who also was one of many who sought the vacated 6th Congressional District seat last year — and Fred Quinn, who recently worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, both said they are better suited for the job than Butler.

The Department of Labor provides services to job seekers and employers, including running Georgia’s unemployment insurance program and overseeing child labor issues.

Both candidates said they believe the state needs to invest in the career centers that are spread across the state, increase the minimum wage and expand educational opportunities.

Quinn pointed to career center closings in rural areas such as Cedartown, Cordele and Newnan as evidence Buter is falling short in the job.

“I expect the labor commissioner to be the voice of workers,” Keatley said. “I don’t believe the current commissioner has been that.”

A Tignall native, Quinn earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Paine College and a master’s in business administration from the Keller Graduate School of Management.

While in college, Quinn said he held an internship with the Labor Department in an Augusta career center.

Quinn, an Atlanta resident, said while there he learned the importance of helping people who were unemployed.

“I just want to ensure that everyone in Georgia that wants to work has the opportunity to do it,” Quinn said.

The first-time candidate questioned Keatley’s true interest in the Labor Department. The former French professor first considered another attempt at the 6th District seat. He finished 16th among 18 candidates in the 6th District race last year, garnering only 229 votes.

But Keatley said that while money isn’t everything, the fact that he’s outraised Quinn shows that Democratic voters are behind him.

Still, neither campaign is exactly loaded.

Keatley, an Ohio native who moved to Atlanta with his wife in 1998, reported $33,311 in campaign contributions as of March 31. He transferred about $13,000 of money already raised from his congressional campaign. Quinn reported raising almost $10,000, which includes about $8,500 of his own cash.

Butler only had $36,000 banked as of the end of March, less than many state legislative candidates have on hand to spend.

After serving in the Navy, Keatley earned a doctorate in French from Yale University. He said after learning there were several qualified Democrats running in the 6th District race, he thought his expertise might better fit the less crowded labor commissioner race.

“I think someone who’s served their country should be served by the state of Georgia and brought back into the workforce,” he said.

Whoever wins the May 22 primary will face Butler in November.

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