William Boddie wins Democratic runoff for labor commissioner

02/09/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point) speaks against HB 112 in the House Chambers on day 14 of the Georgia Legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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02/09/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point) speaks against HB 112 in the House Chambers on day 14 of the Georgia Legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

State Rep. William Boddie has won the Democratic nomination for commissioner of labor.

Boddie had nearly two-thirds of the vote in the contest with activist and small business owner Nicole Horn and the Associated Press called the race after 10 p.m. Tuesday. The two had placed first and second in a crowded field in last month’s Democratic primary.

To avoid the run-off, a candidate needed 50% plus one vote, but neither garnered more than one-third of the vote in the first round.

Boddie has been endorsed by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams. He will face Republican Bruce Thompson, a member of the Georgia State Senate, in the general election in November.

The current Labor Commissioner, Republican Mark Butler, said earlier this year that he would not seek re-election for personal reasons.

Thompson won a solid majority of the votes on the Republican side, avoiding a run-off by handily besting a candidate Butler had endorsed.

Both Thompson and Boddie have been critical of the department’s performance during the pandemic, though with sharply different perspectives.

The department was overwhelmed by an avalanche of jobless claims in the early months of the pandemic and never seemed to completely catch up. Claimants waited months to have their cases handled and often found it impossible to reach staffers.

Thompson said the department needs modernization and an aggressive, business-style emphasis on measuring performance.

Boddie has said the department should be more of an advocate for working people and needs more decentralized outreach, with deputy commissioners assigned to various regions and career centers in all but the smallest counties.

On Monday, an advocacy group released a report sketching out a series reforms it said are needed at the Georgia Department of Labor. More staff, more funding and better technology are needed at the agency, according to NELP Action.

The report also calls for legislation that would expand unemployment benefits for jobless Georgians.