Georgia 2022: Democrat Boddie to run for state Labor commish

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)
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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

Georgia’s race for labor commissioner is suddenly getting more crowded.

State Rep. William Boddie, an East Point Democrat, said Monday he’s running for the statewide post with promises to dramatically speed up how quickly unemployment claims are processed and to improve workforce retraining programs.

“It’s time for a change at the Georgia Department of Labor,” said Boddie. “We need a labor commissioner who puts Georgia workers first and will make sure the jobs lost during the pandemic can be recovered.”

He’s one of several Democrats angling to challenge Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, the incumbent Republican who was first elected to the position in 2010. State Sen. Lester Jackson is expected to soon announce a run. And Republican state Sen. Bruce Thompson has filed paperwork to campaign for the seat.

Butler’s department has been under fire for being slow to handle the deluge of unemployment claims since the pandemic began last year. Many jobless Georgians have complained of waiting for months to receive payments or register their appeals while their bills pile up.

State labor officials acknowledge they were unprepared for the glut of claims and note the department’s staff was half the size it was a decade earlier. But they say roughly 4.4 million claims have been processed since mid-March, with more than 1.4 million of them deemed valid.

Butler has also blamed legal complaints for bogging down the state’s response, a string of court action he said is rooted in partisan “politics.”

Boddie, a three-term state legislator, said he will highlight his work under the Gold Dome, which includes co-sponsoring legislation to overhaul the citizen’s arrest law and a Democratic-backed bill to clear the way for new infrastructure projects in south metro Atlanta.

He said his platform will also include a push to “modernize” labor laws and retool training programs. But his focus, he said, centers on speeding up jobless claims.

“As a state legislator, I’ve been besieged by those calls from my constituents,” Boddie said in an interview. “I’ve talked to Georgians who have lost their cars and their homes. We’ve dealt for more than a year now, and our incumbent commissioner hasn’t done what he needs to do.”

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