About 25 miles southeast of Atlanta sits the town of McDonough, Georgia. A place with an idyllic square filled with antique shops, an assortment of locally owned restaurants, and a historic courthouse. What was once a a racially homogenous, conservative small town has quickly exploded into a thriving piece of the Atlanta metropolis. Its population has tripled since the year 2000, and it is now a place diverse in both culture and political thought. It is also the center of a deadlocked race for State Senate. McDonough lies in the heart of Senate District 17, where incumbent Brian Strickland is fighting for his political life. A politician who at just age 36 has quickly risen in the ranks of Republican leadership in the state legislature and is now facing a tough race from political newcomer Kelly Rose, a film producer turned political activist hoping to upend decades of conservative, "good 'ol boy" leadership in this district.
This race gained particular attention from us due to Brian Strickland’s insidious past. He is running a race presenting himself as a moderate Republican pragmatist, but his record tells a completely different story. His image has been carefully crafted, and he is almost certainly being groomed for a future run for Governor, having aligned himself closely with Governor Brian Kemp, and even having the Governor’s office deploy First Lady Marty Kemp to the district as his numbers with women plummet. The facade he presents to voters could not be farther from what he has actually done first as a State House member, and now as a State Senator.
His record is particularly egregious when you take a closer glance, in 2017 a federal lawsuit was filed by the NAACP alleging that Strickland's redrawn House District 111 had changed lines to purposely remove Black voters. House Bill 566 removed nearly 1,000 Black voters from his district and added 500 new white voters in a calculated move to tilt his seat towards the Republican Party, while it passed unanimously, Democrats have been explicit that the changes the Republicans eventually made were far more reaching than initially proposed. It was obvious he felt the need to suppress the voices of his constituents considering the votes he was making were increasingly out of step with the mainstream. Voting to support measures such as requiring drug tests for welfare recipients, with simply “their demeanor” being cause for a test, allocating state dollars to unregulated “crisis pregnancy centers” that prey on vulnerable pregnant women and girls, and covert “religious freedom” bills that gave individuals license to discriminate against same-sex couples were just a few of the extremist positions he took in his quest to gain the favor of the right-wing donors who have financed his political ambitions.
As a Senator his record has been no better, he led the charge to break up the City of Stockbridge, in an effort to create “Eagle’s Landing”, a municipality that would have been less diverse than Stockbridge and higher income in a repudiation of a city that was once overwhelmingly white, but had now become majority African-American and working class. He also supported heinous bills such as Senate Bill 375, that gave religious adoption agencies the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, House Bill 481 that would have outlawed abortion at six weeks, and House Bill 316 which was a carefully crafted elections bill that cemented Georgia’s place as one of the worst offenders of voter suppression in the nation.
Brian Strickland is not a moderate and has no interest in improving the lives of Georgians. He has been radio silent as COVID-19 has ravaged this state, has ignored calls to expand Medicaid as thousands of Georgians remain uninsured, his GOP majority has ignored the calls to adequately fund Georgia’s public schools, he claims to support our public safety officials but their pay remains some of the lowest in the nation, and his agenda is squarely focused on erasing the humanity of LGBT people in this state.
We have a chance to end his political career and his intended fast track to the Governor’s Mansion this fall by electing Kelly Rose to the Georgia State Senate. Kelly Rose is a film producer who runs an acting workshop studio alongside her husband in Downtown McDonough. Kelly is a wife, mother, and a fierce advocate and ally for marginalized groups. Kelly Rose will be an important voice in reshaping the politics at the Georgia State Capitol and help this state begin recovery from the massive impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our state’s economy. Kelly Rose will fight for workers by strengthening union protections and increasing the state’s minimum wage, fight for Georgia families by voting to overturn House Bill 481, ensuring women have the choice to make decisions about their reproductive health, fight for public safety officials by
increasing starting pay, undoing Brian Strickland’s racist and unconstitutional gerrymanders, and keep our hospitals open by voting to expand Medicaid. Brian Strickland is more concerned about catering to the funders of mysterious dark money PACs, the firebrand fringe right of his party, and anyone who will aid him in his ultimate goal of being elected to higher office. It is time to put people over politics and that is why we are supporting Kelly Rose for State Senate.