Dougherty County Commissioner Muarlean Edwards listens to questions from reporters Thursday while standing with supporters at a campaign rally. Edwards told supporters she needs their help to send the “real deal” to Atlanta.
ALBANY, Ga. — With her trademark cowboy hat and vivacious personality, Dougherty County Commissioner Muarlean Edwards spurred supporters Thursday to help her unseat Carol Fullerton and to send the “real deal” to Atlanta as the next representative for state House District 153.
Speaking to the local media and a group of supporters outside the downtown Government Center Thursday, Edwards spoke of her past as a social worker and teacher, pledging to use the compassion she’s experienced herself since childhood to better help those in Southwest Georgia.
“Gov. Deal has already got the message Muarlean is coming,” Edwards said. “While I’m willing to work with just about anyone for the people of this district, I’m not the type to just go along.”
Edwards decided last month not to seek re-election to her Dougherty County Commission seat but to instead run for state office for the first time.
In order to win, she’ll have to unseat incumbent Democrat Carol Fullerton, who says she fully intends to keep her seat, in the July 31 primary.
Edwards’ political advisor, Vincent Andrews, said he knows it’s going to be a tough fight, but that he and Edwards believe they can do it.
“We’re going to do this the old-fashioned way,” he said. “We’re going to get out her message to as many people as we can; knocking on doors, shaking hands and spreading her information.”
Even before she was on the commission, Edwards said she has been working, largely behind the scenes, to improve the lives of her neighbors. But once she was elected to the commission, Edwards really began delving into complex social issues.
Chief among them is the Dougherty County School System’s truancy problem. Using a partnership between the school system and Albany State University known as Project SHIELD, Edwards developed a pilot program at Turner Elementary School to study ways to get truant students to class on time.
She also worked to commission a study of jail inmates to determine if there was a correlation between the time inmates spent in school and the fact that they were in jail.
Between those projects, Edwards worked with the Probate and Superior Court system to help seniors without birth certificates or other vital documents get their paperwork filed so that they can have proper ID cards and driver’s licenses.
Edwards is the matriarch of arguable the most politically active family in Dougherty County. Her daughter Velvet Riggins currently sits on the Dougherty County School Board, and her son Victor Edwards was, at one time, the youngest county commissioner in Georgia history.
But both have had their legal challenges.
Victor Edwards resigned his seat shortly before pleading guilty to federal money laundering charges — a move his mother still calls “entrapment” by federal authorities. Riggins is dealing with her own legal troubles after being indicted on charges that she knowingly falsified documents related to a reduced-cost lunch program for her child — a charge she steadfastly denies.
The family’s struggles are something Muarlean Edwards doesn’t shy away from; she says they have made her family unit stronger.
“One thing I’ve learned is that, regardless of what you see us go through, we can handle it,” Edwards said. “I’m smart, I’m tough and I am what I am. I can guarantee that we’ll make it through it, so go tell Nathan Deal that the real deal is on the way to Atlanta.”