Dougherty County School Board member Darrel Ealum is surrounded by family Thursday as he announces he will run against three-term incumbent Carol Fullerton to represent Georgia House District 153. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — Ending weeks of speculation, Dougherty County School Board member Darrel Ealum announced at a news conference Thursday that he would challenge incumbent Carol Fullerton for her Georgia House District 153 seat.
Ealum became the second Democrat to announce for the seat, joining former Dougherty County Commissioner Muarlean Edwards in running against the five-year incumbent, who is expected to run for re-election.
“I am proud to have served you on the School Board, and I will continue to serve through the end of this year. As a board, we have corrected our course, and we are now sailing in the right direction,” said Ealum, who was elected to the board in 2010. “All of us are fed up with partisan politics, and I make you a strong commitment today — as your state representative, I can, and I will work across the political aisle.
“We cannot keep our political heads in the sand and expect to do what is best for our region. As your public servant on the School Board, I have demonstrated that I understand the political landscape, I can analyze difficult issues, and I will arrive at common ground.”
Fullerton, who was first elected to the House 151 in 2008 and has been reelected four times. Reached for comment Wednesday, Fullerton, who was badly injured in an auto accident in Atlanta in November and has yet to formally announce a bid for re-election, sounded like she was prepared to campaign to retain her seat.
“There are a lot of people I know in this district that don’t want to be represented by either Darrel or Muralean,” Fullerton said.
Ealum said that if elected, his first priority would be to secure complete funding for a new fine arts center at Albany State University.
“Bringing the $30 million to Dougherty County for a new fine arts center at Albany State is paramount. Economists tell us a dollar spent in our economy will turn over five to seven times,” Ealum said. “That makes that $30 million worth $150 to $200 million to the area.
“We need that investment, and Albany State needs a first-class fine arts facility. Let’s make that happen.”
Ealum added that he would seek to build bonds with other Southwest Georgia legislative delegations.
“Education, infrastructure, and region building are our challenges,” he said. “When we educate our children, industry will seek their skills; when we expand our infrastructure, businesses will seek our warm climate and southern hospitality; when we build regional bonds, we will weld more power in Atlanta.”
If elected, Ealum said he would not govern from the back bench.
“Time is short, and the action curve is steep. We must be bold and forthright in our actions. We cannot tackle difficult issues from the backbench,” he said. “I am fully aware of the task ahead, and I am ready for the challenge. I will carry your message to Atlanta, and I will return with answers.
“The citizens of District 153 deserve a voice, a strong voice, a voice of reason, and I will take their voice to Atlanta.”
Ealum is the chief executive officer of Ealum Estates Inc., a family-owned corporation that manages, buys, and sells corporate and personal assets in Colquitt, Dougherty, Lee, and Worth counties. He has a master’s degree from Pepperdine University and taught as associate professor at the University of Miami (Ohio).
The retired Marine officer has served as president of two Kiwanis Clubs and was Southwest Georgia Division lieutenant governor.
State qualifying will be March 3-5, with party primary elections scheduled for May 20.