Muarlean Edwards says she’s not distracted this time around and plans to bring new leadership to Georgia House District 153. For the second time, Edwards, a former Dougherty County commissioner, will challenge incumbent Carol Fullerton for the seat. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — Muarlean Edwards admits that she did not put the full effort it takes to realize her quest of unseating Georgia House District 153 incumbent Carol Fullerton two years ago.
Edwards’ daughter, Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins, was facing a daunting personal challenge at the time, and Edwards said she did what mothers do. She focused on her daughter’s plight.
“I put out a few yard signs and talked to a few people, but that was about it,” the former Dougherty County commissioner said. “I know that to win an election, you have to be completely focused on the election. I didn’t do that.”
But two years later, Edwards is ready to throw one of her signature hats into the ring once again. This time, though, she says she’s focused on winning the seat, no matter who her challengers might be.
“Yeah, I’ve heard there are other people interested in the seat, but I’m not worried about anybody else,” Edwards said as she announced plans to seek the House 153 seat. “I’m not going into this to run against Carol Fullerton or anybody else. I’m running for an opportunity to represent the people of this district. And this time I’m running to win.”
Fullerton, who was in a devastating wreck last year that left her badly injured and had her recovery slowed by a recent relapse, has not officially announced re-election plans yet. But she told The Herald late last year that she wants to maintain the seat she’s held for the past six years. Current Dougherty County School Board member Darrel Ealum announced Thursday his plans to challenge Fullerton as well. All three are Democrats.
Edwards said she’s remained active in the community since stepping down from her commission seat to run for state office. The study she conducted on the impact truancy has had on the local jail population has, she says, yielded the kind of information that could help educators prevent future problems.
“I am convinced the solution to some of our future crime problems and our current problems with education involves prevention,” Edwards said of the study. “There has been much attention placed on what happens with children at home, but my focus has been on what happens when they get to school. There is a direct correlation between tardiness as far back as the kindergarten level and criminal activity.
“I’m using my hands-on experiences as an educator and as a social worker to come up with a strategy that will have an impact on these young students who are falling by the wayside. This is a work that will last forever, and that’s what I’m giving to this community. I’ve made a commitment to try and impact our young people in a positive way.”
At a recent strategy session with supporters at Carter’s Grill in downtown Albany, Edwards and some of the volunteers who’ve signed on to help with her campaign started talking about plans to canvas the district that encompasses much of central and south Albany.
Campaign Manager Willa Williams said the key will be knocking on doors in the district.
“I think it’s important for Muarlean to show the people in the district she’s engaged this time,” Williams said. “She’s focused now, and it’s my job to see that she remains focused. I think people in the district recognize the work Muarlean has done to improve education in our region. Education and bringing jobs here are two of the issues that I think are vital to this campaign. I feel confident this is her time.”
The Rev. Solomon Loud Jr., who was one of Edwards’ students at Albany State University, said crime and education are crucial issues he’d like to see the candidate address.
“Ms. Edwards won my heart back when she was teaching, and I believe she will be a huge benefit to our area,” Loud, the pastor at New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, said. “What we as her support team have to do is band together and work as hard as she does. We can’t just talk, we’ve got to be active in our support.”
Carol Corbett, who volunteered to be part of Edwards’ Project Shield school study, said she’s seen the candidate change young people’s lives with her encouragement.
“I attended Dougherty County Commission meetings with her, and she was almost always the only commissioner who remained after the meetings to talk with the public to try and assist them,” Corbett said. “I have talked with countless people who have told me stories of some kindness Muarlean has done for them. She exhibits the qualities of kindness, public service, integrity, honesty and trustworthiness, and I’m excited about being part of her team.”
Edwards admits that she doesn’t expect to be able to match any of her prospective opponents when it comes to funding. But that, she says, is secondary.
“There are things that I won’t do: I won’t buy votes and I won’t play games with ministers to try and get their support,” she said. “I plan to win this election the right way, by outworking everyone else in the race. The time was not right when I ran before; there were too many distractions. The time is right now. This is my time.”