A powerful state senator is facing a surprise challenger in a local dentist.
State Sen. Hunter Hill, a Republican who represents parts of northwest Atlanta — including Vinings and Smyrna — also serves as the Vice Chair of the Senate Republican Caucus. His opponent is Jaha Howard, a Smyrna dentist who founded Wave of Excellence, a group focused on engaging local parents and improving local schools.
We previously wrote about Hill’s terrible plans for education, which include supplanting real investment in public education with health savings plans and support for Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District (a.k.a. school takeover) plan.
Howard’s Wave of Excellence speaks to a different vision for education in Georgia.
The Marietta Daily Journal reported on their different approaches to education:
Howard said he was inspired to run after getting involved in Smyrna’s public schools with an initiative called Wave of Excellence. Howard said he was concerned by Hill’s position on many issues, especially his support for so-called “education savings accounts” that Howard said reallocate funding from public to private schools.
So far, Hill has the backing of many powerful business interests, with funds rolling in from the likes of AT&T, the Atlanta Braves, State Farm PAC, GE and Humana. Add to this an impressive list of PACs (political action committees) representing the interests of the mining, poultry farming, trial lawyer, and health care industries.
Howard raised a lot of his campaign’s seed money through his network of dentist friends, with donations coming in from across the country (now that’s a loyal network of friends for you!).
Hill, an incumbent with four years under his belt as a state senator, has raised about $28,000 in the 2016 calendar year, but has over $154,000 in cash on hand from previous fundraising efforts.
Democratic opponent Howard has raised over $95,000 since the start of the year (and the start of his candidacy), and still has $83,000 in cash on hand. Not bad for a newcomer.
Hill has also been engaging in the ever-popular activity of paying back favors during session with donations to other candidates’ political campaigns (it’s also a way for the party to funnel money to favorites that may be lagging in fundraising efforts).
Hill has supported the likes of Jeff Mullis, chair of the powerful Rules committee known for bullying his way through Rules meetings; Brandon Beach, the pro-transit Alpharetta Republican; Charlie Bethel; Bill Cowsert, Senate Majority Leader; JaNice Van Ness and Fran Millar, the chair of the education committee who made headlines for saying he’d “prefer more educated voters” over early black voters.
The seat previously belonged to Doug Stoner, a Democrat, unseated by Hill in 2011.
Howard and Hill will be facing each other in the upcoming November general election.