State Rep. Mike Cheokas beat back a Republican contender in the primaries and is headed to a face off with Democrat and former Americus mayor Bill McGowan in November for the House District 138 seat.
Last session, Cheokas became embroiled in Rep. Tommy Benton’s controversial statements about the KKK being, “not so much a racist thing, but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”
Cheokas wouldn’t pull his name from Benton’s bills to protect Stone Mountain — long a source of conflict between white supremacist groups and everybody else — or reclaim a state holiday as Confederate Day. The AJC reports:
Rep. Mike Cheokas, R-Americus, repudiated Benton’s remarks, but said he would not pull his name from the Confederate holiday bill or the Stone Mountain referendum.
“A lot of the people in my district are sensitive to … how can I say this? Well, their ancestors served in the Confederacy,” he said.
First elected in 2004 as a Democrat, Cheokas became a Republican after his 2010 election, and subsequently faced Democratic challengers in 2012 and 2014.
Back when he switched parties in 2010, he told the AJC:
“My fiscally conservative voting record reflects that effort and the views of my constituents, which ultimately led me to join the House Republican Caucus.”
However, Cheokas was just one of several Democrats from non-metro parts of Georgia looking to shore up his position in advance of Republican-led redistricting efforts. This move appears to have worked in his favor.
Cheokas may have been a Democrat once, but his voting record shows a clear alignment with the state’s conservative leaders.
In an interview with the Americus Times-Recorder, Cheokas said:
“I have fought to reduce the reliance on mandated testing on students, preserved local control and secured vital funding for education.”
He talks about preserving local control of school districts, yet he voted for Gov. Nathan Deal’s major school take-over legislation, the Opportunity School District measure that will go before voters this November.
Cheokas also voted with conservatives, backing the campus carry measure and the so-called “religious freedom” bill championed by Sen. Josh McKoon, which was nothing more than attempt to attack the rights of gay Georgians. Both were ultimately vetoed by Gov. Deal.
Neither Cheokas nor McGowan have reported much in the way of fundraising as of their March 31st filings.