By Arielle Robinson
Monday afternoon, the Courier spoke over the phone with Dorothy Coker, the Democratic candidate for Georgia State House District 34.
District 34 covers parts of Kennesaw and Marietta.
The incumbent is Republican Devan Seabaugh, who won the special general election runoff held in July 2021.
Coker, a small business owner who works in the insurance industry, advanced from the May primary. She is running to flip the seat.
Take a few minutes to talk about your background. What is your connection to Cobb County and why did you decide to run for this seat?
Coker: “My name is Dorothy Coker. I am the daughter of an educator, the mother of three amazing boys, and a small business owner of almost 20 years. I have 10 years of experience in the insurance industry, in which I have protected many families and served my community diligently.
“I have personally observed small business owners and families struggle to maintain economic and financial security in this ever-changing and shifting economy. These daily encounters have empowered me to help families and facilitate change, to create an environment in which we can thrive together.
“At an early age, I was taught the values of modesty, gratefulness, and a strong sense of selflessness, compelling me to want to give back to my community. I am a strong woman of faith, and I’m driven by principles and a strong belief in the American dream.
“Having raised my children as a single mom, I understand the struggles of hard-working families. I am highly experienced and a dedicated leader who strives for excellence in everything I set out to accomplish.
“I’m running because Cobb is changing. The Cobb today is not the same Cobb it was almost seven years ago when I moved here. All our founding principles are under attack, our community is at stake and has become divided. We must build our village back one block at a time, and we must address the issues within our local community.”
How do you think the work you have done as an insurance agent and business owner prepares you to become a state representative?
“It prepares me because on a daily basis I get to speak to families that are struggling to maintain financial security in this economy.”
Your campaign platform mentions four topics of importance to you—education, voting rights, economic development, and affordable healthcare. For each of these four issues, could you take two to three minutes to explain why you believe this issue is important and what tangible solution you have to these issues?
“My mother was an educator, I come from a family of educators. I strongly support quality education not just in my district but within the state of Georgia. I think we need a robust and well-funded public education system, it’s vital to the success of our youth.
“I will advocate for more equitable funding for our educators. We need to pay them more in order to maintain retention. Having a mother as an educator, I know the firsthand benefits of a strong education and how we must prepare our kids to be able to compete on a global stage.
“I think our voting rights laws should protect everyone, regardless of their wealth status or their financial background. One of the reasons I’m running for office is to represent the common man and woman that needs it most. Our state legislators must always work to uphold existing laws that protect us and pass new laws that protect our citizens’ basic human rights.
“For economic development — small businesses are the engines of our community. They are the driving force of economic growth, and we must reduce the red tape that makes it harder for small businesses to be able to succeed within the community.
“When it comes to affordable healthcare, we all have had to deal with COVID in some shape, form, or fashion. There’s so many constituents that have long haul issues, they need to be able to have healthcare as they’re going through their recovery process and as we continue to find out more about the virus.
“Those are things on a state level, but when I think of issues facing my community, I think my main focus for my community is mental health issues, domestic violence, and making sure we keep our community safe from crime.
“I think COVID has really played a role on the mental health of our kids, our families, it just has played a role on so many people. And we have to do something about it because if not, these issues will continue to get bigger and bigger.
“We’ve had so many people shut up in the home, so many people who felt like they had no way out during COVID. We must contain crime within the community and keep focusing on cultivating our young people’s minds and making sure we keep an eye on reducing our crime rate.”
After the recent historic overturn of Roe v. Wade, Georgia courts moved ahead to allow the heartbeat law to go into effect, which undoubtedly impacts people who can get pregnant—especially poor women and women of color. What is your view on the abortion restrictions that have gone into effect in Georgia and across the country? Would you do anything different as a state rep about the heartbeat law here in the state or do you support it?
“I do not support the heartbeat bill — not at all. We have so many mothers out here dealing with infertility, there are so many circumstances that could lead to an individual needing an abortion. I do not support the heartbeat bill.
“I think it is important that everybody knows some of the small, minute details within this heartbeat bill. A lot of women don’t know that if they have a frozen embryo and they destroy it they are in violation of the heartbeat act, Georgia House Bill 481.
“The heartbeat bill is more than abortion, but about a woman’s right to choose in how she reproduces and healthcare rights. [The heartbeat bill] takes away a woman’s right to choose, I am not in favor of the heartbeat bill at all. I think there needs to be a lot of revamping. The overturn of Roe vs. Wade is just devastating to women across the nation.”
Inflation has been all over the news in recent months, and voters in Cobb have felt this through higher gas prices and food costs. What actions would you support to reduce the burden of inflation on the average working person in Marietta and Kennesaw?
“I think before we could do anything, we have to stabilize our economy. We have to make sure that the economy is stabilized and that we stimulate our small businesses. It’s not just a Georgia issue, it’s a national issue, and the only way we can fix it from a local perspective is by stimulating our economy.”
Rent and housing prices are becoming unaffordable for many Cobb and metro Atlanta residents and Georgia is among the weakest states in the entire country when it comes to renters’ rights. How should Georgia go about fixing the lack of protections for renters?
“Again, we have to be able to stimulate our economy. We have an inflation issue, gas prices are going up, rent is going up. You have businesses coming to Georgia but workers are making less than $20 an hour. We have to do something to stimulate our businesses so that they can increase wages to employees, so they can keep up with the ever-changing economy.”
How are you reaching out to people to get your message heard? Where can voters find you?
“Voters can call me — my phone number is 470-246-7160 or they can find me on the web at DorothyCoker4ga.com. I’ll answer my phone, I will respond to emails, and I am more than open to meeting with voters. We’re doing door knocking, we’re doing phone calls. I’m willing to meet by invitation only.”
What is something new you will bring to this seat?
“I think the election is bigger than party divisions, it’s all about the best candidate for the district. One of the things I’m hearing from voters in the community is that they feel left out and they don’t know who to turn to. I will bring transparency and accountability to them.”
Anything else you would like to mention that was not touched upon today?
“I was just wanting to let the voters know that I understand these are difficult times for everyone. The election is bigger than party division, it is about the best candidate for the district. We want someone who will fight day and night.
“I think we should not allow party lines to divide us, it’s not about Republicans, it’s not about Democrats, it’s about uniting and thriving together as one. I’m running on transparency and accountability.
“I think part of the issue is we are not united. We must become united again so we can all thrive together. I think that it’s been past time for each of us to make a difference. We need leaders that will stand up for all of us and will not allow party lines to divide us.
“I will stand up for District 34 citizens and constituents in Georgia. When I’m elected as their next state representative, I will advocate for them. I just want them to know service is more than a word for me, it’s a mission.”
To learn more about Coker, visit her website.
Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She also freelances for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and is the former president of KSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a former CNN intern. She enjoys music, reading, and live shows.