Sheriff Thomas Brown sure looks like he’s going to run against Rep. Hank Johnson.
He’s throwing a birthday party at Georgia Piedmont Technical College on Thursday. Or rather, his exploratory committee is.
Brown’s exploratory committee for a congressional run sent an Evite to about 150 people earlier this week for “A Birthday Celebration for Thomas Brown” at the school.
The movement toward a Brown run against Johnson isn’t completely out of the blue, of course. The same fellow who registered Brown’s web address apparently has been scooping up related addresses since May. Brown’s exploratory committee went live in July.
Two names immediately leap out on the exploratory committee team: former State Sen. Steen Miles and current State Sen. Emanuel Jones. Miles announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate earlier Wednesday morning, posing a challenge to the candidacy of Michelle Nunn for the Democratic nomination. There’s no explaining Emanuel Jones’ position here quite yet. I’ll have to ask him.
The names on the invitation list are somewhat more interesting. Among the doctors and business executives, a few public servants crept into the invitation list like Bettye Davis, Director of One DeKalb, Atlanta Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Joel Baker, Rep. Billy Mitchell and DeKalb schools chief Michael Thurmond.
In a county rife with questions about corruption and competence, Hank Johnson — comic interludes aside — has a reputation as a bread-and-butter congressman with a focus on small business issues and progressive politics. Brown has a similarly-strong reputation coming in after the Derwin Brown assassination in 2001. A primary challenge represents a conflict between the two strongest political figures in the county at a time when added political turmoil in DeKalb County isn’t particularly welcome among many people watching this unfold.
The throwing of a “birthday party” by an exploratory committee is, of course, a dodge around rules against certain kinds of electioneering activities before formally becoming a candidate for office. Asked about the potential conflict of interest the school might have by hosting a partisan political event — basically, cheesing off Johnson — the school’s spokeswoman Zaundra Brown replied:
“The Georgia Piedmont Technical College does not have a policy that regulates the content of events held in the Conference Center. Rather, it is available to the public on a first come, first served basis when it is not being used by the College. The request was for a birthday reception for Sheriff Thomas Brown, an alumnus of the College. The cost that he will pay for use of the facility is based on the standard, published rate.
Congressman Hank Johnson is a good friend of the College. He visited and toured our facility this past Monday.”
A call to the number listed on the Evite has yet to be returned.