Jason Carter Pushes Education in a Possibly Purple Gwinnett County

Democratic candidate for Governor Jason Carter was the featured speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of the Gwinnett Rotary Club, and according to a story in the Gwinnett Daily Post, his topic was education.

“We’re campaigning all across the state, and Gwinnett County is a county that cares about education and that is at the forefront of our campaign,” he said.

According to Carter, the state has “every ingredient” it needs to be an economic and social powerhouse, yet is lagging behind — a situation he attributes, in part, to a “disinvestment” in education at the state level.

“The educational system is not working for the people that it is supposed to work for today and it’s not working for the employers either,” Carter said.

With an enrollment at 171,872 students, Gwinnett County Public Schools is the largest system in Georgia. Only twelve Georgia counties have more people living in them than attend school in Gwinnett. Despite its size, the system won the Broad Prize for being the best urban school district in the country in 2010, and is up for the award again this year. Two years ago, the school system was noted for opposing the constitutional amendment to re-establish the state charter schools commission, an effort pushed by Nathan Deal.

Whether Carter’s emphasis on education will mean a victory in the traditionally red county in November is another question. He has campaigned in Gwinnett, and marched in the Dacula Memorial Day Parade in May. Carter says he “expects to do really well” in the county.

Over at the AJC, reporter Aaron Gould Sheinen took a look at the chance of Gwinnett going purple this November.

The possibility of a flip from red to blue lies in the rapidly changing demographics that has turned Gwinnett into one of Georgia’s two majority-minority counties. (The other is Chatham County, home of Savannah.) From Sheinin’s story, which focuses on the contested State House race of Rep. Tom Rice:

In 1990, 5 percent of Gwinnett’s residents were black, 2 percent were Hispanic and nearly 3 percent were Asian. A census estimate in 2013 shows the county’s population is 26 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic and 11 percent Asian. The county’s population also grew by about 500,000 people in that time period.

But while the county’s population is now more than 50 percent minority, whites remain the majority bloc, and minority groups aren’t registering to vote as quickly. Of the more than 380,000 voters registered in Gwinnett as of Nov. 26, 54 percent are white, 25 percent are black, 5 percent are Hispanic, while Asians make up about 2 percent of the electorate.

Redistricting following the 2010 census will make it more difficult for Democrats to flip additional seats in the legislature, county commission and school board beyond what they already hold. As the story notes, only the State House seat held by Republican Joyce Chandler that runs from east of Lawrenceville towards Loganville is realistically up for grabs by Democrats. For statewide races, including the Governor and U.S. Senate, it could be a different story.

The political parties are paying attention. Republicans have established a “Victory Center” in the county GOP’s office near Lawrenceville City Hall, and are knocking on doors in targeted precincts. A short distance away, the Democrats opened up an office in the same shopping center that holds the county’s elections office.

The results of the two parties’ efforts will be known on November 4th.

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