Successful Columbus criminal defense attorney Stacey Jackson confirmed Tuesday he will seek the Republican nomination for the Georgia House seat currently held by Democrat Debbie Buckner.
Jackson, who was raised in Harris County and still resides there, said the question is not why he should seek the District 137 seat, which covers Talbot County and parts of Harris, Meriwether, and Muscogee counties.
“The question is almost why not?” Jackson said Tuesday morning. “I grew up in Harris County. My father was an educator in Talbot County and the principal at Central-Talbotton in the 1980s before he move to Harris County-Carver Middle School. My mother is assistant principal at Harris County High School. I have relatives in Meriwether County and relatives in Columbus. It makes sense.”
It possibly sets up an interesting November race with Jackson, a black Republican, against Bucker, a white Democrat, in a district that is slightly majority black and heavily rural once you get out of the Midland area of Columbus.
Seth Harp, a former state senator and local Republican party chairman, was pleased to hear Jackson, 39, was running. Harp lives in the district and said he would be supporting Jackson.
“First of all, he has strong Republican leanings,” Harp said. “The second thing is he is a highly competent and capable person and attorney.”
Jackson said he will make a public announcement in the next week or so. He said he has not begun to raise campaign funds, but has been talking to people about helping to finance the run. Jackson has an advantage early because incumbents are restricted from taking campaign contributions during the session, which started Monday and will likely end in mid-March.
Buckner, a heath educator who lives in Junction City in Talbot County, has just started her 12th year in the General Assembly. She has been elected six times and fought off challengers in three of those races, including a 2012 Democratic primary challenge from Columbus real estate broker Travis Chambers. In 2004, Buckner faced opposition from Nate Sanderson, who ran as a Republican. She has never lost a General Assembly race.
“I think the main thing is I have worked hard to represent all the people of the district,” Buckner said. “And I plan to do the same thing for years to come.”
The primaries are likely to be May 20, with the General Election on Nov. 3. The Georgia General Assembly must still set the primary date and a bill is currently moving through the Legislature.
Jackson has been a high-profile criminal defense attorney since 2008. From 2000-2008, he worked as an assistant district attorney in Muscogee County for Gray Conger.
Jackson was among a small group of Georgia black Republicans who met with national party chairman Reince Priebus in Atlanta 11 months ago.
“The purpose is obviously to identify some ideas and not only bridge the gap between the Republican Party and black Republicans, but to bridge the gap between the Republican Party and blacks, period,” Jackson said at the time.
Harp said Jackson was recruited to seek office as a Republican.
“And he has been recruited at the highest levels of the party,” Harp said. “You are darn tooting they were recruiting him.”
Jackson is not a trail-blazer when it comes to black Republicans in Muscogee County. In the 1980s, when city councilors had to declare party affiliation, Robert Wright and Rose Strong were black Republicans.
Wright took a job in President Ronald Reagan’s administration as associate administrator of minority small business.
“This is nothing new,” Wright said. “I think people will vote for the person and not the party. The last time I ran, I got 90 percent of the black vote and 50 percent of the white vote. Stacey has good support throughout the community. People will vote for you if they feel you are working in their best interest. Stacey has a reputation as a fighter and that is what we need.”
Jackson was on the short list for a Superior Court judgeship in 2012 when Republican Gov. Nathan Deal selected Arthur Smith. The governor appointed two Superior Court judges and one state court judge last month. Jackson did not put his name in consideration for the positions.
“One of the reasons that I didn’t put my name in the hat for judgeship was because I was considering at the time running for this office,” he said. “Part of thought process is I can stay in private practice and continue to practice law.”
The General Assembly is traditionally in session January to March of each year.