Your morning jolt: Behind a Henry County redistricting feud

A feud between two lawmakers broke out into the open in the state Capitol on Tuesday, as Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, accused Rep. Steve Davis, R-McDonough, of a secretive effort to ram through Henry County redistricting maps in order to protect his 22-year-old son Ryan Davis – who sits on the local school board.

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, in debate earlier this session. Vino Wong,

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, in debate earlier this session. Vino Wong,

From the Senate well, Jones – chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus – declared that Davis “had a pecuniary interest in maintaining the status quo as well as protecting their own financial interest in what’s going on in Henry County.”

Jones himself admitted the seriousness of an accusation made from the Senate floor.

Davis, in a telephone interview, called the charge “over the top and ridiculous” – the result of a longstanding hostilities between the pair, and Jones’ refusal to respond to entreaties to take up Henry County redistricting during the special session.

More slings are bound to be tossed this morning, when the Henry County bill becomes one of the last measures taken up by the Senate before adjournment – along with a new congressional map.

The argument also is another example of Republican efforts to use their dominance in the Capitol to counter local enclaves of Democratic strength.

State Rep. Steve Davis, whose 22-year-old son is a member of the Henry County school board. Becky Stein/Special

State Rep. Steve Davis, whose 22-year-old son is a member of the Henry County school board. Becky Stein/Special

We have a basic agreement of facts. Davis approached Jones, and asked for local delegation approval of HB 44EX and HB 45EX – new maps for Henry County commission and school board districts. Jones declined to call a delegation meeting for the purpose – preferring to address the issue in January.
That might have ended the matter.

But Davis, with three other House members whose districts touch Henry County, then filed a set of rules with the House Intragovernmental Coordination Committee – the delegation had no existing rules on file. Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, provided the necessary fourth vote in the six-member House delegation, Chairman Chuck Sims said.

Included in the new rules was this: Local legislation affecting Henry County could be filed upon the signatures of three members of the delegation. Jones’ objections became moot.

The two Henry County redistricting bills were placed on the House consent calendar and passed on a vote of 160 to 0.

HB 44EX and HB 45EX received their first full dose of scrutiny at a 9 a.m. meeting of the Senate Reapportionment Committee. It is traditional for a bill’s lead sponsor to make an appearance and a presentation. Davis did not. Instead, committee chairman Mitch Seabaugh acted on Davis’ behalf.

Thirty or so angry residents of Henry County were at the back of the room, guests of Jones. At one point, Senate Democratic Leader Steve Henson, a member of the committee, wondered out loud whether Davis was hiding.

“Be careful of your comments,” warned Seabaugh. “We have a certain decorum here.”

Mosby appeared and recanted his support for the speedy consideration of the Henry County maps. Erik Charles, the lone black member on the five-seat Henry County school board, said the new school district maps (identical to the county commission maps) took him out of his familiar district – and placed him in a new majority-minority district.

Which had been home to Ryan Davis, who was elected to the school board last year at age 21 – after graduating early from Georgia Southern University.

Davis was given much of Charles’ district.

There was no suspense. The Senate Reapportionment Committee quickly passed the Henry County maps on an 8-3 vote.

But at the end of the Senate business day, Jones took to the well on a point of personal privilege for his protest. His allegations: 1) Steve Davis benefited from a process that he himself pushed through the General Assembly; 2) and the process itself was conducted surreptitiously.

“Davis and his lust to protect his son and get the maps that he created all sorts of ethical problems,” said Jones, who filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee.

And the “pecuniary interest” he alleged? Jones said that because Ryan Davis still lived with his parents, his continued employment by the Henry County school system – and the preservation of his young political career — is a direct benefit to his father.

Which left Steve Davis – the parental lawmaker – scoffing. “My son is not a dependent. He has a full-time job in addition to his position on the school board. And he’s going to grad school,” the father said.

As to the matter of secrecy. Jones challenged his foes to present evidence that he’d been informed of the move to push through the Henry County maps.

They did. For one thing, there’s an Aug. 11 note from the Henry County Commission, informing him that they had approved the maps on a 4-1 vote. And a legal advertisement in the Henry County Daily Herald that the maps would be introduced in the General Assembly the next day.

A joint meeting of the county board of commissioners and school board started the ball rolling on June 7. A public hearing was held July 19, advertised on TV and in the newspaper.

Also Tuesday, the Senate Reapportionment Committee turned away the only change requested to the proposed Republican congressional map that will be voted on today.

The committee rejected the pleas of a northwest Georgia contingent who wanted Fannin and Gilmer counties incorporated into the new 14th District (now 9th) occupied by U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger.

George McClellan, chairman of the Gilmer County Republican County, said he and his neighbors are in the middle of the current northwest Georgia district, but under the new map would find themselves on the edge of the new 9th – anchored by Gainesville.

“We look on Hall County as a black hole that will suck up all the influence,” McClellan said. “Rural counties belong together.”

We’re also told that the five-candidate Republican contest to replace the late Rep. Bobby Franklin of northeast Cobb County has been reduced by one. Roy C. Barnes, the 81-year-old real estate agent, has dropped out — depriving voters of a highly collectible bumper sticker.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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43 comments Add your comment

Common Since

August 31st, 2011
7:41 am

What’s a 21 year old doing on a school board?

The Sheenit

August 31st, 2011
7:47 am

@ Common Since

I agree with your question; but, I gotta say this, “Since when did you have any Common Sense with spelling words correctly?” hahaha

Road Scholar

August 31st, 2011
8:10 am

What is the rush? Only fools rush in!

Politi Cal

August 31st, 2011
8:11 am

Everyone likes politics, unless they don’t. Things are sunny as long as you are in control, then when you lose it, your scream “unfair!!” If you want to see the effects of “politics as usual” I invite you to examine the Atlanta and DeKalb Boards of Education. It’s what happens when there is no viable opposition. But like I said…that’s politics! Get used to it, if you aren’t already.

Politi Cal

August 31st, 2011
8:13 am

…and I guess a 21 year old is on the school board because he was elected to it? You either like or dislike democracy, but that’s how it works, guys.


August 31st, 2011
8:15 am

the little boy is in school and is not capable of running a school system as part of its board- he is a boy among men-just a punk kid


August 31st, 2011
8:21 am

Why did they need to establish rules to where a majority was no longer required to take an action or make a change?


August 31st, 2011
8:26 am

Sen. Seabaugh wishes everybody would just leave his cutesly little maps alone.
He did what ALEC, the ToolsEnablingAristocracy and the CofC all ordered him to do.
Now just stand back and see what a disaster it wreaks.
Brer Rabbit had it right.


August 31st, 2011
8:27 am

Anyone know how to stop that “free” paper the AJC drops on my driveway
every thrusday?


August 31st, 2011
8:38 am

Erik Charles has proven himself over time to be a caring, conscientious, and effective board of education member. I would hope that the people of Henry County and whatever district he winds up in, would consider that more important than the color of his skin during an election. If not, shame on them. All parties involved, Sen. Jones included, should NOT put race above performance.


August 31st, 2011
8:46 am

You just have to love the nepotism in this country.


August 31st, 2011
8:50 am

I’d swap our former BOE Chair for any 21 year old. He was a high school drop, eventually got a GED, and can’t write a literate sentence or speak in an intelligible way. Yet his “constituents” re-elect him to this day. No wonder our county is near the bottom of Ga’s 159 counties. Ga is low in the US state ranking and the US is near the bottom of industrialized countries. God help us all.

SpaceyG on Twitter

August 31st, 2011
9:08 am

Still living at home?! And now the whole world knows? Man, that’s gotta hurt.


August 31st, 2011
9:10 am

Does he have children? What commitment does he have to schooling children if he has no experience w/ raising children. I support more youth in politics, but this looks like pure ambition.


August 31st, 2011
9:34 am

Steve Davis is an incompetent and manipulative individual. His political tactics to get his son elected to the school board were simply deplorable. His son had no qualifications to sit on the board. His election signs simply said vote for Davis leveraging the name recognition of his father. In addition, Steve Davis represented his son at a debate that was supposed to be between the school board candidates. Steve Davis is the least respected member of the Henry County delegation. There is no question that this move has been designed to enhance the political stature of his son.

Erik Charles is useless. He has not added any value to the school board and I am simply embarrassed to have him as my representative. I have never voted for him in the 10 years I have lived in the county. At a meeting with his constituents, he was unable to explain the strategic direction of school system. He may care but he is not qualified. Henry County schools have performed well due to the strong leadership of recent school superintendents and the other board members. I must also credit credit to the employees of the school system as well. As with any large organization, Henry County Schools has some areas in which they can improve. The good news is they realize it and are working on them. As one poster noted, his race is irrelevant. It is no more relevant than it is for Steve Davis. For the record, I am a black democrat.

My comments are not based on being a slave to a political ideology. While I don’t agree with some of her political views, BJ Mathis (a republican) has overall done a good job leading the county. Some of her peers like Reid Bowman (a republican) and Fred Archuletta (an independent) have also performed well. I have also been impressed with Bruce Holmes (a democrat) who has manage to be effective despite being a political minority in the county.

The fact that Davis and Charles continue to represent Henry County is an indication of the lack of attention voters pay to some of the local elections. We get what we deserve when we don’t pay closer attention to the details.


August 31st, 2011
9:56 am

Houston, TX can report an AP story about APD, but AJC can’t? Seems a bit shady. What gives AJC?

Young Lady

August 31st, 2011
9:58 am

What commitment does he have to schooling children if he has no experience w/ raising children.

Raising children and educating them academically are two seperate concepts. My parents are wonderful parents but they were not academic teachers. You don’t have to have children to be able to teach or educate. Not all teachers have children either.

But I actually have a sort of personal experience with this. I know a peer that ran for the School Board in my area. He’s in his 20’s and ever since High School had been very vocal and active in meetings and participation. He got involved because of his interest in politics and because he was a student in the district. It seems to have just snowballed from there. Young people can be just as civic minded as older people. He didn’t win from what I recall but it was interesting to see him get involved in something he felt strongly about.


August 31st, 2011
10:09 am

People are afraid of the truth. The Man wants to protect his son by moving him from a high minority district. Let him get in on his own, not who his father is.

Captain Obvious

August 31st, 2011
10:18 am

I agree with most of your comments but take exception to the last regarding BJ Mathis. the Henry County Commissioners have failed to provided in the two most need areas…..transportation and jobs. If they were to focus more on bring companies to Henry county that would at lease ease the traffic issues we face today. I say this after my 1hr commute to Atlanta from Henry county.


August 31st, 2011
10:30 am

The 21 year old is on the school board because the people of his district ELECTED him. He met the qualifications for office and was the better person (per voters in his district) for the office. Why is there a problem with folks understanding how elections work in this country. I mean just take a look at the President he was elected and his qualifications could be questioned; but he was still elected.


August 31st, 2011
10:32 am

lol @ Amazing. Isn’t Holmes the guy that was arrested for domestic abuse? CO, Mathis has worked to improve traffic flow from the southside including admonishing the highway barons at a hearing for spending most of the tax dollars on the northside highways/planning; reported here on the AJC. There are PLENTY of companies in Henry County.

throw the bums out

August 31st, 2011
10:42 am

i use to be proud to be a Republican, but not now, not in GA. We’re seeing all that is wrong in politics.

Last Man Laying Down

August 31st, 2011
10:47 am

Too bad the 43rd, the late Mr. Franklin’s district, won’t get any new blood. While the candidates are fine folks and have made contributions in the past, it’s time for some new ideas from someone who has not been in politics.


August 31st, 2011
11:11 am

Henry County has some issues that need serious attention but this is what we get. The elder Davis represents my district but is known as basically useless until something comes up that benefits him personally. There is already an agreement in place with local Republicans that he won’t run again; hence his efforts at protecting his son’s position.

I’m also not too sure about the job Chairman Mathis and her fellow commissioners are doing. Our county budget continues to present huge problems; funding cuts have closed libraries, county employees continue to experience furloughs and we are losing experienced police officers to other departments because of pay and benefit cuts, etc. Meanwhile, we purchase Tara Field (the airport adjacent to Atlanta Motor Speedway) BACK from Clayton County for millions of dollars.

For the life of me, I can’t make the math work on that one: We aren’t generating sufficient revenue to cover existing budgetary requirements but we can spend millions for an airport located within our county borders that we sold to a neighboring county years ago. Logic be darned I guess.

Captain Midnight

August 31st, 2011
11:13 am

BJ Mathis is awesome. Nash Battlefield will be her legacy plain and simple and I, and many sons of Henry County applaud and appreciate her for it. History and preservation are important and we are lucky she recognizes that. Reid Bowman on the other hand..good luck even getting that guy on the phone or getting an e-mail answered. Call his business and if your lucky you’ll get to speak with his daughter who “will try to get a message to him”.

Mildred Schmelz

August 31st, 2011
11:23 am

Amazing, has done an excellent job of explaining the situation in Henry County. To BigHittas, Bruce Holmes was cleared of all abuse charges after his ex-wife recanted her earlier statements regarding abuse. The people of the Fifth District should be more informed when it comes to candidates running for office. The young, Mr. Davis should never have been elected to the Henry County School Board after some of the dirty tricks used by the older, Mr. Davis.

Wake-Up Everybody

Henry County Teacher

August 31st, 2011
11:42 am

It seems that the young Davis is on the school board to spend other people’s money, has a degree in finance, but has yet to pay any of his OWN bills? Really? Steve Davis had a scandel right before the election where he owed Henry County money…the young Davis threatened his opponent to try to get him to withdraw before the primary…What a MAN the 21 year old is. He will still be living with mommy and daddy when he is 38.

Henry County Teacher

August 31st, 2011
11:44 am

Why were 57 people laid off/fired, but a month after the budget is passed $4 million magically appears to purchase the airport? Really?


August 31st, 2011
11:45 am

To the Victor goes the spoils. The Republicans are in charge and get to set the districts. Suck it up Democrats.


August 31st, 2011
12:33 pm

Maybe you would like to trade your BOE for that of Clayton County….LOL!!

Aaron Burr V. Mexico

August 31st, 2011
12:37 pm

Actually Koz, I think the Republicans are about to suck it up in the next state election, and I don’t mean Democrats. I think the non Tea party members of this state are getting fed up with both parties.


August 31st, 2011
12:38 pm

“Why were 57 people laid off/fired, but a month after the budget is passed $4 million magically appears to purchase the airport?”….
Because the product you are putting out is incompetent and $4M for an airport is a much better ROI…..
Next asinine question……

Alabama Communist

August 31st, 2011
12:50 pm

More Breaking News On Republicans seizing Henry County… A unknown Commander in the Republican Tea Party said today, first we seized Henry County and make it a Redneck free trade zone to seize Atlanta and Fulton County

Marilyn Flynn

August 31st, 2011
1:10 pm

I went to hear the candidates for the school board speak at a community forum, but Ryan Davis was not there. His father, State Representative Steve Davis, spoke for him. I went to a community forum in his district last Saturday because it had been announced in the newspaper that the Superintendent of Schools and Mr. Davis were to be the speakers. Ryan Davis was not there, he was playing in a golf tournament. Are there any other 21-year-old employees in the finance department of the state who are given flex time to fulfill their duties on the school board, go to graduate school, and play golf? Can anyone give me a better definition of nepotism?


August 31st, 2011
1:22 pm

?? they ran that story a couple of weeks ago, training issue
nice try ranting against the lame stream media Sarah, again without a factual foundation


August 31st, 2011
3:21 pm

The 21 yr old kid was elected; after he nearly slandered Mr. Charles. Sad state of affairs in Henry County. As I did the last time; I will support Trea Pipkin or anyone else against Steve Davis. He has his hands in a lot of real estate transactions in our district. He’s not interested in the helping the multi-generational landowners of Henry County.


August 31st, 2011
4:04 pm

lol Mildred,
“To BigHittas, Bruce Holmes was cleared of all abuse charges after his ex-wife recanted her earlier statements regarding abuse.”

That makes me feel much better…NOT!

IMO Amazing is prob a disgruntled candidate that lost in the last election?

BTW, Fred A was not an ‘independent;’ he ran on the Repub ticket, someone needs to get their facts in line?


August 31st, 2011
4:07 pm

Captain Midnight, leave Reid alone. So what if we doesn’t want to wear a Confederate Army uniform and participate in the re-enactments?


August 31st, 2011
4:10 pm


You should consider easing up a bit on the coffee. Re: your comments on teachers, you clearly have been drinking too much haterade as well.

Captain Midnight

August 31st, 2011
5:02 pm

Hey BigHittas, I didn’t say he did. I’ll tell you what else he doesn’t wanna do, answer his phone.

Captain Midnight

August 31st, 2011
5:08 pm

“haterade”? How old are you, 17? I agree with you ITP, the airport was a good buy and a potential for MAJOR tax revenues in the future. It’s nice to know we have leaders who can look beyond scoring sec 8 vouchers and ebt cards for they constituents.


August 31st, 2011
5:23 pm

Steve Davis is an idiot!


September 1st, 2011
8:14 am

I would like to see Steve and Ryan Davis out of office along with Emmanuel Jones. Can someone who wants to help the county and State move foreward please run?