By Maynard Eaton
Dr. John Eaves, the former Fulton County Commission Chairman, is bent on making political history with his Gwinnett and Forsyth County campaign to win the 7 th District Congressional seat and in doing so, create an unprecedented black power base in the Atlanta area. If victorious in November, Dr. Eaves becomes its fifth African American to serve simultaneously in Congress.
“People don’t realize it, but this is an historic run that I’m making in an effort to be the first African American to represent a district that has been traditionally conservative and white,” opines Eaves who moved to Peachtree Corners, near Norcross last year. “Now, you have incredible diversity in the district, I believe, the dynamics are favorable to benefit from in terms of being elected.”
Dr. Eaves adds, “Sometimes in a diverse district African Americans can be the swing vote. In this election the black electorate will determine who will win.”
During a lengthy breakfast interview recently, Eaves tells this reporter “he is the right person and this is the right time” for his 7th District Democratic primary campaign, and that the “changing demographics of the area” make it a winnable race for him.
Dr. Eaves, who studied mathematics at Morehouse College, is convinced that the numbers are in his favor with 21% of the district being African American, 20% Latino, 14%, Asian and the white electorate is approximately 40%.
“It’s almost parity across the board in terms of ethnicities,” Eaves contends. “The majority of the district consists of people of color. I feel like the numbers are in my favor. Within the Democratic Party, roughly 41% are African American, 32% are white, nine percent Asian, four percent Latino. So, the demographics for a candidate of color, especially with African Americans and women, should lead to success in terms of my run.”
Still, there are naysayers and doubters who argue Dr. Eaves, a senior instructor of political science at Spelman College and a savvy community organizer, faces stiff competition. The other 7th District Democratic challengers include former candidate Carolyn Bourdeaux, State Senator Zahra Karinshak, State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, and political activist Nabilah Islam. There is no incumbent.
“It’s going to be very interesting,” opines Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project. “John Eaves has a long record of leadership in the region. My advice to Eaves is to be clear about who you are and to run a campaign for the future of Gwinnett County.”
“I think Dr. Eaves has an uphill battle, but he is a skillful individual,” says Dr. Rashad Richey, a WAOK AM talk show host and Channel 46 political commentator. “He’s a thoughtful person and he needs to continue doing what he’s doing, and that’s making direct contact with the voters of that district.”
Charles Griggs is an expert political strategist and policy advisor. “John is a seasoned, experienced public servant so that puts him a position where he can certainly pull it off,” he asserts. “This district has been represented by Republicans ever since it has been in existence. The possibility of it being represented by a Democrat and an African American is something that can energize voters. I wouldn’t say that he is a longshot; I would say John has as good a shot as any.”
Dr. Eaves is no wannabe. He’s confident of his election chances because of the changing character of Gwinnett’s electorate, which is “really now an urban/suburban” county and not the Republican stronghold it once was.
“Some of the challenges I dealt with in Fulton County, ranging from health care to criminal justice reform to economic development to supporting MARTA, are becoming major issues in Gwinnett,” he says. “You have a bunch of novices running with me who haven’t dealt with those issues. My experience is heads and shoulders above anyone else in the race.”
Currently, four out of the six Atlanta area Congressional districts are held by African American Democrats. Three Democratically held “safe districts” are represented by Hank Johnson – District 4, John Lewis – District 5, and David Scott – District 13. The 2018 election of Lucy McBath flipped District 6 and resolved the three-three district split. Enter Congressional District 7 and Dr. John Eaves. If he’s elected, that would prove to be politically significant.
“When they drew these majority-minority access electoral congressional districts, they drew them to give black people a seat at the table, but not to have knives and forks,” opines Griggs. “Now, what you have in the
Atlanta area if you have five out of the six (congressional districts), you not only have knives and forks, but you actually have meat on the plate as well. Now you could have that whole area of the state of Georgia represented by African Americans. That’s a game changer.”
Dr. Eaves self-confidently concurs. “It’s not only historical for me winning the 7th District, but also for the African American congressmen in this region. I’d be the fifth African American to serve -simultaneous with others in Congress in the Atlanta area. This will be the stamp on Atlanta being a regional footprint of black political leadership. This prominence is remarkable and unparalleled.”