Senate, 39th District

Our pick: Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta

For nearly two decades, state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, has kept a vise grip on the left-leaning seat representing a diverse swath of some of the city's richest and poorest areas. The firebrand lawmaker, who's been a staunch defender of progressive policies such as Medicaid expansion and voting rights and has been a thorn in the side of the business community, only recently began attracting challengers for his seat. This year that person is Buckhead realtor Robert Tindall, a Republican with a libertarian bent. The former U.S. Marine, who's running his first race for elected office, says Fort has the worst legislative record of any Gold Dome lawmaker.

"Vincent Fort is more about Vincent Fort than he is for our constituents," says Tindall, who pledges to push policies to improve public education, enact fair tax reform, decriminalize marijuana, support same-sex marriage, and synchronize traffic lights to reduce congestion. "He does nothing to bring people together. Our district goes from Buckhead to East Point. I think he lacks the diversity needed for our district."

It's true that Fort has seldom met a protest or press conference he didn't like. And it's worth discussing the pros and cons of his approach. But he's also been a strong advocate for funding at Atlanta Metropolitan State College; he pulled in as much as $5 million in state funding last year for the four-year school in southwest Atlanta. More importantly, he plays a vital role under the GOP-controlled Gold Dome: He's one of the few advocates for marginalized and disenfranchised residents in a statehouse dominated by corporate lobbyists and ideologues. And not just under the Dome: the college professor has remained one of the most vocal critics of the redevelopment of part of Fort McPherson into Tyler Perry's newest studio and of excessive policing in Habersham County — an area he doesn't even represent. Does Fort pander to the media's spotlight? No question. But his voice and views are needed under the Gold Dome. He should continue for another term.

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