Editor's note: Early voting continues for the July 31 General Primary that pairs Democratic State Representatives Simone Bell (58) and Ralph Long (61) against each other in the District 58 race. The newly redrawn district includes portions of Old Fourth Ward, Sweet Auburn, Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, Grant Park, Summerhill, Turner Field, Capitol View and Lakewood Heights. The winner will face Republican Earl Cooper in November. A profile of Bell can be found here.
When a teenage Ralph Long III moved to Sylvan Hills in 1995, he was overwhelmed by what he thought the community could become.
Long, a real estate broker, said his commitment to the Sylvan Hills community led him to run for the state house. When he heard that Fort McPherson, a 488-acre army base near the airport, would be closed and redeveloped, Long said he wanted to have a say in the changes.
“I didn’t want anyone making any decisions without me being heavily involved,” he said.
Long won District 60’s seat in 2008. He is running this month against incumbent Rep. Simone Bell in District 58.
Education is one of District 58’s key issues, according to Long. “Given the recent Atlanta Public Schools debacle, there have been some disparities between north and south [of the city],” he said.
At the center of Atlanta’s fight for better education is the tension between charter schools and free public education. Although Long ran on free public education in his first campaign, he now thinks that a choice between charter and traditional schools is the best option.
“I think of my own son. I want to provide him a cocktail of choices,” he said. “Why settle with one thing when that thing has failed?”
Long compared schools to cars, suggesting that you wouldn’t go to a car dealership expecting to find only one option available.
Seeing Atlanta through the lens of a real estate broker has given Long an interesting perspective on his time at the capitol building. Since becoming a representative, he said he is proud of saving people’s homes.
Recently when Long was going door-to-door in the new District 58, he met a young woman on Irwin Street in Old Fourth Ward who was undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with cancer. She told Long that she would be evicted within a week.
Although the woman did not live in Long’s district, he helped her negotiate a payment plan with her bank. “I slept well that night,” he said.
District 58’s new borders are not lost on Long. In a nod to the district’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender constituents, Long characterized himself as “sensitive” to the needs of that community.