DeKalb County's CEO runoff: Cochran-Johnson vs. Johnson

A recent poll conducted in the DeKalb County CEO race indicates voters may soon make history by electing the first African American woman to the role. 

The poll results show former Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson has a commanding lead over former longtime Commissioner Larry Johnson. 

The two candidates faced off in a televised debate on FOX 5 Wednesday evening.  

The recent poll indicates Cochran-Johnson has an 18-point lead over Johnson. 

The former longtime Commissioner has received key endorsements from Congressional Representatives such as Nikema Williams and Hank Johnson, as well as Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Democratic star Stacey Abrams. 

Both candidates offer a history of public service. 

"I came to DeKalb County in 2019 as an unlikely, underfunded, and highly underestimated candidate, and you made me your District 7 commissioner," Cochran-Johnson exclaimed. 

"I have been your county commissioner for 22 years. It's about results you can see," Johnson declared. 

The county has been plagued by violent crime and shootings lately, putting public safety at the forefront of the agenda. 

"I'm going to hire 100 officers in the first year I am in office as the CEO. Simply having a lot of police officers on the street does not prevent crime; we have to work with our young people, our recreation centers, our athletic leagues. We've got to focus on prevention and life skills," Johnson said. 

"In DeKalb County, for several years, we have had the highest incidence of violent crime in the state. I am happy to say we are no longer number one now. We must get more officers on the streets. According to FBI standards, we should have 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents. Currently, in DeKalb County, we have one," Cochran-Johnson explained. 

The poll, conducted by the Hicks Evaluation Group, surveyed likely Democratic voters for the upcoming runoff election. It shows Cochran-Johnson with an 18-point lead over Johnson, but 17.7% are still undecided. Pollster Hicks believes that although this appears to be leaning in Cochran-Johnson's favor, turnout is the real key to victory. 

"Runoffs are a different beast than a regular election, and you have people running who have served on the County Commission, have strong bases of support, and who have won elections. This will be a closely watched election," political consultant Fred Hicks commented. 

Early voting is currently underway and will continue through Friday. The runoff election will take place on Tuesday, June 18. 

What does the DeKalb County CEO do?

According to Michael Thurmond, the job of the Chief Executive Officer involves "adopting a balanced budget, ensuring accurate water bills, removing blight, offering summer youth employment, improving employee compensation, and fulfilling the federal/state sewer consent agreement." 

Thurmond is retiring after eight years on the job. Prior to his role as Chief Executive Officer, Thurmond made history as the first African-American to be elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County since the Reconstruction era. He's held several other high-profile jobs, like superintendent of DeKalb schools, labor commissioner and author.

It wasn't immediately clear what is next for the soon-to-be retiree.

Who is Lorraine Cochran-Johnson?

Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson (Supplied)

Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, a Greenville, Alabama-native was voted onto the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners in 2018. She represented Super District 7, up until she decided to run for the CEO position.

Cochran-Johnson has a background in political science and criminal justice, economic development, entrepreneurship and visual media. She's made it her platform to focus on issues like the housing crisis, gun violence, youth empowerment and support for small businesses.

Learn more about Lorraine.

Who is Larry Johnson?

Commissioner Larry Johnson (D-Dist. 3) (Supplied)

Larry Johnson is a health-focused DeKalb County commissioner of 22 years who represents District 3.

He served as the communications director for the Association of Black Cardiologists and as the former manager for the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness, where he began a program to help eliminate the racial and ethnic disparities in health.

Learn more about Larry.