The 2022 election will ask Chatham residents to choose their representatives at Georgia Houseand while most incumbents are looking to hold on to their seats, there are a few new faces and challengers in the crowd.
Chatham’s House representatives fill six of the eight positions on Chatham’s legislative delegation to the Georgia General Assembly. They draft new bills and vote on statewide measures.
But they also have full control over local bills that only affect Chatham County, like this year’s county redistricting vote. If the local delegation agrees, it is not necessary to go to the whole General Assembly.
The first hurdle for any Chatham Statehouse hopefuls will be the May 24 primary. For the four candidates who are unopposed or do not face a challenge outside their party, the primary vote will also be the final hurdle.
Here is an overview of the candidates for the six seats.
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House District 161
Republican Bill Hitchens (outgoing)
Hitchens has represented the 161st District since 2013. He is a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, worked for the Georgia State Patrol for 28 years, and served as Georgia’s first Director of Homeland Security.
Democrat Margo Barbee
Barbee, a Democrat, is a retired social work administrator. No information about Barbee’s campaign was immediately available online.
House District 162
Democrat Carl Gilliard (incumbent)
Gilliard has held the seat of House 162 since 2016. His professional experience includes working as pastor of the Miracle Christian Life Center for six years and as president of the Georgia Coastal Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Democrat Frederick Praylo
Praylo will be the first candidate to challenge Gilliard since taking office. A retired Savannah-Chatham Metro police officer, Praylo is a member of the class of 1976 at Beach High School.
House District 163
Democrat Weslyn ‘Mahogany’ Bowers
Bowers is a local radio host and community activist known as “Lady Mahogany”. Bowers says if elected, she will seek to provide job-readiness training and certification opportunities, develop a community center and lobby with other lawmakers for a rail system between Savannah and Atlanta.
Democrat Anne Westbrook
Westbrook is a lawyer who ran against current House 163 Rep. Derek Mallow in 2020, losing the contest by 19 votes. She is running on a platform of preventing gun violence, expanding access to health care, ending Georgia’s maternal mortality crisis, promoting public safety through sensible gun laws and protecting and developing quality public education.
House District 164
Republican Ron Stephens (incumbent)
Stephens has held his seat since he was first elected in 1997. He is chairman of the Chatham delegation.
Chasity Republican Pawvlik
Pawvlik is a political newcomer and the owner and operator of Raw Fitness. She will be the first GOP challenger Stephens has faced since taking office.
Democrat Marcus Thompson
Thompson works in sales at Hargray Fiber. Thompson ran against Stephens in 2020 but lost by around 1,400 votes. He also mounted a failed bid for Richmond Hill City Council.
House District 165
Democrat Edna Jackson (incumbent)
Jackson is running unopposed after winning his seat in a special election in November. Jackson says she’s running again “because of the encouragement I’ve received from people on all sides,” noting that she’s still learning Statehouse processes.
House District 166
Republican Jesse Petrea (incumbent)
Petrea has held his seat since 2015 and he won’t face any challengers this year. During his career, he worked as Director of Development, Vice Chairman of the Board and co-owner of Altrus Assisted Living Inc. and Coastal Home Care Inc.
Will Peebles is the corporate reporter for Savannah Morning News. He can be reached at [email protected] and @willpeeblessmn on Twitter.