Ga. House election gets first candidate

CONYERS -- Andrea "Andre" Cooper, an investigator with the Newton County Public Defender's Office, announced Tuesday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the Georgia 95th House District that includes Rockdale and Newton counties.

Cooper said he will run against incumbent Rep. Toney Collins, D-Conyers, in the July 20 Democratic primary election. He is the first candidate to announce plans to run for the House district, which also includes a portion of south Gwinnett County.

Cooper targeted a complaint of some residents in the district against Collins in a press release announcing his candidacy. Collins has made only a few public appearances since he was elected in 2008.

"I hear people say that they are not being represented. A lot of residents don't know who their representative is. I want to be there for the constituents and better address their concerns," Cooper said in a press release. "I won't be the type of politician that will only stay in their office. If you call me, I will come directly to you, to address the issue or concern."

In an interview earlier this year, Collins said health issues along with losing his job, then his house shortly after being elected had prevented him from making public appearances. However, Collins said he has since recovered his health and gotten a new job.

Cooper stated in a press release that the issues in his campaign will be on creating more community-based educational and recreational opportunities for youth, improving formal education and creating jobs.

Cooper is involved in different mentoring programs in Covington, including Newton Mentoring, the Military Mentor Program and one he is establishing himself called "MEN," for Mentoring, Empowering and Notifying.

"I care about youth; it's long been a passion of mine. As an investigator, I see some of the directions they're headed. We need more activities for them to do," he said.

Also, Cooper said he was interested in finding ways to help rehabilitated prisoners get employment.

Before working at the Public Defender's Office, Cooper was a DARE officer and patrol officer with the Covington Police Department. He said he has also worked as an engineer for the Georgia Department of Corrections and a project manager for Atlanta-based Environmental Stone Works. He also owned his own business Cooper Concrete Co. from 1989 to 2003.

Cooper is a Newton County resident and is married with one child, a daughter.