Cheokas: A Trump Republican, Runs Again for State Representative
Michael Cheokas, the former State Representative of the 138th District which includes Sumter, Schley, Marion, and Chattahoochee Counties, has qualified as the Republican candidate in this May’s election. Cheokas was defeated in 2016 by the current State Rep Dan McGowan, who is stepping down. “Cheokas, the owner of two liquor stores in Americus, has damaged Blacks who have kept his businesses going for years,” says former NAACP president Dr. John Marshall.
In 2010 Cheokas changed parties after the citizens of the 138th District voted for him to represent them as a Democrat. The switch angered Americus Democrats, and many of the Black community were outraged by his move to the Republicans. The Americus Sumter Observer (ASO) newspaper ran several articles condemning the switch and Cheokas’ voting as a Republican in the GA Legislature.
After becoming a Republican, Cheokas co-sponsored Local Bill 836 with Democrat State Senator Freddie Powell Sims. Their Bill changed the Sumter County School Districts from nine single-member seats to five seats, with two seats at-large (meaning the whole county votes for the seat). Historically, Blacks never win at-large seats, and the change in Sumter County School District resulted in a change from a Black majority to a White majority.
Sims, who is Black, is a former educator and has served as principal of Staley Middle School in Americus. She has been condemned by many of her fellow local and State House Democrats for supporting and being the face of Republican Governor Nathan Deal’s “Opportunity School Districts.” The Bill would have been harmful to Georgia’s public schools but Georgians soundly defeated the Bill.
The Sumter County NAACP’s President, Rev. Mathis Wright, challenged Local Bill 836. He took the case to Federal Court in
Albany, GA, without a lawyer. Judge Louis Sands, the presiding judge, asked Wright to come back with an attorney. Wright
was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU)-a strong civil rights legal teamwith expertise in fighting for Voting Rights and civil liberties violations.
Judge Sands ruled in favor of the Sumter County Elections Board and the Sumter County Commissioners. The Commissioners had approved the school districts changes. The ACLU appealed the case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, GA. Laughlin McDonald, the lead attorney for the ACLU, along with Wright, was able to get Judge Sands’ decision reversed at the 11th Circuit. The Court reversed Sands, and the case was remanded back to his District Court to correct the legal errors that were made.
Judge Sands held hearings in mid-December 2017 on the school case as ordered by the 11th Circuit. Witnesses from both sides testified. Sumter County retained an Atlanta $million-dollar law firm that initially represented them in Sands Court and at the 11th Circuit. At the hearings in Judge Sands Court in December, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners selected another law firm from Washington, D.C.
Wright told the ASO that he, “will obtain the cost to the citizens of Sumter County for our County Commissioners hiring two high-priced Law firms in an apparent losing situation.”
Republican Cheokas seeks another chance to rejoin the GA Legislature after inflicting damage and creating unnecessary monetary cost for Sumter County. Cheokas’ co-conspirator, Democrat State Senator Freddie Powell Sims, who represents several counties including Dougherty and Sumter, apparently fails to understand that her constituents will remember her regressive actions. Cheokas faces strong opposition in the Republican Primary and could be defeated. “We have been told at the Observer that Cheokas has tax problems and his liquor store on Tripp Street is failing. Many Blacks have stopped patronizing his stores because of the harm he has done to the Black community by changing to the Republican Party and changing the school board from majority Black to majority White,” says Dr. Marshall, ASO publisher.