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MDJ: AROUND TOWN: State Senate hopeful Jaha Howard under fire for social media posts

Democrat Jaha Howard, a Vinings dentist and one of eight candidates vying to fill the state Senate seat formerly held by Republican Hunter Hill, has come under fire for some of his social media posts.

The Georgia Voice posted a string of Howard’s social media posts on its website. In one, Howard writes, “Divorce is only justified if adultery is involved,” and “Women heads of church is unbiblical and therefore sinful …”

In another, he writes, “The Bible in fact teaches that women should only teach other women. There is no Biblical authority for women; pastors; bishops etc.”

In other posts, Howard wonders if the Girl Scouts are “being used as a vehicle to push a pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality positions” and if there is “a homosexual agenda in public education.”

He also writes that “I oppose this lifestyle because God does.”

Howard issued an apology on his Facebook page, saying he was “embarrassed and disappointed” to read some of his “insensitive social media posts from years ago.”

“Unintentionally, I greatly offended many of the same people I’m working hard to represent and defend in the State Senate. I’m deeply sorry,” he wrote.

Laura Simmons, state director of NARAL, a pro-choice group, weighed in on the “extremely troubling anti-LGBT and misogynistic social media posts” by Howard.

“While we appreciate his apparent change of heart, an apology after the fact is not enough. Georgia families deserve someone who has been a consistent fighter for their rights and freedoms. This disregard for the lives of other Georgians has no place in our politics and no place in the Democratic Party.”

In the 2016 general election, Howard made Republicans mighty nervous by the number of votes he received, earning 39,201 to Hill’s 42,338.

AT asked politicos what they thought the impact these comments would have on his latest campaign.

Kerwin Swint, chair of KSU’s Political Science and International Affairs Department, said he was not sure how well funded or organized the other Democrats in the race are.

“If he wins a spot in a runoff against a Republican, it may not end up mattering that much. The real danger for him is if this issue enables another Democrat to edge past him and take his runoff spot. Not likely, but possible,” Swint said.

The other two Democrats in the race are Buckhead attorney Jen Jordan and Taos Wynn, a Democrat from Atlanta who runs a nonprofit.

Republicans in the race include attorneys Leah Aldredge of Atlanta and Matt Bentley of Smyrna, Buckhead business executive Kathy Eichenblatt, Atlanta businessman Charlie Fiveash and Leo Smith, the former state director of minority engagement for the Republican Party of Georgia.

Dr. Michael Owens, chair of the Cobb Democratic Committee, said he’s spoken with Howard and believes him to be a person driven and led by his faith.

“While that may be admirable, it has clearly put him at odds with some of the core values of the Democratic platform. Regardless of where he stands on these issues, I think it is most important for him to be clear and consistent with voters,” Owens said.

Owens said he looks forward to Howard addressing the Cobb Democrats at their monthly meeting in Smyrna on Saturday.

Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd said it’s difficult to tell what impact the comments will have.

“As far as he is ahead of the other Democrats in terms of likely name ID and network from his previous race, he may be able to take the hit, and still come out on top of the Democratic field with the large number of candidates in the race,” Shepherd said. “However, getting those Democrats who didn’t vote for him in the first round back in the runoff may be impossible. By staying in the race, he likely will ensure the district stays red.”