East Point politician and businessman Mike Herring has set up an exploratory committee to potentially seek Georgia’s 13th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House.
Herring is an Atlanta native long involved in local politics, and he originally planned to run for East Point City Council.
“Right now, there seems to be an intent to criminalize LGBTQ Americans and an attempt to erase Black history, in Florida and other places,” Herring said. “[There’s an attempt] to take away important parts of our culture, and I can’t be a casual observer. I thought, ‘What can I do?’”
This was when he decided to set up the exploratory committee, which politicians commonly use to determine if there is organic support for them before officially deciding to launch a campaign.
Democrat David Scott has occupied the 13th District seat since 2003, continuously winning over voters in the heavily Democratic district. Herring sees the Democratic party as a unified party with minor differences and holds Scott in high regard.
“He has served long and done remarkable things,” he said.
He is considering running to be part of the conversation and to make a difference, not because he is displeased with Scott.
Herring has a history in politics, advocating for voting rights, serving as a member of the East Point Cultural Enrichment Commission from 2010 to 2015, and serving as the first chair and commissioner of the East Point Utility Board from 2016 to 2020.
“I have written articles … and recorded voiceovers as a syndicated radio DJ in support of Amendment 4 in Florida, which restored voting rights for returning citizens,” Herring said. “The Amendment became law in Florida after a successful ballot initiative in 2018, but Governor Ron DeSantis and the GOP-led legislature eventually watered it down and basically nullified the law. Prohibitions on voting have a negative impact on Black communities, reducing overall group political influence.… There is not enough effort to reintegrate people who have been convicted. When a person does time and comes back to restrictions on voting and employment … they often come back to the same situation with no opportunity. We must change that dynamic to reduce crime.”
On the Cultural Enrichment Commission, Herring called upon his experience as a music professional to advocate for art programs and music workshops. On the utility board, he took part in robust discussions about lowering the cost of utilities for both homeowners and business owners. He also called out the City of East Point’s spending habits when $1 million was allocated for concerts while there were unfinished infrastructure projects and seniors in need.
Herring is known for sponsoring several events in the East Point community, including a free senior picnic on the first Saturday of each month. On August 19, he’ll be hosting the first of many quarterly giveaways for families in need, in which locals donate clothing and home furnishings to neighbors.
Also the sponsor of the upcoming East Point Pride on September 1, Herring is proud to showcase the first Pride event for people of color in recent East Point and Greenbriar history.
On a national level, Herring discussed taking on the gun lobby and combating the normalcy of gun violence in U.S. culture, as well as protecting reproductive rights, addressing the high rates of Black women who die during childbirth, and protecting teachers from right-wing attacks and employment shortages.
He is also an advocate for transparency in government and strongly believes in reforming the campaign finance system.
“We have a system in place where candidates can be funded by dark money and groups that don’t disclose their goals,” Herring said. “That’s a big problem because everyone spending a dollar in a political campaign has an expectation. If someone is giving $2 or $10 million to a campaign, they probably have a vested interest in the decisions you make. This goes against the founding principles of the United States. The money becomes a voter — an unregistered voter — that can impact the outcome. Money moves votes.”
In terms of nonpolitical experience, Herring has served as president and general manager of Greenbriar Marketplace since 2009. Herring said that managing the marketplace has taught him about the economics of household income and how budgets can affect the daily lives of citizens, knowledge which Herring plans to call on should he go on to run for office.
If Herring were to officially become a candidate and go on to win the race, he would become the first openly gay African American to hold a congressional seat in Georgia’s history.
“I think [being the first gay Black representative from Georgia] would mean that the sacrifices of my ancestors, the work they put in to ensure equality and increase opportunity, is being realized,” Herring said. “I’m here now as a businessperson, and I’m here because of people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk. … I give credit to people who came before me and made those sacrifices.”