Community-Oriented Matthews Hopes to Represent 'Mainstream'
Dan Matthews, a political junkie, sports fan and devoted father, is the only Democrat running in the June 21 State House election.
Leading up to the June 21 special election, Patch is profiling each of the candidates for the 113th District State House seat, which represents Oconee and part of Clarke County. Sarah Bell was profiled Tuesday. Look in the coming days for profiles of Alan Alexander and Chuck Williams.
Dan Matthews is a legal secretary by day and a devoted father by night. He’s a Georgia Bulldogs fan and a political junkie who enjoys basketball and soccer. And now, he’s one thing more: the only Democratic candidate for the 113th District Georgia House of Representatives seat.
Matthews, who had previously been serving as chairman of the Oconee County Democratic Committee, is one of four candidates running in the June 21 special election.
“Dan as the chairman of our committee has been very diligent,” said Ann Stoneburner, who took over as chairman following Matthews’ resignation May 19. “He’s very enthusiastic, he has a dynamic way of approaching issues.”
Matthews, 48, was born in Chicago and raised in Des Moines before trading corn for peaches to attend the University of Georgia in 1981.
At UGA – his father’s alma mater – Matthews earned a degree in telecommunication arts complemented by minors in political science, history and music business.
It wouldn’t be long before he put all his expertise gained at UGA to good use.
He wrote for UGA’s The Red & Black student newspaper in the early 1980s. Soon, his work found its way to the pages of other Athens literary staples: The Athens Banner-Herald and Tasty World Magazine. He found work at a radio station in Rome, Ga., and at a newspaper in Forsyth County. He completed stints at UGA’s Athletic Association, and even hosted his own radio show – The Dan Matthews Show – on NewsTalk 1340 WGAU from 2002 to 2004.
“I’ve seen a good, interesting little mix here in Georgia,” he joked.
Matthews said there were a variety of reasons to remain in the South after his graduation from UGA: the weather, the people and the bustling economy.
“I'd spent half my life in Iowa and was ready for something different,” he said. “I just love it here, and it's warm and wonderful.”
A 17-year resident of Oconee County, Matthews now lives in Watkinsville’s Morgan Manor Estates with his 11-year-old son, Lowell, a rising sixth-grader at Athens Academy. He has coached basketball and soccer for his son's sports teams, depending on the season. But his day job is as a legal secretary at the Law Offices of Eric Krasle on Lumpkin Street in Athens.
Chris Pittard, an Oconee County resident who has known Matthews for six years, coaches the 6th grade Athens Academy Spartans basketball team with the candidate.
"He seems to be a very upstanding citizen," Pittard said. "He seems to have a lot of concern for others and certainly dedicates himself to the kids."
Pittard said Matthews' knack for helping others can translate from the young athletes to the citizens of the 113th District.
That service is part of what brought Matthews into the local political sphere. He’s been active with the Oconee County Democrats for more than a decade, citing “lack of local leadership” as the catalyst that caused him to join the organization.
“I just thought the Democratic voice ought to be heard in Oconee County,” he said of his desire to join the group. And although he hasn’t run for political office before, he said his leadership skills and connections within the community could help him represent the people of the 113th District.
On top of his job, family life, and involvement with the Democratic Party, he also runs the Oconee County GA, Politics blog dedicated to “anything and everything” related to Athens, Oconee County and the surrounding areas.
He said his family has been supportive of his venture onto the campaign trail.
“All the family is very much behind it, including my son,” he said. Lowell’s mother, who lives in Athens and remains friendly with Matthews, is also “enthusiastically supportive and helpful,” Matthews said.
Since his campaign began May 18, the self-proclaimed political animal said his schedule is “twice as hectic and twice as long.”
What was formerly a casual trip to the grocery store has turned into an opportunity to tell friends and acquaintances of his aspirations for former Rep. Hank Huckaby’s vacated seat in the State House of Representatives.
And it’s not only at the grocery store – Matthews said any trip can turn into an opportunity to spread information about his candidacy and gain support.
“It’s been a challenge and it will continue to be a challenge,” he said.
For now, Matthews will continue working to build support in the community.
“I’m not the wealthiest person this race by a long shot,” Matthews said, noting the roughly $1,000 in his campaign coffers. “But I’m more representative of the mainstream of the 113th District.”
Stoneburner, who has known Matthews the person for much longer than she’s known Matthews the candidate, said he’s just right for what the community needs in its elected officials.
“He’s a devoted father, very community-oriented. I think that’s the kind of person Oconee wants,” she said. “I’ll vote for Dan, that’s for sure.”