Six special elections underway for legislative seats

[private]Special elections are being held Tuesday in six of Georgia’s legislative districts where voters will try to choose replacements for lawmakers who vacated their House seats for a variety of reasons.

The most high-profile of these special elections is in House District 80, which encompasses Brookhaven and surrounding areas in DeKalb County. Mike Jacobs resigned from the seat to accept a judicial appointment.

Three Republicans and one Democrat are running in this GOP-leaning district that Mitt Romney carried by 56-43 percent in the 2012 presidential election:

J. Max Davis, 46, a Republican attorney and the first mayor of Brookhaven, resigned from the mayor’s office to run. Davis raised $40,865 from contributors who include Speaker David Ralston, state Reps. Jay Powell, Terry England, Richard Smith, John Meadows and Bert Reeves, and Sen. Fran Millar.

Davis also has the backing of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, the Georgia Healthcare Association, AT&T, and the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores.

He has had to contend with embarrassing media accounts of a complaint filed against him by a Brookhaven city employee who alleged that Davis tried to spray her buttocks with a can of Lysol.

Catherine Bernard, 33, a Republican attorney with Libertarian sympathies, ran unsuccessfully against Jacobs in the 2014 GOP primary.

Bernard’s $30,005 in contributions includes $1,000 from former House member Sam Moore of Ball Ground, who was denounced by his legislative colleagues for sponsoring a bill that would have made it easier for sex offenders to loiter in school buildings. Bernard also reported donations from state Rep. John Pezold of Columbus, Atlanta attorney Art Morris, and Libertarian lawyer Walker Chandler,

Loren Collins, 36, a Republican attorney, reported contributions of only $1,337.

The lone Democrat in the race is Taylor Bennett, an attorney who played football at Georgia Tech a decade ago. He reported $27,635 from contributors who include state Reps. Scott Holcomb, Carolyn Hugley, Bob Trammell, and Ron Mabra, along with a donation from Richard Stogner, a longtime political adviser to the late Maynard Jackson and former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones.

David Beaudoin is an independent political analyst who focuses on the contributions candidates receive from within their own districts.

“My theory is that very motivated supporters are needed to drive voter turnout in special elections, and those who donate to a local candidate are precisely the type of people who will encourage and hound their friends and neighbors to make that happen,” Beaudoin said.

His take on the District 80 race:

That Mr. Bennett could receive so many donations as a Democrat in a predominantly Republican district is very impressive. However, it is impossible to ignore that most of tomorrow’s likely voters will be Republicans. . . .

Mr. Davis seems to have very strong support throughout the central and northern parts of DeKalb county, and I expect this is where a significant number of votes will be cast. I anticipate him receiving large margins from these vote-rich sections of the district.

House District 48 is a Roswell area district where the seat was vacated when incumbent Harry Geisinger died from leukemia.

The candidates include Roswell City Councilwoman Betty Price, 62, a Republican who’s married to U.S. Rep. Tom Price. She has reported $59,795 in contributions, many of them from healthcare-related organizations and one from state Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta).

Dave McCleary, 59, is a Republican activist who worked in several of Geisinger’s legislative campaigns. His $17,740 in reported contributions includes $2,000 from Geisinger’s campaign committee and former state revenue commissioner Doug MacGinnitie.

James W. Johnson, 38, a Democrat and pharmacy inventory service manager from Roswell, has reported only $1,889 in contributions and is not expected to be a factor in this heavily Republican district.

Beaudoin’s analysis:

The overall conclusion is fairly inescapable here. Ms. Price has raised more money than her two opponents, and she has an overwhelming number of contributions from within the district. She seems to have especially large support in the northwest part of the district, which is the region where the most votes were cast in last spring’s primary. Frankly, this data suggests Ms. Price should win this special election outright tomorrow, without need for an August runoff.

In Houston County’s House District 146, Larry O’Neal opened up the seat by resigning to accept a judicial appointment from Gov. Nathan Deal.

The candidates:

Larry Walker III, 49, is a Perry insurance agent and Republican whose father, also named Larry Walker, served in the Legislature for 32 years and was the House majority leader.

Walker has raised $76,220, including donations from Robert Ray Jr. of Flint Energies, Don Leebern of Georgia Crown Distributing, retired lawmaker Bobby Rowan of Enigma, Sen. Ross Tolleson (R-Perry), retired newspaper editor Jim Minter, Monty Veazey of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, former secretary of state Lewis Massey, Connell Stafford of Troutman Sanders government affairs group, and trial attorneys Jim Butler and Joel Wooten of Columbus.

Shaw Blackmon, 42, is a Republican and a Warner Robins businessman, raising $86,555 from such contributors as O’Neal, Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), former House majority leader Jerry Keen, and Tolleson (who covered his bases by contributing to both Blackmon and Walker).

Kelly Burke, 56, is a Republican who was formerly the Houston County district attorney. He has reported $18,108 in contributions.

House District 155 covers several counties in South Georgia that include Irwin, Ben Hill, and Tift. Jay Roberts resigned the legislative seat for a planning job at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The candidates:

Scott Downing, 44, a Republican and a meat processor from Fitzgerald who served on the Ben Hill County Commission. He’s raised $61,650 in contributions, including a donation from Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga).

Horace Hudgins, 62, a Republican and a Georgia Power manager who was the mayor of Ocilla. He reported $14,650 in contributions, including a donation from retired House member Chuck Sims of Ambrose.

Sherry Miley, 58, a Republican real estate agent from Tifton, reported $6,980 in contributions.

Clay Pirkle, 47, a Republican farmer from Sycamore, reported $9,977 in contributions.

Runoff elections in these districts, if necessary, will be held Aug. 11.

There are runoffs of special elections in two legislative districts.

The seat in Forsyth County’s House District 24 became vacant with the resignation of Mark Hamilton.

Sheri Smallwood Gilligan, a former CIA analyst and a Republican, came within two votes of winning the June 16 election without a runoff. She has reported $30,240 in contributions overall, including donations from state Reps. Michael Caldwell, Sam Teasley, John Pezold and David Stover.

David Van Sant, a Republican attorney who was endorsed by RedState blogger and commentator Erick Erickson, secured $25,000 in loans and reported $33,300 in contributions for his campaign.

The runoff campaign has been highlighted by accusations that Gilligan did not really work at the CIA – she produced documentation showing that she was an employee there for seven years – and criticisms of Van Sant for making a contribution to Democrat Michelle Nunn in last year’s U.S. Senate race.

House District 55 is the Atlanta district where Tyrone Brooks resigned after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges.

Only nine votes separated the first two finishers in the June 16 election.

Shelitha Renee Robertson, a Democratic attorney, finished first with 30.76 percent of the vote. She has filed no campaign disclosure reports, according to records at the state ethics commission, even though the first election was held nearly a month ago.

Marie Robinson Metze, a retired educator and Democratic Party activist, pulled 30.4 percent of the vote in the first election. She has raised $51,560 for her campaign, including $47,585 in loans.

There is also a runoff election being conducted in DeKalb County for the district commission seat once held by Lee May, who’s now the interim DeKalb CEO.

Mereda Davis Johnson, the wife of U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson and a former DeKalb magistrate judge, drew 27 percent of the vote in the June 16 balloting.

George Turner, a retired MARTA executive and the president of the District 5 Community Council, made it into the runoff with 15.9 percent of the vote in a special election where turnout was only 5.5 percent.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report


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