By Barry L. Paschal
Columbia County Bureau
Several first-time hopefuls and a couple of perennial candidates signed up this week for Columbia County and regional races.
Most incumbents escaped challenges, but a few will face opponents in the July 31 primary or Nov. 6 general election.
Incumbent District 4 School Board member Roxanne Whitaker, a registered nurse from Harlem, is being challenged by Bobby Ray Strickland, of Grovetown, a medical lab technician, and Deborah Marie Fisher, of Grovetown, who on her qualifying affidavit lists her occupation as university professor.
In District 1, three candidates filed to run for the school board seat being vacated by Wayne Bridges. Attorney David Dekle, of Martinez; homemaker Carolyn Chase, of Evans, and Republican Party chairman Brian Slowinski, of Martinez, all qualified to seek the post.
Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco is unopposed in her re-election bid. All school board posts are non-partisan, but after a change in state law this year will be elected during the July 31 party primaries.
Three people also are seeking the county’s chief magistrate post in the Republican primary, with Associate Magistrate Jason Troiano facing attorneys Jason Hasty and Christopher Hudson.
Chief Magistrate Bobby Christine, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army National Guard, has been called to active duty and is not seeking re-election.
Also running in the July 31 primaries are two Columbia County Commission incumbents facing Republican Party challenges.
District 3 Commissioner Charles Allen, of Evans, who lists his occupation as real estate and property management, faces a challenge from Butch Holley, of Evans, a marketing executive. District 2 Commissioner Trey Allen, of Martinez, the owner of Learning Express Toys, will face school teacher Lee Benedict, of Augusta.
Benedict unsuccessfully ran for public office on three previous occasions in Columbia County, most recently seeking the District 2 school board seat in 2010.
One of the new members of the Columbia County legislative delegation, Republican District 23 state Sen. Jesse Stone, of Waynesboro, also is facing a re-election challenge from a frequent candidate in Democrat Robert “Bob” Ingham of Hephzibah, who has unsuccessfully sought public office six times.
The other new member of the county delegation, District 33 Republican state Rep. Tom McCall, of Washington, faces a challenge from Democrat David Vogel, of Hull, Ga.
Like Stone, McCall’s district was drawn into a small portion of Columbia County during reapportionment last fall.
Covering a larger part of the county is state House District 121, which also encompasses part of McDuffie County. Seeking that post are Republicans Barry Fleming and Mike Popplewell.
Fleming held the seat prior to its current occupant, state Rep. Lee Anderson. Like Anderson, he stepped down to run for Congress. Anderson filed this week to run for the District 12 U.S. House seat, along with Republicans Wright McLeod, Maria Sheffield and Rick Allen.
The winner of the Republican primary will face incumbent Democrat Rep. John Barrow.
Tenth District Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Broun will have a primary challenge from Stephen K. Simpson.
Also drawing challengers are Republican District Attorney Ashley Wright, who will face Democrat Evita Paschall, and non-partisan Superior Court Chief Judge Carlisle Overstreet, who is being challenged by Willie Saunders.
Running unopposed are state Reps. Ben Harbin and Barbara Sims, and state Sen. Bill Jackson; Tax Commissioner Kay Allen; Probate Judge Alice Padgett; Sheriff Clay Whittle; Clerk Of Court Cindy Mason; Coroner Vernon Collins; and Superior Court judges Carl Brown Jr., Danny Craig, Sheryl Jolly and Michael Annis.
Reach Barry L. Paschal at email@example.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106.