If we didnt know better, wed swear the only political races in November are for a state Senate seat in Richmond County, a congressional seat, a U.S. Senate seat and Georgia governor.
Sure, those races are interesting, and the candidates are spending millions. But weve got some races going on in Columbia County, too. Really.
House District 79
Probably the most contentious is the 79th District Georgia House race to succeed Bill Jackson. Former County Commission chairman Barry Fleming, a Republican, is Jack-sons preferred successor. Flemings opponent is Democrat Terry Holley, who lost to Jackson two years ago.
The Democrat label hurt Holley in 2000, before the district was redrawn to make it even more Republican-friendly.
It shows: While Holley, the countys Democratic Party chairman, is running ads touting a thank a Democrat theme, he also produced a mailer that cleverly keeps the word Democrat off the covers. Only inside will recipients find Holleys party affiliation.
Senate District 24
Party comes into play in the other legislative post up for grabs, too: The 24th Dis-trict state Senate seat held by Republican Joey Brush.
Brush already was strong in the district. But since the seats were redrawn last year, the 24th has become overwhelmingly Republican. It works this way: Democrat mappers in Atlanta pulled precincts, subdivisions, even homes that lean Democrat away from the 24th, using those numbers to shore up adjoining Democrat districts. Even a Democrat-leaning precinct in Harlem was removed, bringing state Sen. Don Cheeks into Columbia County. That left all the GOP votes in Brushs district.
The road, then, already promised to be a tough one for Anna Hargis, a Democrat running against Brush. Making it tougher is the fact that Hargis doesnt believe in accepting campaign contributions, while Brush has raked in so much money that many of his expenditures have been to support other Republican candidates.
School Board District 4
There also is a Columbia County School Board race coming up. Incumbent Mickey Blackburn is again facing Andy Ezell. Black-burn won easily when the two of them faced off as newcomers in 1998. Whats different this time around?
For one thing, while the race is non-partisan, Ezell is making sure fellow Republicans know his party affiliation, and pointing out Blackburns ties to the Democratic Party. Theres also the matter of record: Neither candidate had one in 1998, having never held office. Blackburn was a retired teacher, and Ezell is the husband of a teacher. Now, Blackburn has a term on the Board under her belt in which she has been a reliable supporter of the school systems administration. The race, then, could be this Martinez districts referendum on how well the school system has done its job in the past four years.
Harlem mayor, Council
Other races in Columbia County are for the mayors seat in Harlem, with incumbent John Bentley facing former City Council member Scott Dean, and three men running for the two winners-take-all City Council seats.
The big change here is that one of Bentleys first efforts upon becoming mayor in 2000 was to get the city to lengthen the terms of office for elected officials: Now, future mayors and Council members will serve four-year terms.
In 2000, Bentley beat Harlem native Shirley Tankersley for the post; now, an even younger Dean continues the youth movement by taking on Bentley. If ever there were a metaphor for an aging city struggling for renewal, this is it.
Oh, and there are some races in Augusta and in the rest of the state, too. Really.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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