Qualifying starts tomorrow for the July 20 primary elections, and the pre-filing buzz sounds more like a low hum, according to Columbia County officials.
"It's been unusually quiet," said Terry Holley, chairman of the county's Democratic party. "We really want to encourage good people to run."
The local races up for election this year are the Columbia County Board of Commissioners District 2, 3 and 4 seats - now occupied by Tom Mercer, Diane Ford and Lee Anderson. So far, no one has filed intent cards with the county's Board of Elections office to raise money and run against the incumbents, who are all running for re-election.
Columbia County Republican Party Chairman Lee Muns said he has not heard of opposition for the commission seats.
But there can always be surprise candidates that come forward during qualifying week.
"We've got another race we have someone running as a Republican, but that won't come out until Monday," Muns said.
Other county seats on the ballot will be coroner, chief magistrate, clerk of court, judge of probate, tax commissioner and sheriff.
Incumbent Sheriff Clay Whittle will have competition on the Republican primary ballot from challenger Lewis Blanchard.
"We actually put together the qualifying packet for the candidates," said county Elections Director Deborah Marshall. "The only people who have picked up one are the current elected officials, other than Lewis Blanchard."
The qualifying period begins tomorrow at 9 a.m. and ends Friday at noon. The time period is the same for state House and Senate candidates, who have to file with the Secretary of State's Office in Atlanta.
Should any of the candidates meet Democratic opposition after July's primaries, they will face off in the general election Nov. 2.
Because Columbia County School Board races are nonpartisan, those candidates do not qualify until the week of June 28 and also will campaign for the Nov. 2 election.
The only challenger to come forward for a state legislative seat is Jim Whitehead, who is stumping for Sen. Joey Brush's 24th District position.
With all General Assembly members running for office this year under new court-redrawn maps, local elections officials are working on the adjustments.
The redrawn versions has an additional House seat in the county but one less senator on the delegation. The Senate map covered the entire county with the 24th District, cutting out one Harlem precinct that was represented by Sen. Don Cheeks, R-Augusta.
Besides changing district numbers, the House seat now held by Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, now extends throughout Lincoln County and into the eastern part of Wilkes County. The county's new House seat, which Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta now holds, moves into Martinez taking over part of the area held by Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, whose district pushes farther west to Windmill Plantation.
"Every voter will get a new voter registration car because the House numbers changed," Marshall said.
She said election officials will blanket the area next month to encourage voter registration.
"We tried to target all the areas in Columbia County," she said.
In May, which is Voter Registration Month, Columbia County elections officials will hold several voter registration drives around the county. All drives will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Also, anyone interested in registering to vote can stop by the county's Board of Elections office, located in Building A of the Evans government complex, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive. The office is open Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Residents can register online at the county's Web site at www.co.columbia.ga.us
Voter Registration Drives:
May 1 - Family Dollar, 563 W. Milledgeville Road, Harlem
May 1 - Board of Elections office, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive, Evans
May 8 - Kmart, 3830 Washington Road, Martinez
May 15 - IGA, 110 Harlem-Grovetown Road, Grovetown
May 22 - Circle K, 8125 Appling-Harlem Road, Appling
May 29 - Wal-Mart, 4471 Washington Road, Evans
May 29 - Red, White & Blue Day Celebration, Ronald Reagan Drive at the field behind Kroger
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