Columbia County voters can cast ballots in the Nov. 2 election starting Monday, but one candidate has taken himself out of the running.
In Harlem, voters will see a familiar name on the ballot as a previous candidate returns to challenge two incumbent city council members.
On Monday, District 2 Columbia County school board candidate Lee Benedict announced his withdrawal from the ballot, throwing his support to Kristi Baker for the race to succeed retiring trustee Mildred Blackburn.
Baker will face attorney Carl Schluter, although Benedict's name will still appear on voters' screens and printed absentee ballots.
"It's too late to pull it off the ballot," said Columbia County Board of Elections Director Deborah Marshall. "Basically, we've just got to put up a notice (in voting precincts) that he withdrew from the race."
In Harlem, Melonie Dappie has filed to run for the city council seats held by Rudolph Dixon and Johnny Thigpen, both of whom are seeking re-election.
Dappie ran two years ago, coming in third to incumbents Robin Root and Tom Blalock.
City council seats are not assigned to districts and are winner-take-all based on the number of seats and candidates seeking them.
The two candidates who receive the most votes will win the two seats.
Mayor Bobby Culpepper is running unopposed for re-election.
In the school board race, Benedict said he didn't go to Monday night's meeting of the Greater Columbia County Republican Women with the intention of quitting.
"It wasn't a planned thing when I went there," he said.
However, he had been mulling a withdrawal because of the increasing need to help his wife care for his 11-year-old son, who has muscular dystrophy and autism.
"Not that I'm losing faith or anything," he said, "but he is weakening and my presence will be required a lot more."
After announcing his withdrawal, Benedict expressed support for Baker, a longtime parent volunteer.
"I know Kristi will be very tough to beat," Benedict said. "She knows everybody."
Benedict has twice sought office, losing to state Sen. Bill Jackson in 2007 and to state Rep. Ben Harbin in 2008.
Early and absentee voting, for local and statewide races, will be held at the Board of Elections office in Evans from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 2 General Election is Oct. 4.
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