Could be Five
Looking ahead to qualifying, the commission could have five new members
Election season can seem almost exactly like the Olympic hurdles — every time you clear one, there’s another one in front of you.
Just because the 2012 General Primary is behind us doesn’t mean we’re getting any relief from campaigning. Those who made it to a runoff will get to do everything they’ve already been doing between now and the August 21 runoff election, only in double time.
But they’re not the only ones ready to hit the campaign trail. Qualifying for Richmond County Board of Education and the Augusta-Richmond County Commission begins at 9 a.m. Monday, August 6, which means that by noon on Wednesday, August 8, we’ll know who else will be filling our mailboxes with flyers and our lawns with signs.
Earlier in the year it was unclear whether the candidates were looking at an election in July or November, causing several candidates to officially announce their intentions so long ago that many voters have long forgotten their names and faces.
While qualifying will solidify the list, don’t expect them all to blast out of the gates.
District 7 candidate Kenneth Echols says he plans to give people at least a couple of weeks off from campaigning before he starts in.
“Right now, the focus is on the primary and people are hounded with calls and mail and all that,” he said. “We’re planning a big push after the Labor Day weekend.”
Echols, a retired administrator with experience on the Richmond County Board of Education, says he enjoys campaigning and looks forward to the possibility of bringing change to the commission.
“I think the potential is there to make Augusta a lot better with a good commission,” he said. “And we’ve got a chance to get five new ones.”
Echols will be running against State Patrol Lieutenant Donnie Smith for the seat currently occupied by Jerry Brigham, who is being term limited out of office.
Smith, too, plans to give the voters a breather before hitting the trail.
“We’re sitting on go, ready to get started,” he said. “We’re just waiting for the Sheriff’s election and the Congressional race to get out of the way so we can have the focus on the county commissioners.”
Waiting not only lets voters focus on the unfinished business of a runoff, it gives them a chance to give the commission and school board races their full attention.
“The amount of money both the school board and the county commission are responsible for is a lot,” he said. “So the public should have the ability not to be bothered by the other races, so to speak. To be able to focus on local issues with local candidates and local monies — I think it’s a great thing.”
Like Echols, Smith sees this election as a chance to shake up Augusta’s governing sensibilities.
“Our commission has got five seats up and at least three of those are going to have new people in there,” he said. “This is a golden opportunity to change the leadership that we have, and I encourage everybody to participate in that process.”
Of all the races, District 1 is shaping up to be the most contested, with at least Harrisburg activist Lori Davis, Laney Walker Neighborhood Association President Stanley Hawes and Harrisburg resident Denice Traina going up against incumbent Matt Aitken.
With that many candidates chipping away at the vote, it’s unlikely any one candidate will win the seat outright, which means voters will have to trudge back to the polls on December 4 to vote in the runoff, which is a trip voters are traditionally loath to make.
The battle to claim Joe Bowels’ term-limited seat in District 3 looks to be between business attorney Ed Enoch, who has a long association with the ins and outs of Augusta government as the Coliseum Authority’s attorney, and Mary Fair Davis, who has the backing of a lot of money and connections that include Mayor Deke Copenhaver, for whom she served as campaign manager.
District 5 Commissioner Bill Lockett, who has enjoyed some prominence on the commission by becoming a leading voice opposing the so-called Gang of Six, refused to tip his hand when asked whether or not he planned to run. Should he choose not to, expect a scramble to fill the void.
Super District 9 is shaping up to be a two-man race between former Commissioner Marion Williams and former Solicitor Harold Jones.
Though Williams is long rumored to be interested in getting back on the commission, he did not return our phone calls, while Jones, an attorney with Shepard, Plunkett, Hamilton and Boudreaux, would not confirm his intentions.
“No confirmation on that,” he said. “We can’t confirm it yet, but it’s being thought about — without a doubt, yes.”
All this is just speculation, of course. Nothing will be determined until qualifying ends on Wednesday, but given the tenor of the discourse and the importance of the issues facing the city, you can bet the next few months will be lively. You Might Also Like: