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April 23, 2014

Early voting Monday

Republicans dominate political activity locally

MOULTRIE — The only ticket in town this year for voters looking to have a say in county government — the only local venue where candidates declare a political party, will have an “R” on it.

Since U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and former Gov. Sonny Perdue won statewide contests at the top of the ticket in 2002, the number of Democrats in Colquitt County government has slowly dwindled.

On Monday, when early voting begins, voters who wish to vote in the Colquitt County Commission chairman’s race will have to pick a Republican ballot in order to vote for incumbent District 3 Commissioner Terry Clark and  Mickey Key, a former commissioner and assistant superintendent with the Colquitt County School System.

Early voting is open only at Colquitt County Courthouse Annex, 101 E. Central Ave. Room 133, Monday-Thursday beginning Monday through May 16 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. On May 10 voters can vote on Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Statewide, 11 Republicans are running in the U.S. Senate race seeking to replace the retiring Chambliss.

In the other local contested partisan commission races: Bobby Johnson and Marc DeMott are seeking to replace Clark; and in District 5 the candidates are Roscoe F. Herndon, Joe Kem Lacey and Paul Nagy.

All other races on the ballot are either nonpartisan or uncontested in the case of District 1 Commissioner Luke Strong.

Perdue’s election set off the wave that has trickled down to the local level, said Colquitt County Republican Party Chairman Hayden Willis.

“That’s when everything started moving that way,” he said “That’s when all the party changing began happening.”

Other than Strong, the last county officials elected as Democrats were Tax Commissioner Cindy Harvin and former Clerk of Court Carolyn Marshall.

Harvin switched parties to run as a Republican two year ago, and Clerk of Court Lynn Purvis, who won a special election last year to replace Marshall ran as a Republican.

Perdue actively courted county officials to switch parties, Willis said.

“That’s one of his things,” he said. “If he wanted a (Democratic) sheriff to be a Republican, he would call. He would say he wouldn’t hold it against them if they don’t switch, but he wanted them to consider it.”

While Republicans have a hefty advantage at the moment, Willis said that the candidacies of Democrats Jason Carter, former Gov. Jimmy Carter’s grandson, and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn’s daughter Michelle Nunn, are of concern.

“Those candidates should be taken seriously,” he said.

Most experts think that Georgia has years before the demographics of more minority voters put Democrats in line to win a statewide contest.

“On the local level I’m very, very pleased about the candidates on the ballot,” Willis said. “I don’t think voters can go wrong with any of them. They’re all qualified, they all will work for the people.”

The county commission considered switching to nonpartisan seats in the distant past, said Strong, who has served on the body since 1987.

“There was some years ago some talk about contacting the legislators and changing it,” he said. “For some reason it didn’t get anywhere.”

The chairmanship and other commission races are expected to spark significant interest, said Paula McCullough, Colquitt County chief voter registrar.

“There’s always a big turnout for countywide races,” she said.

Voters may choose either a Democratic ballot, which will include Carter, Nunn and other primaries for other statewide constitutional officers, a Republican ballot or a nonpartisan ballot.

Picking a Republican ballot does not prohibit a voter casting a ballot for a Democrat in the general election. In the case of a primary runoff election, the voter has to stick with the party he declared.

There also has been some interest from voters looking to cast absentee ballots, McCullough said.. Voters may vote by absentee ballot even if they are in the county, in which ballots may only be mailed to their current address. Those who are out of the county or state can have ballots mailed to alternate addresses.

For information on voter registration status or other issues, more information is available from the Georgia secretary of state at http://mvp.sos.state.ga.us/, or by calling McCullough at (229) 616-7056 or Colquitt County Courthouse Annex, Office 109.

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