One Man’s Opinion: Rise Up for Runoffs

Georgia voters set a record for a General Primary Election, with 1.91 million showing up and casting a ballot. The GOP had a decided advantage, as well as bigger top of the ticket races for Governor and U.S. Senator, commanding just under 1.2 million of the total ballots cast. Estimates are that nearly 70,000 more regular Democratic Party voters (based on prior Primary contests in 2020 and 2018) crossed over to participate in the GOP races, particularly again the more hotly contested Primary races for Governor, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Voter behavior and when ballots were cast and how also had some recalibration. A majority of votes were again cast on the Election Day -55%, with Advance Voting accounting for 41% and Absentee Ballots declining to just 4%, while comprising nearly 10 percent of the early voting.

Adding voter I.D. requirements to Absentee ballots did have an impact, while three weeks of early voting was retained, as well as No Excuse Absentees and Dropboxes (1 per 100,000 voters, inside at Advance Voting locations). Saturday and Sunday voting was also expanded in a majority of Georgia counties for this election and at least one weekend voting day is now also required by the Georgia Elections Integrity Act of 2021. Advance voting is again underway this week, and the runoff campaign season has been compressed back to the shorter three week period, with a Runoff Election scheduled for Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

There are still state and regional (Congressional & General Assembly) contests to be decided, but the majority of runoff action is local. Attending a recent birthday fundraising event for Steve Bradshaw, DeKalb County Commissioner, District 4 (not up for election this cycle), I listened intently to the words of DeKalb County CEO, Michael Thurmond. CEO Thurmond, somewhat with tongue in cheek, commented on the wonders of DeKalb’s CEO/Commission for of Government, with the CEO and department heads forming the Executive Branch and the Commission serving as the legislative branch. He then more pointedly commented that it’s wonderful to BE CEO as long as you have four supportive votes on that same county commission (board of seven). Without a working majority, a CEO’s agenda, budget expenditures and planning and implementation of a broad array of previously approved initiatives can all be slowed or brought to a grinding halt.

“But for one vote...” was Thurmond’s repeated refrain, as he pointed out how often Bradshaw’s vote on the Commission was the deciding factor in 4/3 splits, on moving forward a T-SPLOST which shares revenue with DeKalb’s 13-municipalities, on expanded work and repair on DeKalb’s troubled sewerage system and multiple critical votes of approval on a county budget now approaching $2-billion.

Here in DeKalb County, a troubled runoff contest in the Democratic Primary for the District # 2 County Commission post features a front-runner, who placed third in the original unofficial election results, and who is endorsed and supported by incumbent commissioners within that ‘working minority,’ on the DeKalb Commission which loses most votes. Michelle Long Spears frequently touts her stint as a Commissioner on the DeKalb County Board of Ethics. That service would be admirable, however, Ms. Spears actually served as an alternate member. This is similar to an Alternate juror or in some respects the first-runner up in a Miss Georgia competition, close, but no crown or cigar.

But perhaps more importantly, candidate Spears has displayed at best insensitivity on several fronts when asked questions on issues of import in DeKalb, such as race relations and police reform. At a well attended candidate forum, twice in less than a few minutes, candidate Spears referred to the summer of Racial Justice protests in 2020 as ‘racial uprisings.’ Ms. Spears further blamed the ‘racial uprisings’ for all the challenges in law enforcement recruiting and morale. As a strong supporter of law enforcement, with a few long standing clients in that field, I can assure you the tableau of issues causing police to leave or others to not join the field is much broader.

Thankfully, Lauren Alexander, Ms. Spears runoff opponent, is a calm, collected, professional and community activist and consultant, with engagements with organizations like the CDC. Ms. Alexander would be the better choice to provide that pivotal “one vote” on the current DeKalb Commission.

In races just like this one, and hundreds more like them, on county commissions, school boards and in Georgia’s General Assembly, your vote truly matters and will count, in determining who casts that ONE governing body vote. Do you homework, get to the polls and make sure your voice and vote are heard.

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