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What’s on the Ballot in Athens?

Credit: Savannah Cole/file

While the presidential race and, to a lesser extent, Georgia’s two U.S. Senate races dominate the discourse, other offices and issues lurk further down the ballot. Here’s a quick look at what else voters will decide between now and Nov. 3.

U.S. Senate: One race is relatively straightforward. Democrat Jon Ossof—who built a fundraising juggernaut for a 2017 special election in a north Atlanta congressional district—is taking on incumbent Republican David Perdue, one of President Donald Trump’s earliest supporters.

The second is a bit more complicated. It’s a “jungle primary” with 21 candidates seeking to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned for medical reasons. Two Republicans—Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointee, Kelly Loeffler, and Rep. Doug Collins—are vying for a spot in a runoff against the leading Democrat, Raphael Warnock, pastor of the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. While Kemp appointed Loeffler to appeal to wavering white suburban women, she’s taken a hard-right tack in an effort to fend off Collins, a staunch Trump defender. UGA professor Richard Dien Winfield is also running for the seat on a Bernie Sanders-style platform.

U.S. House: Athens is split between the deep-red 9th and 10th districts. Most local voters will be choosing between Rep. Jody Hice, a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, and Tabitha Johnson-Green, the Democrat who lost to Hice two years ago. In a northern sliver of Athens, Democrat Devin Pandy faces Republican gun-store owner Andrew Clyde for the 9th District seat Collins is vacating. Read more here.

State Senate: Again, Athens is divided between two-deep red districts. For the second time, Democrat Dawn Johnson is challenging Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) in the 47th District, which includes the eastern part of Clarke County. The rest of Clarke County, along with Oconee County, is in the 46th, represented by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), who faces UGA law student Zachary Perry.

State House: Both local races are tossups that are crucial to Democrats’ efforts to take control of the chamber. In District 117—southwestern Clarke and northern Oconee—Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement co-founder Mokah Jasmine Johnson is taking on Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens). In District 119—the rest of Oconee and southeastern Clarke—Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) faces Democrat Jonathan Wallace. It’s the third matchup for Wallace and Wiedower, with the former winning a 2017 special election, and the latter taking the seat in 2018. Likewise, District 117 flipped blue in 2017 before turning red again a year later. In District 118, consisting of the northern half of Clarke County, Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) is unopposed. Read more here.

District Attorney: In another jungle primary, three candidates are running to replace DA Ken Mauldin, who resigned in February. They are acting DA Brian Patterson, prosecutor James Chafin and former state Rep. Deborah Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who specializes in media and entertainment law, is running on a platform of criminal justice reform, while Patterson and Chafin accuse her of lacking prosecutorial experience. Gonzalez and Patterson are Democrats; Chafin is running without a party label. Read more here.

Sheriff: Police detective John Q. Williams ousted incumbent Sheriff Ira Edwards in the Democratic primary. Now, Williams faces Republican Robert Hare, a retired sheriff’s deputy. The two disagree on several issues, perhaps most notably immigration. Williams opposes cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport jail inmates, while Hare would use local deputies to enforce federal immigration law. Read more here.

Commission District 6: Jesse Houle will take over the seat in January regardless of the outcome in this special election, but first Houle must face Chad Lowery, a conservative who is running against the progressive activist to serve out the last two months of the late Commissioner Jerry NeSmith’s term. The district is in West Athens along the Atlanta Highway corridor. Read more here.

Amendments: Amendment 1 would require the state to spend dedicated taxes and fees—for example, the tire-disposal fee—on the purpose for which they were intended, rather than stick them in the general fund to be spent on anything. Amendment 2 would end sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine that prevents the state from being sued. Referendum 1 would exempt nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity from property taxes on land they intend to use to build houses. All three passed the legislature unanimously or nearly so. 

How to Vote: Early voting runs through Friday, Oct. 30 at the Board of Elections office downtown, the Athens-Clarke County Library, the ACC Extension office, the Miriam Moore Community Center and the tennis center at Southeast Clarke Park. Secure drop boxes for absentee ballots are located at the Board of Elections, the library, the extension office, the Multimodal Transportation Center, the Barnett Shoals Road fire station and Winterville City Hall. Vote at your assigned precinct on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 3. Visit to find your polling place. And remember to bring a photo ID. Need a ride? Athens Transit is currently fare-free, and most polling places are located on bus lines. The AADM is also offering free rides to the polls on Election Day; call or text 706-389-4129. In addition, Uber and Lyft are offering discounts on trips to vote.