Why does it get harder every election to do this damned thing? Well, early voting for one thing. A lot of you have already voted. Another reason is that I don’t have any special, inside knowledge that you don’t already have if you’ve been paying attention. And then, this is just a really weird election. We have a mayor who turns the running of the city over to the manager with minimal oversight and turns the planning of the city over to the developers. Her only competition is a totally unproven and inexperienced guy who at least has the potential to bring fresh ideas and energy to the office.
This race dominates my own thinking about the commission races, too. I would certainly like to be wrong, but I have to assume that the incumbent mayor will be re-elected. In her first term, she has practically brought the government to a standstill in terms of any new initiatives to address the many problems we face. In her expected second term, it can only get worse. That makes it important to elect people who will stand up against this do-nothing/allow anything mayor. That’s the overriding issue that shapes my thinking about the commission races.
Mayor: Tim Denson
Then, in District 1 we’ve got an incumbent who is so independent that he is downright cantankerous, embarrassingly so. He’s opposed by a former ACC recycling manager who has a good record and is certainly competent but may not want to rock Nancy’s boat. If you live in District 1, this one is up to you, of course.
District 1: Toss-up
District 3, yikes! This wouldn’t even be happening if the Republican legislature hadn’t severely gerrymandered our local commission districts to break up the voting strength of progressive Democrats. How did they do that? They yanked Boulevard and Cobbham out of District 5 and threw them into what had been conceded to be an African American district. Pit the progressives against the African Americans and at the same time claim to be increasing African American representation. Such crass cynicism will no doubt result in the erection of a monument on the City Hall lawn to that famous Republican who engineered the coup: Doug McKillip. But I digress. There are four good candidates in this race, but for what it’s worth, if I were voting there, I’d have to go with Melissa Link, because of her long record of community activism and aggressiveness. I know she can be misguided and too aggressive, but I think we’re going to need her stubbornness and energy on the commission.
District 3 Commission: Melissa Link
In District 5, Jared Bailey has delivered what he promised when he first ran: He has been a reliably progressive voice and vote on the commission. His opponent is a great guy who would make a good commissioner, but Jared’s depth of experience in business and the music scene and his commitment to a progressive vision of Athens are the real deal. As to whether he legally lives in Athens-Clarke County, he has satisfied all the requirements and gained the approval of the Board of Elections. Considering what the Republicans did to District 5, Jared’s lucky they didn’t move his whole district to Oconee.
District 5 Commission: Jared Bailey
Commission districts 7 and 9 are not contested. The mayoral and districts 1, 3 and 5 races will be on your ballot whether you vote Republican or Democrat. The state races will vary depending on which ballot you vote. If I may play queen-maker here, in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, you’ll want to vote for Michelle Nunn and of course Jason Carter for governor. In the Secretary of State’s race, it doesn’t really matter, because incumbent Brian Kemp will beat either in the general election. For Insurance Commissioner, I think I’ll vote for our old friend and “Athenian,” Keith Heard, so he can have the pleasure of going up against that scourge of Obamacare, Ralph Hudgens. For state School Superintendent, my friends involved in education say Valarie Wilson is the best choice, and she was impressive at the forum here last week. She’s from Decatur and has high-level administrative experience with the Atlanta BeltLine and extensive board of education credentials.
The Democratic ballot also has some straw-poll questions, and they’re all slam-dunks.
You can vote at the Board of Elections office during normal business hours through Friday, May 16. Your final opportunity to vote is Election Day, Tuesday, May 20 at your local polling place. You can find that and any other election-related info at athensclarkecounty.com/160/board-of-elections.