After the coronavirus pandemic pushed it back for a month—actually, nearly three months, in the case of the presidential primary—Election Day has finally arrived. Here’s a brief overview of the contested nonpartisan, Democratic and Republican races that are on the ballot. ICYMI, go to flagpole.com for more detailed overviews of local races.
COMMISSION DISTRICT 4: UGA graduate student Michael Stapor is challenging incumbent Allison Wright. Stapor believes poverty is Athens’ biggest issue and wants to pass a tenants’ bill of rights and address rising rent. Wright supports repealing the two-unrelated-residents law to make housing more affordable. Her agenda for a third term also includes a Five Points business association and strengthening the county’s newly passed discrimination ordinance.
COMMISSION DISTRICT 6: In a race that’s gotten a bit chippy at times, progressive activist Jesse Houle is attempting to oust incumbent Jerry NeSmith. Houle says NeSmith listens too much to Republicans; NeSmith responds that his job is to listen to everyone, and that his experience makes him more effective. Houle’s platform includes free transit, free child care, marijuana decriminalization and requiring developers to build affordable housing. NeSmith is more of a fiscal hawk, and is also deeply involved in efforts to revitalize Georgia Square Mall and Atlanta Highway.
Editor’s Note: NeSmith died in an accidental fall June 7. If he wins the election, a special election will be held to fill his seat.
COMMISSION DISTRICT 8: Eastside representative Andy Herod is stepping down from the commission after 13 years, and it’s a three-way race to take his place. Lawyer and former school board candidate Kamau Hull wants to increase access to government for underserved groups. Retired educator Carol Myers is a longtime advocate for better transportation options and environmental issues, helping to adopt a bike master plan and push through SPLOST funding for clean energy. Relationship therapist Andrea Farnham is focused on labor rights and helping the black community escape intergenerational poverty, although she’s faced pushback lately for plagiarizing an answer to a union questionnaire.
COMMISSION DISTRICT 10: For the first time, three-term commissioner Mike Hamby is facing opposition. Last year, Hamby co-sponsored the $4 million anti-poverty “Prosperity Package”—later repurposed for coronavirus relief—and has participated in planning efforts for downtown, Atlanta Highway and the West Broad neighborhood. His challenger, Knowa Johnson, co-founded the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movememt that successfully pushed for cash bail reform and an ordinance banning selectively enforced dress codes at bars.
SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 2: This district may finally see some stable representation after the resignations of longtime board member Vernon Payne and his replacement, Frances Berry, in recent years. Kirrena Gallagher is employed by Athens-Clarke County as a neighborhood liaison, and also volunteers at her childrens’ schools and for various nonprofits. Mary Bagby is a nurse and staunch supporter of former superintendent Demond Means who’s known for sharp-tongued commentary at board meetings. She twice applied for the position but was passed over. The current officeholder, Antwon Stephens, is not running and has endorsed Gallagher. None of the other four seats up for election this year are contested.
SHERIFF: Incumbent Ira Edwards has served as sheriff for 20 years. In that time, he’s had his share of controversies, such as county audit reports pointing out low morale and understaffing at the jail, and his decision to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold undocumented immigrants for pickup (which he later changed his mind on). His challenger in the Democratic primary, police detective John Q. Williams, hopes to capitalize. But Edwards contends the sheriff’s office needs steady leadership. The winner faces Republican Robert Hare, one of Edwards’ former deputies, in November.
9TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Nine Republicans are seeking to replace Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, who is running against Gov. Brian Kemp’s Senate appointee, Kelly Loeffler. A couple of familiar names include former 10th District congressman Paul Broun—best known for comparing President Obama to Hitler and, more recently, giving away an AR-15 to fight “looting hordes from Atlanta”—and Andrew Clyde, the local gun-store owner who sued Athens-Clarke County in a failed attempt to overturn coronavirus shelter-in-place restrictions. Democratic options include Army veteran-turned-actor Devin Pandy of Commerce, retired minister Dan Wilson of Clayton and Gainesville resident Brooke Siskin, who owns a small business in Gwinnett County.
10TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Two years ago, Tabitha Johnson-Green, a nurse from Washington County, seemingly came out of nowhere to win the Democratic nomination against two better-funded and better-organized candidates from the Athens area. She is joined in the race this year by Andrew Ferguson, a screenwriter who has aligned himself with the progressive wing of the party, with endorsements from the likes of former state Rep. Deborah Gonzalez and a recommendation from Athens for Everyone. The winner faces Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Lake Oconee, who has trounced several Democrats in the deep-red district.
U.S. SENATE: Seven Democrats are running for the right to face Republican Sen. David Perdue, but only three have any chance. Sarah Riggs Amico, who has some name recognition from her run for lieutenant governor in 2018, is making her Christian faith and labor rights the center of her platform. The young documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff raised over $30 million when he ran unsuccessfully against Karen Handel for a north Fulton County congressional seat in a 2017 special election. Teresa Tomlinson says her experience as mayor of Columbus shows she can reach out to a broad swath of voters, from African Americans to disgruntled Republicans.
The Senate seat formerly held by Johnny Isakson and currently held by Loeffler won’t be up until November. Because it’s a special election, it will be a “jungle primary” featuring over 20 candidates from both parties on the ballot together.
PRESIDENT: Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee, but Michael Bennet, Mike Bloomberg. Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang remain on the Georgia ballot. President Trump is the only name on the Republican ballot.
HOW TO VOTE: Everyone can vote in nonpartisan races, but voters must choose either a Republican or Democratic primary ballot. Those who choose a Democratic ballot can also vote for the presidential nominee if they didn’t already vote early in the postponed March presidential primary. Early voting is taking place through Friday, June 5 at the ACC Board of Elections from 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and the ACC Library, Miriam Moore Community Center and ACC Extension Office from 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., with extended hours at all four locations until 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3. Polls are open from 7 a.m.–7 p.m. on Election Day. Go to mvp.sos.ga.gov to find your precinct location. Remember, photo ID is required. While it may be too late to mail in absentee ballots, they can be dropped off in a box outside the Board of Elections office at 155 E. Washington St. until 7 p.m. June 9.
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