Chattahoochee Chatter: Early voting begins in Columbus

April 30, 2014 

Physical fitness was part of the challenge for almost 30 "Blackhawk" spouses from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment at Kelley Hill on Saturday. Observers watch as this spouse completes an exercise.

In the first two days of early voting for Columbus' May 20 local nonpartisan election, 1,050 residents cast ballots, an early average of 525 a day.

Were that average to continue, almost 9,000 early votes would be in before Election Day, not counting mail-in absentee ballots.

In the last mayoral election, in November 2010, 46,602 residents voted, a turnout of 48.09 percent.

This time elections director Nancy Boren anticipates a turnout of just 25 percent of around 100,000 likely voters, or about 25,000 total. If that proves true, then nearly a third of the total ballots in this year's race will be cast at Columbus' three sites for early, in-person voting.

Campaigns used to hold off on a big media buy until the weekend before Election Day, then blast out ads for the final stretch.

Not anymore. If candidates don't push hard to get the early vote, opponents can gain significant leads that are hard to overcome.

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Three of the four candidates vying for the District 2 seat on the Muscogee County School Board have "John" in their name -- incumbent John Wells and challengers John "Bart" Steed and John F. Thomas -- so they are trying to find ways to distinguish themselves.

At last week's forum conducted by MidTown Inc., the other candidate, Victor Morales, urged the audience to think about this when they cast their ballot: "Just remember, when you get to District 2, don't vote John, and you'll be fine."

Later in the forum, Steed emphasized, "I'm Bart Steed. You don't have to choose me as a John."

Well, that's an interesting way of stating it.

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Let's face it. We'd all like our spouses to spend a day in our shoes. The Army made that happen. More than two dozen "Blackhawk" spouses of soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment experienced what their soldiers mate tackles daily at the Spouses' Spur Ride on Saturday.

Thirty spouses were part of four teams competing in a series of exercises staged around Kelley Hill at Fort Benning. With their faces painted and dressed in Army Combat Uniform trousers, the women provided aid to a casualty, called in fire support while throwing grenades and responded to a chemical threat within the nine second Army standard in a chemical condition. They also fired weapons and performed in a physical fitness challenge.

"It's fun to see your wife tough it out and do what you do," Pfc John Todd said of wife, Nikki Todd. "She had a good attitude and I'm proud of how well she did."

Nikki said the event was exhausting but a lot of fun.

"The medical lane was the most challenging of the lanes for me, but everyone on my team pulled together to get through it," she said.

The day ended with Lt. Col. Paul Gunnison, commander of 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, presenting a gold spur to each spouse. Brigade soldiers earn a spur after successfully completing certain tasks.

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Let's wrap this Chatter up with an upcoming birthday of sorts …

As Aflac was reporting its quarterly earnings report on Tuesday, the topic of the importance of Japan came up during an interview with Robin Wilkey. She's the company's senior vice president of investor relations.

Wilkey noted Japan makes up roughly 80 percent of Aflac's earnings, or profit, making the Asian nation critically important to the supplemental life and health insurer's financial fate.

Asked if the United States -- the only other market for Aflac -- ever was more profitable than Japan, she responded yes. But Wilkey also quickly mentioned that her company will mark its 40th anniversary of selling policies in Japan this November.

"We'll be planning special events for the occasion," she said.

For history buffs, that's a chunk of time, because Aflac itself will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2015. That means Japan has been part of the Columbus-based company for two-thirds of its lifespan.

So these back-to-back birthday parties should be a major happening, and those of us in Chatterland congratulate those who helped build this duck dynasty.

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