Advance voting starts Monday for runoffs

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comJune 28, 2014 

Advance voting for the July 22 runoffs starts Monday.

The Community Room in the City Services Center, 3111 Citizens Way, is the only polling place in Muscogee County that will be open for the runoffs' advance voting period: Mondays-Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., until July 18, except July 4. Use the entrance facing the parking garage, not the library.

The lone local runoff in Columbus is for the District 2 seat on the nonpartisan Muscogee County School Board. District 2 incumbent John Wells, the board's senior member with 28 years of service, faces challenger John F. Thomas, an Internal Revenue Service agent. Thomas received 35.27 percent of the May 20 vote. Wells, a businessman with interests mostly in property management and construction, got in the runoff by squeaking past John "Bart" Steed, owner of Kar-Tunes Car Stereo, by less than 1 percent of the vote -- 27.58 percent to 26.59 percent. Victor Morales, training and development coordinator for Pratt & Whitney, garnered 10.44 percent.

The other runoffs are for statewide offices. The candidates are listed with the percent of the vote they received in the primary.

The Republican ballot has the U.S. Senate contest between U.S. Rep. J.H. "Jack" Kingston (26 percent) of Savannah and former Reebok and Dollar General CEO David A. Perdue (31 percent) of St. Simons, who is a first cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue. They are vying for the right to face Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in the Nov. 4 general election to replace the retiring Saxby Chambliss, a Republican. Nunn is on leave from her position as CEO of the nonprofit organization Points of Light to campaign. Her father, Sam Nunn, served Georgia as a U.S. Senator.

Both parties have runoffs to decide their nominee in the state schools superintendent race. The Democratic ballot has state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (26 percent) of Austell against Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Inc. executive director Valarie D. Wilson (33 percent) of Decatur. The Republican ballot has Georgia Department of Education chief academic officer Michael L. "Mike" Buck (20 percent) of Rome against former Irwin County Schools teacher and administrator Richard L. Woods (17 percent) of Tifton.

The seat is open because state Superintendent John Barge chose to run for governor instead. Barge failed to oust Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary. Deal will face the Democratic nominee, state Sen. Jason Carter of Decatur, in the Nov. 4 general election.

Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee County Elections and Registration Office, emphasized voters must use the same party ballot they selected in the primary. But voters who used a nonpartisan ballot and voters who didn't participate in the primary may use any runoff ballot, she said.

Boren expects voter turnout for the runoffs to be less than 10 percent of the electorate.

"The turnout could be higher in those precincts with school board District 2," she said.

Regardless of the turnout, conducting the runoffs still will cost the county's elections office about $75,000, Boren said.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

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