Qualifying for elected offices closed at noon Friday, and all four elected officials who are suing the city of Columbus face opposition in the primary or general election.
In the race for clerk of Superior Court, pastor Ann Hardman qualified to challenge Linda Pierce, the incumbent, while former sheriff’s office employee Donna Tompkins, National Guard soldier Mark LaJoye and Robert Keith Smith qualified to run for Muscogee County sheriff, joining former deputy Pamela L. Brown, who filed papers on Thursday.
Bernard Spicer, an adjunct professor, qualified on Monday to challenge Marshal Greg Countryman, and Sylvia Hudson decided on Thursday to oppose clerk of Municipal Court Vivian Creighton Bishop.
All told, Pierce, Sheriff John Darr, Bishop and Countryman will face opposition to retain their seats in public office. In late 2014, the four officials filed three lawsuits claiming the Consolidated Government doesn’t budget enough money to meet their obligations. The city has paid its attorneys defending the suits $1.32 million and attorneys for Darr and Pierce $540,552 for a total of $1.86 million.
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Other qualifiers on the last day included JoAnn Thomas-Brown, a retired educator, challenging incumbent Pat Hugley Green and Al Stewart in Board of Education District 1. Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan qualified for a second term with no opposition.
Only one member of the local General Assembly delegation faces opposition this election cycle. Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, dodged Republican primary opposition in May, but will face Democratic challenger Ben Anderson of Grantville in November.for the District 29 seat, which McKoon has held the last six years. It is a largely Republican district that includes parts of Muscogee, Harris and Troup counties.
Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus, faces no primary or General Election opposition for the office he has held since 1992.
All five local House of Representatives members will not have to worry about campaigns this year. Rep. Calvin Smyre, who is the dean of the General Assembly with 42 years, is unopposed in District 135. Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, is unopposed in District 134; Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus, is unopposed in 136; Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, is unopposed in District 137; and Rep. John Pezold, R-Columbus, is unopposed in District 133.
With his name absent from the qualifying list, Darr confirmed on Friday that he will run for a third term as an Independent. Qualifying for an Independent candidate is set for June 27-July 1.
Darr, who ran as a Democrat for both terms, said he has kicked the idea around for the last two years before making his decision for this election. He talked to the sheriff in Putnam County who has run for the office for 20 years as an Independent. The sheriff also noted that the Georgia Sheriff’s Association has been trying to get the office designated as nonpartisan but has been blocked.
“Even though you represent the entire community, people call us up and ask for help or guidance,” Darr said. “They are not asking for what party affiliation you are with. That is the mentality I have had since I’ve been sheriff. I try to be sheriff of the entire community.”
When asked about the crowd of opposition, Darr pointed out that he is running for the office and not against candidates. “I don’t keep up with who is running and who doesn’t,” he said. “You are not running against the individual. I think regardless of whether it is one person or five people, I hope they come and lay out their plans to the people in this community on why they should be sheriff.”
Sheriff Darr said people understand more about the office and his budget once the problem is explained. “Everytime I have gotten the opportunity to talk to people, they come away understanding,” he said. “They may not like it but they understand why. When you go out into the community, I have a lot of support throughout the community.”
Using jail medications as an example, Darr said his budget was $791,000 during the last fiscal year but ended up spending $900,000. In the current fiscal year, he said his office is tracking more than $1 million in medications for inmates.
“I was over budget $100,000 one year and you’re going to blame me for mismanagement,” he said. “That is not mismanagement.”
He said the health and medication for inmates are needed regardless or whether John Darr is sheriff or anybody else in the office.
Qualified Candidates and Dates
Clerk of Superior Court
Ann L. Hardman, pastor, 3-11-16
Linda Pierce, incumbent, 3-7-16
Buddy Bryan, incumbent, 3-11-16
Judge of Probate Court
Marc D’Antonio, incumbent, 3-10-16
Muscogee County Sheriff
Pamela L. Brown, security, 3-10-16
Donna Tompkins, retired, 3-11-16
Robert Keith Smith, security, 3-11-16
Mark Lajoye, National Guard and government contractor, 3-11-16
Lula Lunsford Huff, incumbent, 3-10-16
State Court Solicitor
Suzanne Goddard, incumbent, 3-7-16
Judge of Municipal Court
Steven D. Smith, incumbent, 3-10-16
Cynthia Maisano, attorney, 3-7-16
Clerk of Municipal Court
Vivian Creighton Bishop, incumbent, 3-7-16
Sylvia Hudson, no occupation, 3-10-16
Muscogee County Marshal
Bernard Spicer, adjunct professor, 3-7-16
Gregory D. Countryman, incumbent, 3-7-16
Judge of State Court
Benjamin S. Richardson, incumbent, 3-7-16
Board of Education District 1
JoAnn Thomas-Brown, retired educator, 3-11-16
Pat Hugley Green, incumbent, 3-7-16
Al Stewart, retired educator, 3-7-16
Board of Education, District 3
Athavia “AJ” Senior, incumbent, 3-7-16
Vanessa Jackson, Childcare Network director, 3-9-16
Board of Education, District 5
Robert Wadkins Jr., attorney, 3-7-16
Laurie Cochran McRae, attorney, 3-9-16
Todd Robinson, former educator and correction officer, 3-7-16
Pete Taylor, retired, 3-8-16
Board of Education, District 7
Shelia D. Williams, ex-director of B&O Services Inc., 3-9-16
Cathy Williams, nonprofit manager, 3-10-16
Norene Marvets, jeweler, 3-7-16
Council District 2
Glenn Davis, incumbent, 3-8-16
Council District 4
Evelyn Turner Pugh , incumbent, 3-7-16
Marquese “Skinny” Averett, entrepreneur and community activist, 3-10-16
Council at Large
Teddy Reese, attorney, 3-7-16
B.H. “Skip” Henderson III, incumbent, 3-10-16
Council District 6
R. Gary Allen, incumbent, 3-7-16
Council District 8
Walker Garrett, attorney, 3-9-16
Jonathan Paul Davis, electrical contractor, 3-9-16