Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop won a sixth term Tuesday, winning about 55 percent of the vote over challenger Sherrell Dowdell-Mahone. She received 9,289 votes to Dowdell-Mahone’s 7,535, according to unofficial results.
“I thought it would be close because of all the negative campaigning, all the lies and accusation,” Creighton Bishop said in a phone interview. “We’re not playing horseshoes here. I won.”
“I appreciate the citizens for putting their trust in me,” she added.
Dowdell-Mahone couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday.
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The race for Municipal Court clerk — decided Tuesday with no Republican challenger this fall — had become one of the most acrimonious contests of the summer, as Dowdell-Mahone sought to unseat a popular five-term incumbent who has proven resilient in the face of controversy. Dowdell-Mahone waged an aggressive grassroots campaign, in which she urged voters to weigh her academic credentials against Creighton Bishop’s extensive experience.
Creighton Bishop said the race was “nasty,” and dismissed her opponent as a “disgruntled” former employee. Dowdell-Mahone, 47, worked in the Municipal Court clerk’s office for nearly five months last year, and said she saw a number of areas that needed improvement, including customer service and filing efficiency.
“I’ve always had a desire to help those in need,” she said recently. “I’ve always had strong ties to the community.” Creighton Bishop, 61, said her opponent was unqualified for the office. She said she’d made continual improvements to the office in her tenure. “Nothing is broken here so why fix it?” Creighton Bishop said.
Tuesday’s vote capped a spirited campaign in which the candidates traded barbs at political forums. Dowdell-Mahone accused Creighton Bishop of missing work because she was in Atlanta, Albany, Ga., or Washington, D.C., with her husband, U.S. Rep Sanford D. Bishop. Creighton Bishop denied those claims.
But the tension began long before election season. Creighton Bishop said her opponent resigned from the Municipal Court clerk’s office in lieu of a reprimand for improperly giving legal advice. Dowdell-Mahone insists she “knew better” than to give legal advice, and that she left because she was dissatisfied with the office’s “hostile environment.”
“Mrs. Bishop’s 20-year tenure has just been riddled with one scandal after another,” Dowdell-Mahone said, “and I kind of just want to let the citizens know what new, innovative leadership I would bring to the court.”
Creighton Bishop was first elected to office in 1992 when she unseated Ellen Pilgreen. She had previously worked as an administrator at Jack T. Rutledge Correctional Institute, and decided to run for the seat after a friend received poor service at the court.
Dowdell-Mahone worked more than a decade on small claims cases in her twin brother’s Columbus law office. She has a law degree from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, and later earned a master’s degree in litigation, though she hasn’t passed the bar.