Written by Tom Knighton
People who follow politics in southwest Georgia – particularly in Albany – can become a little jaded. However, Tuesday night’s results have some long time observers scratching their heads as the results ran against conventional wisdom.
Some have long argued that Albany is a “black” town, and a white person will have a long, difficult road to be elected to a county wide seat. Last night, in one of the results that surprised observers, Dr. Lane Price defeated incumbent Anita Williams-Brown for the Dougherty County Board of Education At-Large seat 57.2 percent to 42.8 percent.
In another surprise, the controversial Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) was handily defeated in races all across the state. In the Southwest Georgia region (which was made up of Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas and Lee counties) struck down the measure 56.61 percent to 43.39 percent.
Another surprising race was in the GOP primary for the second district congressional race, where Rick Allen won with 42 percent of the vote. Allen will now find himself in a runoff with retired military man John House who garnered 31.92 percent. Teacher Ken DeLoach received 26.09 percent.
Allen’s victory was surprising too many observers who noted that House appeared to have the support of the GOP establishment, while Allen appeared to be more of a Tea Party favorite. Now, the wild card will be DeLoach’s supporters as he gathered more than enough to tip the balance either way. Political observers expect both camps to be in contact with DeLoach very soon, if they haven’t already contacted him, to court his endorsement.
So the question remains, what does last night mean? For many in Dougherty County, no victory is quite as significant as Lane Price’s win. Williams-Brown was one of the infamous so-called “failed four”. With her loss, and the excepted conviction and eventual removal of fellow “failed four” member Velvet Riggins, many in the county expect to see a more functional school board.
One school system employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted, “Now we can see decisions made on what’s best for the kids in the school system, not the skin color of staff member in question.”
Price will join Robert Youngblood, who ran unopposed for David Maschke’s seat, as the “new blood” on a school board that has made headlines throughout the state for its seemingly bizarre antics and what has been described by some as “generally dysfunctional” behavior.
The T-SPLOST measure’s defeat, surprising as it was too many observers, was a stark example of politics in the 21st century. The measure enjoyed support from powerful and organized groups like the Chamber of Commerce, with even local chamber officials urging members to write letters to the editor supporting the measure, and construction companies that stood to profit from the tax. Meanwhile, opposition was somewhat disorganized but grassroots in nature, making the effort a “David versus Goliath” moment. However, just as in the biblical tale, David prevailed.
In other area elections, State Rep. Carol Fullerton will return to Atlanta, handily defeating her opponent Maurleen Edwards 71.4 percent to 28.6 percent. Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachels won himself a second term to that post by defeating challenger 67.4 percent to 32.6 percent. Rick Muggridge easily defeated opponent Frank Taylor 79 percent to 21 percent in the Lee County Commission District 4 race. In that county’s district 2 race, Luke Singletary defeated Russell Timms 78.9 percent to 21.1 percent. The winners of these races currently have no challenger in the general election, though Rick Muggridge is expected to soon face a challenge from Tim Nelson who is expected to submit signatures to election officials later today for the November general election.
Many in Dougherty County are breathing a sigh of relief as the election season goes on pause for a time. The general election will be held November 6. The runoff election will be August 21.