There’s an understanding in politics that incumbency has its privileges. Tuesday, with Bobby Coleman’s defeat of incumbent Ivey Hines, those privileges seem to be fewer and fewer. In Albany, this is a very, very good thing.
Once someone gets elected, there is a strong tendency for them to stay in that office for as long as they want. The voter base is typically apathetic. If they vote, it’s usually on just one or two issues or candidates that they care about, and there is a tendency to vote straight down with the incumbents. It sucks, but it is what it is. Most folks just think there people are doing just fine.
However, with Christopher Pike losing to B.J. Fletcher and Coleman beating out Hines in a runoff, the make up of the commission has definitely changed. While I know Fletcher, and I know what she will bring to the commission table, I don’t know Coleman. I look forward to meeting him and talking with him some.
Unfortunately, there is still a taint here in Albany. Coleman allegedly reported an area woman to the elections office for incorrectly marking an absentee ballot for Hines while “assisting” someone fill out the ballot. The allegations may sound familiar to readers of the Journal. After all, this paper reported similar shenanigans two years ago following the election of Hines to the city commission in a very bizarre set of circumstances.
For those who may not remember, Melissa Strother lost a closely fought election to Ivey Hines. Just days before the election, I had been notified by someone with another campaign that reported being approached by an area woman with an offer to provide a set number of votes.
For several weeks, we ran reports on the discrepancies we found in the election. Everything looked a little funny, to say the least, including an inordinately high number of absentee ballots submitted in Ward 2 compared to other parts of the city. As this was also the same time as a mayoral election, the turnout was there throughout the city. In addition, the absentee voters overwhelmingly preferred Hines over Strother, way out of proportion to how those who voted in the precincts voted. It looked funny, to say the least.
Later, we were provided a copy of some of the absentee ballot information. A strange occurrence was pointed out. One woman, who required assistance to fill out her ballot, is the same person who assisted someone else in filling out their ballot. This was, as I’m sure you guess, in Ward 2.
This meshes perfectly with Coleman’s allegations. However, I must be clear that there is no evidence that Ivey Hines had anything to do with any of this. None.
For the next four years though, it doesn’t matter. Whoever it is that appears to be messing with the democratic process in Ward 2, they will not be able to impact any election for the next two years at the very least, and the only election they can impact is the city wide mayors race at that time. For now, Albany is safe from whoever it is that seems to think they can just monkey around with our elections.
More importantly though, for now, the Albany City Commission has a brand new face. Coleman, like any challenged, didn’t like the direction Albany was taking and wanted to make a difference. B.J. Fletcher has already made a difference, but now will get a chance to do more. These two should make quite the impact come January, an impact that I am seriously looking forward to.
A warning to the commission and the political hangers on who think to corrupt the new commissioners into maintaining the status quo. B.J. Fletcher is not someone you will push or bully. No, she is someone who knows the path she’s going to take, and will not be stopped. She is a force of nature, and while that phrase is often trite when used to describe someone, it’s not when used about her.
Now Coleman, I don’t know, but I’m going to advise those same people to back off there. Not everyone has what it takes to challenge an incumbent and win, yet Coleman did. This is usually a sign of someone you don’t want to mess with. He also made the difficult decision to stand up when he learned of an injustice, one that many people in this town refuse to acknowledge actually happened before, and that’s also the sign of someone who isn’t as corruptible as many may hope.
Albany has a new opportunity. Let’s hope the new blood on the commission can make the most of it.