Editors note, May 18: Dan Matthews has announced on his blog that he is running for the 113th District House seat. The announcement followed the publication of this column and came without prior notice to Patch. Matthews has been suspended as a Patch columnist as a result of his candidacy.
Anyone who has the audacity to announce his candidacy for any elected office deserves to be commended on his dedication to public service. Right now I would predict a three-way dead heat between the announced candidates, which means your vote can really make a difference in this otherwise dead time, politically speaking. So please register to vote if you have not done so already. You have until May 23.
So far, Oconee County has three quality candidates for the 113th District of the Georgia House of Representatives with connections and ties deep into the community and many hours of volunteer service and work behind the scenes. The following is not meant in any way to denigrate or write ill of any of them as people or parents, but instead looks to address serious issues about our next State Representative and how we go about electing someone in the forthcoming special election on June 21, which is almost assuredly going to result in a run-off.
There is at least one possible candidate not mentioned here waiting for Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint the new Superior Court judge to see if that opens another judgeship locally. And there is ostensibly even another candidate waiting in the wings to see if that happens and surprise candidate A withdraws (or really never enters) from the race.
It is time to push the door open wider for candidates with differing views, especially in a special election. We will get to choose from a list of candidates from both parties and vote with the only recent local precedent being when Paul Broun and Jim Whitehead emerged from a larger field in the wake of the death of Dr. Charlie Norwood for the 10th District of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007.
The announced candidates all say they are not going to raise your taxes, when in fact I can promise you they will in one way or another. I am afraid we are getting the same scoop of bland and tasteless imitation vanilla ice milk from all three.
Banker Chuck Williams, attorney Alan Alexander, and educator Sarah Bell would all make a decent State Representative to follow in the footsteps of Rep. Hank Huckaby. But does not Oconee County deserve the best we have to offer in terms of ideas, actions and beliefs?
Chuck Williams has at least two albatrosses around his neck in the failed bank and the property that belonged to his mother where the Board of Education office is going to be relocated sometime next decade. I am sure he is a fine person, but these two negatively trending topics have not exactly made me real enthusiastic about supporting him.
Two good friends of mine in Brian Brodrick and Chuck Toney, both of whom I would gladly vote for this job, insist on supporting Mr. Williams, and I give them credit for sticking their necks out early on this one. I just cannot see supporting Williams in the wake of the failed North Georgia Bank situation and the manner with which the new Board of Education headquarters fiasco went down. That much said, there is no question Williams has the best connections and the deepest pockets to pull off the kind of commando campaign necessary for a short season from qualifying to actual special election.
Alan Alexander is an excellent attorney and a great youth baseball coach. His deep recognizable voice is one of caution and seasoned reasoning. His military background would prove to be one of the reasons I think he cannot be an effective leader in Atlanta. I would support him normally, but his personal Facebook profile claims to have political leanings of a Confederate/Republican, and that is pretty much a major strike against him in my book. He or one of his supporters did drop off two signs at my house this weekend, as I know Mr. Alexander professionally. He was not selected as a finalist in the recent Oconee County Board of Education selection in their ridiculous back and forth on how we are going to choose a candidate we approve of to replace Tom Breedlove.
Sarah Bell and I serve on a committee together and I worked at Gainesville State College, where she teaches (although I cannot say I really knew her then). On the Newsmakers radio show, she came out and said she supports the Fair Tax, which I think should be renamed the Unfair Tax.
She came within 100 votes of beating Melvin Davis in 2008 for the race for the chair of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners. Many people considered her close finish as much an anti-Melvin vote as it was a pro-Sarah sentiment.
Her statement Friday morning on the radio program that she would resume running for the 2012 Board of Commissioners chairman race should she lose this special election for state legislature I consider to be a fatal flaw in her candidacy for either position. I would like to think that voters can see through this kind of serial campaigning for whatever position comes up and available.
In other words, I believe that she should pick one office, spend all her resources and efforts in that race, and forget about the other. While I know Sarah Bell has done a lot for the community, her questioning of the budget for the Parks and Recreation Department sent off 5-star alarms in my head. Sorry Sarah, at this point, a state legislator would have nothing to do with parks except maybe in creating them.
I want someone to fight for and protect Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department, not question and continue to trim the budget to the point where there are less and less offerings and facilities. I want someone who will fight for Oconee County in Atlanta.
The candidate who tells me they are going to work for Oconee County to get a state park around Elder Mill Covered Bridge would get my vote. The candidate who says we need to build more sidewalks and bike paths in Oconee County would receive my enthusiastic support. The candidate who would pledge to try new solutions to the old development problems would get my engrossment. The candidate capable of creatively solving some of Oconee County's problems and working with our neighbors (yes, Clarke County) would get my vote. The candidate who pledges to support our teachers and Sheriff's Office employees in the best ways would go a long way toward getting my support. The candidate who would fight to keep the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center open would receive my stamp of approval. So far I see none of this in any of the announced candidates.
The candidate who can help broker Oconee Futbol Club into the front of Southwire to play soccer again there would garner my wholehearted support. The candidate who would stand up to the railroads to clean up the trash on the tracks and convert rails to trails would win my vote. The candidate who realizes the need for fully paid firefighters and first responders would receive my very public endorsement.
Does not Oconee County deserve better than these three? Have we not tried the solely Republican way for the last generation, with mixed results at best? Have we not learned from all the failed banks and rebellious homeowners at Reynolds Plantations? This upper class poverty is already getting homes foreclosed locally and more PVC farms and closed roads than I can keep track. It is time we try something different locally (again).
The qualifying period for the June 21 special election runs today through Wednesday.