Unopposed local incumbents: Problem or blessing?
The number of unopposed incumbents qualifying for office in Fayette County indicates residents are either apathetic or just plain happy with elected officials.
Candidates for the majority of Fayette County posts are unopposed in the upcoming election and will be swept into office without the benefit of public debate, consideration of qualifications or any other meaningful community discourse.
The sample ballot for the McIntosh voting precinct reveals that 14 of the 25 races to be decided by voters in the July primary are uncontested. The uncontested races are:
• State Senate District 16 (Ronnie Chance)
• State House Representative District 65 (Matt Ramsey)
• Board of Education, Post 3 (Marion Key)
• Fayette County District Attorney (Scott Ballard)
• Fayette County Coroner (C.J. Mowell)
• Fayette County Probate Judge (Ann Jackson)
• State Court Solicitor (Jamie Inagawa)
• Fayette County Superior Court Clerk (Sheila Studdard)
• Superior Court judges (Griffin Circuit judges serve the Fayette County Superior Court):
— Tommy Hankinson
— W. Fletcher Sams
— Mack Crawford
• Magistrate Judge, Post 2 (Kathy Valencia)
• Magistrate Judge, Post 3 (Robert Ruppenthal)
• Magistrate Judge, Post 4 (James White)
The contested political races drawing the most headlines are for county commission and school board posts. This writer contends that the work of state legislators, judges and district attorneys is equally important and more far-reaching than the work of county commissioners and school board members.
Why is there no competition in so many important races? Some observers ascribe the problem to apathy and offer no reasonable solution. The low voter turnout rate in recent elections supports their position.
Others attribute it to the ability of incumbent politicians to accumulate large political war chests of financial contributions. Money is the essence of the power of incumbency and candidates that spend the most cash usually win elections.
Supporters of some unopposed incumbents argue that Fayette citizens are blessed because our cadre of candidates is highly qualified and most of them excel in their job performance.
However, this writer believes that competition at the polls makes politicians more responsive to the citizens. It has been said that a touch of revolution is good for the citizenry.
There are 78,000 adults residing in Fayette County, which is a sufficient pool of worthy opponents in races where legal expertise is not required. There are more than 200 attorneys in Fayette County, which is a sufficient pool of worthy opponents for sitting judges.
The lack of competition in the majority of races should cause some soul-searching by community leaders, political party officials and aspiring politicians.
Both political parties in Fayette County need to establish a better mechanism for recruiting and supporting qualified local candidates. It is time for strong leaders and community activists to step up and be counted.
Municipal elections are just one year away. Anybody want to run for mayor of Peachtree City? The benefits are good but the salary is uncertain.
[Scott Bradshaw, a resident of Peachtree City, is a real estate broker and residential real estate developer. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]