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Hopefuls qualify for elections

POSTED: May 30, 2012 4:00 a.m.

Qualifying for the local and state elections ended with at least one surprise in Dawson County.

Former District 2 County Commissioner Mike Connor decided to challenge incumbent Mike Berg for commission chairman.

Connor did not publically announce his intention to seek the office prior to qualifying.

There are also contested races for sheriff and tax commissioner, with political newcomers hoping to unseat longtime incumbents in the July 31 general primary.

Veteran lawman Kevin Ellison and businessman Johnny Glass qualified to run against four-term Sheriff Billy Carlisle, while Karin McKee is challenging Linda Townley, now in her third term as tax commissioner.

In the county surveyor contest, incumbent Donald Rex Jones faces a challenge from Ben Trail and Gregg Bagwell.

There was no opposition in the races for school board, clerk of courts, chief magistrate and probate judge. The Districts 2 and 4 commission races also did not draw challengers.

At the state level, Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner and Clint Smith, a former state representative, are vying for the 9th District seat in the House of Representatives.

The seat is currently held by Rep. Amos Amerson, who is retiring.

State Rep. David Ralston, whose District 7 includes a portion of Dawson County, and District 51 Sen. Steve Gooch are running unopposed for re-election.

The race for mayor of Dawsonville remained a two-man contest between acting mayor James Grogan and former councilman Calvin Byrd.

Each candidate qualified as Republicans.

Dawson County Republican Party Chairman Clint Bearden said he's encouraged to see the interest by candidates to seek office.

"It's exciting for our party to have such quality candidates and I think the fact that we don't have many contested seats, compared to counties surrounding us, speaks to the fact that county residents are largely content with their local government," he said.

No Democratic or unaffiliated candidates qualified for local election, though officials at the Dawson County Board of Elections and Registration said there was an inquiry Friday afternoon by a city resident seeking information about running as an independent candidate for mayor.

"As a Republican Party we're obviously pleased that all of our local candidates elected to qualify as Republicans," Bearden said. "Just 30 years ago, it was a completely different picture as no Republicans held office in our county."

The public will get a chance to meet the candidates June 4 during a debate sponsored by the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce Government and Community Affairs Council, in conjunction with the county's Republican and Tea parties.

Candidates from the local city and county elections, as well as state House and congressional seats have agreed to attend.

Only candidates in contested races will participate in the political forum, set for 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Dawson County Middle School.

During the forum, each candidate will have about three minutes to introduce themselves and state their platforms for their respective race.

Candidates will then be asked questions compiled by a panel of organizers. They will not receive a listing of the questions prior to the forum.

Linda Williams, chamber president, said voters could consider such forums as job interviews for the candidates.

"It is so important for us as voters to see these people in action on their feet, to see how they respond to the questions as well as how they perform in public," she said.

"Essentially, we're re-hiring, hiring for the first time or possibly firing those by our votes. We're the [human resources] department and this is our interview process."

All local candidates up for re-election, including those without opposition, can set up booths prior to the event to distribute literature and meet one-on-one with voters from 5-5:45 p.m. in the school's commons area.


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