Fowler knocks off Bennett; Sampson unseated on Twiggs commission

rmanley@macon.comAugust 1, 2012 

Former Probate Court Judge Ken Fowler, who was removed from office by the Georgia Supreme Court, took the first step in a political comeback Tuesday by defeating incumbent Ray Bennett in the Democratic primary race for chairman of the Twiggs County Commission.

Fowler had 1,236 votes to Bennett’s 897. During the campaign, Fowler accused Bennett of wasteful spending and blamed him for “the worst financial conditions in the history of the county.”

Fowler was removed from office as probate judge in 2010 by the Georgia Supreme Court following an investigation that alleged he was verbally abusive to defendants, among other things. The court barred him from seeking or holding an elected judicial office, but not other elected positions. During the campaign, he said “some city folks felt that I had failed to keep up with the modern times in my vocabulary, and it cost me my job.”

Tuesday night, Fowler was grateful for the voters’ confidence.

“They know my character,” he said. “Really all I have to say is ‘I thank the people of Twiggs County.’ ”

Bennett was not without his own issues. Last October, a Superior Court judge ruled Bennett to be in contempt of court for using county personnel and equipment to work on church property after a fire. He had to pay a $50 fine to the county and pay court costs and attorney fees.

The county has experienced a $120 million decline in its tax base since 2001 in both the kaolin and timber industries, but Bennett had said the county had worked with the state to put together an economic development plan to turn the county around.

Fowler will face Republican Glen Christopher, a political newcomer, in November.

Christopher defeated Shayne Thompson, 219 to 88, in the Republican primary.

Christopher said he decided to run after his property taxes doubled in 2010.

Meanwhile, in District 3, incumbent County Commissioner Milton Sampson was unseated by veteran challenger William Bond, who served on the county commission from 1975 until 2000.

Bond had 415 votes to Sampson’s 228.

Both men are running as Democrats. There is no Republican opposition.

And in District 1, longtime County Commissioner Tommie Lee Bryant defeated challenger Clyde Riggins in the Democratic primary. Bryant won 424-307.

Bryant will face Republican Brett Cummings, a teacher, in November.

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.

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