Nonpartisan qualifying for new Bibb government begins Monday

pramati@macon.comApril 21, 2013 

Though officials are still awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bibb County will go ahead with qualifying Monday for nonpartisan offices in the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government.

Jeanetta Watson, Bibb County elections supervisor, said County Attorney Virgil Adams advised her and the Bibb County Commission to move forward with the plan for nonpartisan elections July 16 to choose the government’s new mayor and county commissioners, even though the Justice Department still must approve the plan the state Legislature approved in February.

The Justice Department had 60 days once Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill, and that time was up last week. However, state House Bill 514, approved by the Legislature in March, included several amendments to the consolidation plan, essentially resetting the clock for the Justice Department. It now must issue a decision by June 2.

Adams said the county should proceed with the nonpartisan elections, with the idea that it would be easier to cancel them if the Justice Department fails to give its approval, instead of waiting for a ruling and then scheduling elections if the Justice Department approved them.

Prospective candidates can qualify this week at the Board of Elections office, 2445 Pio Nono Ave., Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and on Friday from 9 a.m.-noon. It costs $3,000 to qualify for mayor and $450 to qualify for a commission seat.

Watson said early voting will take place from June 25 to July 12, and residents will have until June 17 to register to vote. If a runoff is necessary, it would be held Aug. 13.

Should the Justice Department rule against nonpartisan elections, candidates would have to re-qualify with their political party of choice, though they wouldn’t have to repay the qualifying fees. At that point, qualifying would be reopened for anyone, including those who chose not to qualify this week.

While a partisan election would be held Nov. 5, Watson said she would have to hear from the state when a primary would be, though it would likely be held in August. Qualifications must be held at least 29 days prior to voting.

Watson said the board of elections sent out more than 90,500 precinct cards last week to voters in Bibb County to let them know their polling locations.

Though qualifying has yet to take place, several candidates have announced their intention to run for office in the new government.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, Bibb County Chairman Sam Hart, former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis, former Bibb County Chairman Charlie Bishop, Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen, and former mayoral candidate David Cousino all have announced their intention to run for mayor of the consolidated government.

Those who have announced they intend to run for the new county commission seats are: Bibb County Commissioner Gary Bechtel (District 1); Macon City Council members Larry Schlesinger and Henry Ficklin, plus Irving Martinez, Paul Bronson and Brandon Carlisle (District 2); Councilwoman Elaine Lucas and Danny Glover (District 3); Councilwoman Beverly Olson, Theron Ussery and Mallory Jones (District 4); Commissioner Bert Bivins and Councilman Frank Tompkins (District 5); Councilman Ed DeFore, Adah Roberts and Robert Abbott (District 6); Mike Cranford, Barry Bell and Eric Arnold (District 7); and Councilman Virgil Watkins (District 8).

No candidates have announced for the District 9 commission seat.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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