Qualifying for Macon-Bibb elections reopens Monday

pramati@macon.comJuly 21, 2013 

In April, when Al Tillman was considering running for a commission seat in the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government, he looked at the election maps but wasn’t quite sure of his district.

Since then, Tillman discovered he lived in District 8, just five houses away from District 9. But with three candidates -- Regina Davis and Macon City Council members Charles Jones and Virgil Watkins -- fighting for the District 8 seat, Tillman didn’t want to throw his hat into such a crowded ring.

Meanwhile, Macon City Council President James Timley was unopposed in District 9, which covers the parts of the community, including Village Green and part of Unionville, that Tillman is most concerned about.

So when qualifying for the Sept. 17 nonpartisan special election reopens Monday morning, Tillman -- a former president of the Macon chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning commissioner -- said he will be there to qualify. He recently moved into an apartment inside District 9. Because the districts are brand new, there is no requirement that a candidate live in a particular district for a specific length of time.

“My whole intention was always to run,” Tillman said. “I wanted to make sure it was legal. I had assumed I was always in District 9.”

The new round of qualifying became necessary after the original July 16 date became untenable after the U.S. Department of Justice failed to give Bibb County preclearance under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn part of the act rendered the issue of preclearance moot and allowed the election to be rescheduled for Sept. 17.

There may be few other new candidates at the Board of Elections office, which will hold qualifying 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 8:30 a.m.-noon Wednesday. Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson said she hadn’t heard of any other candidates attempting to go through the qualifying process.

Candidates who previously qualified in April must update their paperwork by filling out a new Notice of Candidacy Affidavit to reflect the Sept. 17 election date.

Candidates who already paid their qualifying fees won’t have to pay again, while new candidates must pay a $3,000 qualifying fee for the mayoral race and $450 for the commission races.

Tillman said he didn’t get in the race to challenge Timley. Rather, because it’s a brand-new government being formed, it’s an opportunity for anyone to get involved, he said.

“All of the (former) seats have been dissolved,” Tillman said. “This is new.”

Attempts to reach Timley for comment were unsuccessful.

Unless someone other than Tillman qualifies, it means that only one commission seat -- District 1 -- will have a single candidate facing no opposition. Bibb County Commissioner Gary Bechtel is the lone qualifier for that seat so far.

Two candidates who qualified in April -- Danny Glover in District 3 and Celeste Queen in District 7 -- have since withdrawn their candidacies.

The Sept. 17 election date was affirmed by a federal judge this month, with Oct. 15 being set as a runoff date if necessary.

The judge’s order also set Aug. 19 as the last day for voter registration.

Advance voting is scheduled to run Aug. 26 through Sept. 13.

For more information, call the Bibb County Board of Elections, 2445 Pio Nono Ave., in Macon at 478-621-6622.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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