Warner Robins mayoral hopefuls gear up for election

chwright@macon.comAugust 21, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- No one has signed an official document that puts them on the ballot for mayor yet, but five campaigns have begun.

Qualifying for the Warner Robins mayoral race begins Monday, but Councilmen Mike Brashear and Daron Lee, former firefighter Randy Toms, Robins Air Force Base employee Chuck Chalk and Public Works Director Joe Musselwhite already are raising money, setting up headquarters, strategizing and talking to voters.

All five announced their bids for the mayoral seat early this summer, and each said last week they still intend to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

“The only thing that would keep me from qualifying is the good Lord,” Musselwhite said. “Other than that, it’s on.”

Mayor Chuck Shaheen said he will not run for re-election to his seat. He announced Wednesday he will run for City Council, Post 1.

The most visible mayoral candidate this summer has been Chalk. He set up a Facebook page that hit 400 likes this past week, used his “Furlough Friday” to set up local meet and greets and has three billboards that were set up this month. His orange “Vote for Chuck Chalk” wristbands were featured on a Georgia political blog.

“It’s been very supportive,” Chalk said of the response. “Some (residents) are learning about the election that’s coming up for the first time.”

But he hasn’t been the only one delivering his platform person-to-person. The other men have done the same, and all report they are well-received.

Lee said he has been working with organizations to encourage voter registration. The last day to register to vote in the November election is Oct. 7.

He wants to “get (residents) encouraged to make sure to get them involved in the campaign, regardless of their choice,” he said. “We want to at least encourage them to vote.”

All of the men have started raising funds for materials, websites and all the bells and whistles of a modern campaign.

Toms is leading the pack, according to the figures the men provided to The Telegraph and contribution disclosures filed to the state. He has raised nearly $13,000, though he has been told he needs four times that to run a successful campaign.

“Will I have that? I don’t really know,” Toms said. “If I have to do this on a shoestring (budget), I’ll do it because I want this.”

Brashear has raised $8,000 of his $35,000 goal. Musselwhite has raised $6,000 of his $20,000 goal. Lee intends to raise $25,000 but wasn’t sure how much has been raised to date.

Chalk has raised $7,400 of his $30,000 goal. He said his last mayoral bid cost nearly $55,000, but hindsight showed him ways he could be more cost-effective.

The potential candidates said some contributors have committed but won’t sign the check until after qualifying.

Brashear and Chalk said money for this year’s election is also less than years past, as a result of the economy.

“There’s a big campaign for 21st Century Partnership, and there’s a big campaign for Ronald McDonald House, plus there are furloughs on the base,” Brashear said. “Everybody’s discretionary funds are limited right now, and people are waiting for qualifying.”

The last mayoral election went to a runoff, even with fewer than five candidates on the general election ballot. Chalk narrowly lost to Shaheen in the 2009 runoff, after three names appeared on the general election ballot.

All of the candidates said a runoff this year is likely, but they’re all running as if the ultimate decision will be made Nov. 5.

“I don’t play to lose,” Toms said. “I go to win.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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