Macon-Bibb commission candidates regroup for Oct. 15 runoff

pramati@macon.comSeptember 18, 2013 

Already weary from months of campaigning to win seats on the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated commission, candidates in four districts will have to gird themselves for battle again for Oct. 15 runoff elections.

Macon-Bibb commission runoff races are scheduled for Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8.

District 6 candidate Adah Roberts almost went to sleep Tuesday night thinking she had been knocked out of a runoff with the frontrunner, Macon Councilman Ed DeFore. Roberts had conceded defeat Tuesday when the county reported that results from all 40 precincts had been tallied. Roberts thought she had lost the second-place spot in the four-candidate matchup to Robert Abbott.

But the Bibb County Board of Elections announced several minutes later there were more than 8,000 votes from advance and absentee voting that still needed to be counted.

Roberts, who finished with 1,063 votes, didn’t find out she made the runoff with DeFore until a Telegraph reporter called her.

“I feel like there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Roberts, a former city of Macon finance director. “I’m going to ask my staff to meet Thursday and see where we go from here. ... I have to figure out what else I can do. It’s going to be tough.”

Roberts said she has spent her entire campaign war chest, though she did pick up a couple of donations Tuesday night. DeFore, who has served 42 years on City Council, said he hopes voters consider his experience when they return to the polls.

“I have the most political experience of anyone, ever,” said DeFore, who got 2,017 votes. “I feel like I’d be an asset (to the new government).”

In the other runoff races, nearly all the candidates said they plan to contact those candidates who didn’t win for endorsements in order to sway additional voters to their side.

In District 2, Macon Councilmen Larry Schlesinger (1,234 votes) and Henry Ficklin (1,149 votes) both said they hope to reach out to third-place finisher Paul Bronson, who finished with 550 votes.

Bronson said Wednesday he plans on meeting with both candidates and will decide after that whether he will endorse one of them.

Both candidates also said that they hope for a higher turnout than the 39 percent that voted Tuesday.

“I wasn’t surprised (it’s going to a runoff),” Ficklin said. “I knew when Paul Bronson entered the race, I knew what that effect was going to be. ... Our job is turn out the voters. That’s our task, to make sure they turn out.”

Schlesinger said he is focusing his efforts on bringing jobs to the area and working with school system officials to improve education.

Ficklin noted that Schlesinger had a large war chest entering the special election, and said he was happy to do as well as he did in the polls with a grass roots campaign.

Schlesinger said Wednesday he isn’t sure how much campaign money he has on hand, but thinks there’s enough to continue to run a strong campaign over the next few weeks.

“I think we’ll be able to do that,” he said.

In District 4, third-place finisher Theron Ussery, a former Macon councilman who earned 1,024 votes, said he also plans to meet with runoff candidates Mallory Jones III, who was the top vote-getter in the race with 2,199 votes, and Macon Councilwoman Beverly Olson, who was second with 1,440 votes.

Jones said he doesn’t plan on changing his strategy.

“I’m going to keep doing what I did do and get my message out,” he said. “I’ve still got some of my finances left, and I got a couple of checks (Tuesday) night. People are going to continue to support me.”

Olson said she has liked getting to know voters while campaigning and looks forward to continuing to do so.

“I’m enjoying meeting people,” she said. “I’m finding streets that I didn’t even know that were there.”

In District 8, Macon Councilmen Virgil Watkins (1,148 votes) and Charles Jones (1,075 votes) both said the most important thing in their runoff was to try to get more voters to the polls Oct. 15.

“We have to make sure we get the voters back out,” Watkins said. “We’re going to keep campaigning and stay out in the community, trying to connect with voters.”

Watkins said he has a small amount of money left in his campaign fund and is deciding the best use for it. He hopes to continue to use social media and radio spots, but he hasn’t decided yet about other advertising or robocalls.

Charles Jones said he’s worried a lot of residents didn’t vote Tuesday because of the early voting problems.

“A lot of people didn’t vote because people were discombobulated and confused over what was happening,” he said. “All it does is make us more aggressive and get our message out.”

Charles Jones said he has no extra money for the runoff, since he has largely been financing his campaign himself.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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