Ficklin concedes District 2 race to Schlesinger

No challenge to second runoff

Telegraph staffJanuary 15, 2014 

Henry Ficklin has conceded the race for the District 2 seat on the Macon-Bibb County Commission to Larry Schlesinger.

Following a special runoff election Tuesday in which Schlesinger got 1,136 votes to Ficklin’s 766, Ficklin said he would look at possible grounds for challenging the result. But later he tried to call Schlesinger, whose voice mail box was full. So he sent a text message instead.

“Congratulations! It’s over,” Ficklin wrote. “I know you’ll do a good job. I wished you a happy birthday on the air yesterday and I hope you heard it and know that I meant it. The cake looked delicious.”

Tuesday was Schlesinger’s 63rd birthday, and he ate a slice of cake as he spoke to media that evening.

“Regardless of what you might think, I’m not a sore loser, just want justice in all things, something that I suspect that you would agree should be,” Ficklin wrote. “In spite of the unfortunate issues and the promotion of unfounded rumors, you are my neighbor and I congratulate you.”

Schlesinger said Tuesday night that he expects to be sworn in before the commission’s next regular meeting, Jan. 21.

That same evening, Ficklin said he might soon run for a seat on the Macon Water Authority board or in the Georgia General Assembly. On Wednesday he said he lost the commission race due to a “gerrymandered” district that coupled wealthy neighborhoods that had historically high voter turnout with poor areas with low turnout. Tuesday’s balloting drew just 23.5 percent of the district’s registered voters.

“As we predicted back in April, this was going to be a tough election, and the chances were minimal that we would be successful,” Ficklin said.

Schlesinger got a plurality of votes in a three-way September race with Ficklin and Paul Bronson. Then Schlesinger won an October runoff with Ficklin by just 26 votes.

Ficklin challenged those results, and a judge called for Tuesday’s revote after finding voting problems.

Wednesday, Ficklin reiterated the claim that he would have won the October runoff if a district boundary through an apartment complex had not been inaccurately drawn. Fifty-three people said they would have voted for him in October had they not been “disenfranchised,” he said.

“That’s when I actually won, had those voters been allowed to vote,” Ficklin said.

Schlesinger had an overwhelming financial advantage, raising nearly $130,000, while Ficklin had to loan his own campaign $8,500 to cover attorney fees for contesting the October result.

And now, though the election dispute is over, one related legal battle goes on: Ficklin wants Schlesinger to pay his attorney fees and expenses of $30,991.40, saying Schlesinger improperly demanded a court hearing Schlesinger couldn’t win, and Schlesinger “did not care what the facts and the evidence indicated.”

Schlesinger’s response said basic facts about the election problems were in dispute, such as the Board of Elections’ statement that all of the Overlook Gardens apartment complex had improperly voted in District 3, while Schlesinger’s own campaign manager, a resident of the complex, had voted in District 2. Schlesinger’s legal reply calls Ficklin’s demand for attorney fees “an abomination” and said a judge needed to resolve important questions, such as the election date and whether an interim commissioner could be appointed.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Boswell called the question of an appointment a “novel, yet important issue.” Boswell’s court orders did set the date of the election and invited more court filings on questions of interim appointees and attorneys fees.

Schlesinger said he had enough money on hand at the end of the campaign to budget $1,000 for an election-night celebration, but he decided it could be better spent. So he spent election night at home with his family and said that $1,000 will be donated to The Mentors Project of Bibb County, which serves at-risk children.

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