WARNER ROBINS — Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke says he is considering a bid for the Houston commission chairmanship in this year’s election.
“I’m really just exploring the idea right now,” said Burke, 51, who is the in the middle of his fourth, four-year term as the county’s head prosecutor. Burke, who previously served as magistrate judge for Houston County, said he is also considering helping to field and back another candidate.
The prosecutor said he is unhappy with the direction the county is taking under the leadership of current Houston County Commission Chairman Ned Sanders. Both are Republicans. Instead of “sitting on the sidelines and complaining about it,” Burke said he decided to “step up” and either run himself or back another candidate.
“He certainly has the right to run for any political office,” Sanders said.
Sanders, 78, questioned why Burke “would vacate himself from the obligation to the people he committed to serve” as district attorney. Sanders, who has served nine-and-a-half years as chairman, said he and Burke can debate the issues but the bottom line is whether voters want an engineer like himself to run the county, with its infrastructure needs, or an attorney.
Sanders has held the post since 2000. He was initially elected to fill the unexpired term of the late Sherrill Stafford, the county’s first full-time commission chairman. Sanders said he announced his intent to seek re-election at the end of the Jan. 19 commission meeting.
Because the terms overlap, Burke said he would have to resign as district attorney in order to run for chairman. He expects to reach a decision by month’s end.
Should Burke resign, Chief Assistant District Attorney Jason Ashford said he would assume the role of acting Houston County district attorney under a provision of state law. State law also provides for a special election if there are more than 27 months left on the term, Ashford said.
Ashford, 41, has expressed a desire to run for State Court judge, a post now held by Judge Robert M. Richardson. In light of Burke’s interest in the commission chairman post, Ashford said he is weighing his options that may include a bid for either district attorney or state judge.
Burke also said he may consider private practice if he decides to back another candidate for commission chairman and then campaign heavily on that person’s behalf.
Qualifying to run in the Republican or Democratic primary starts at 9 a.m. April 26 and ends at noon April 30, according to the Houston County Board of Elections. Houston County seats up for election are commission chairman, Post 1 and Post 2 commission seats, as well as State Court solicitor, clerk and judge, according to the Board of Elections.
To run as an independent candidate in the general election, or for one of the four nonpartisan Houston County Board of Education seats up for election, the qualifying deadline is from 9 a.m. June 28 to noon July 2, according to the Board of Elections. The general election is Nov. 2.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.