Polls open Tuesday across Georgia to decide three statewide primary runoff races. But in Houston County, two school board races also are on the line.
The statewide races include Democratic and Republican primary runoffs for school superintendent and a runoff to determine the Republican U.S. Senate candidate.
With so few races on the ballot, the four Houston County school board candidates worry their races largely will be forgotten.
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“That’s definitely been my concern, that people aren’t aware of the runoff,” said Sheila Ashley, who faces Hoke Morrow for the Post 6 school board seat. “From the phone calls we have made, people say ‘Now that we know, we will be out there.’”
Ashley, a pastor and certified parent advocate, was the leading vote-getter in the May 20 primary. She received 4,140 votes to Morrow’s 3,269. Morrow made the primary by edging out Griff Clements, who garnered 3,153 votes.
Morrow is owner of Hoke’s Heating and Air in Perry. Like the other candidates, he has spent the past two months talking to voters about the race.
“I have found a lot of people don’t know there’s still a runoff,” he said. “It’s a big concern.”
Both said that whatever the race’s outcome, they hope for a good turnout Tuesday so the school board seats won’t be decided by a few voters.
In the primary, turnout was just 16.2 percent, and that typically drops for a runoff. Houston County reported Friday that 2,800 people had voted early. In the primary election, 3,565 people voted early.
The race for the Post 7 seat is a special election to fill the unexpired term of Dave McMahan, who resigned in February.
In the primary, Bryan Upshaw bested Tannya Duncan, who finished second in the five-way race. Upshaw, a general contractor, captured 3,425 votes compared to 2,985 for Duncan, a retired assistant principal. The other three candidates garnered a total of 3,987 votes.
Upshaw said it probably won’t help that Tuesday’s election is being held just as summer vacation is ending and people are involved with other interests.
“I feel like it’s not at the top of everybody’s priority list,” he said. “People in general are preoccupied.”
Duncan said people historically don’t turn out for a runoff unless there are major races on the ballot.
“I’m hopeful people will, because it is important,” she said. “We’ve done the leg work, going out and meeting people, and I’m hoping they are going to be responsive to do that.”
The two statewide races should help spur some turnout. Voters will choose a Democratic, Republican or non-partisan ballot. In Houston County, the school board races are on all three, and the non-partisan ballot will include only the school board races.
The Democratic ballot features the race for the party’s candidate for state school superintendent. The candidates in that race are Valerie Wilson, a Decatur school board member, and Alisha Thomas Morgan, a state representative from Austell.
The winner will go up against either Mike Buck or Richard Woods on the Republican side. Buck is chief of staff for John Barge, the current state school superintendent. Woods is a former social studies teacher.
But the highest profile race on the Republican ballot is to see who will succeed U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. The U.S. Senate runoff pits U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., against former Dollar General CEO David Perdue. The winner will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in November. Nunn is the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn.