Candidate qualifying for Georgia’s May 19 state, congressional and county party primaries and nonpartisan general election ended at noon Friday. Bulloch County voters now have choices to make for four countywide offices: sheriff, solicitor-general, tax commissioner and coroner.
In addition to those countywide races, roughly half of the county has choices for Board of Education, since each of four BOE districts due for election this year now has at least two candidates contending. One seat on the Bulloch County Board of commissioners is also contested.
Qualifying week 2020 leaves Bulloch County with its first contested election for tax commissioner since 1994.
Insurance professional Jeanie Rushing Gay qualified Thursday as a Republican candidate for tax commissioner and so will face Leslie Deal Akins, who had qualified Monday, on the May 19 Republican ballot. Akins works in the Tax Commissioner’s Office as administrator for delinquent taxes. Her father, James Deal, is set to retire as tax commissioner after 26 years and is not seeking re-election.
Qualifying did not present any surprises in the races for sheriff, solicitor-general and coroner, where all now-official candidates had announced in advance.
Keith Howard, a retired Georgia State Patrol trooper with other law enforcement experience, announced his candidacy for sheriff last July. He filed the paperwork and paid the fee Tuesday. Sheriff Noel Brown had qualified Monday to seek a second term, and both he and Howard signed up as Republicans, so they will face off in the May 19 Republican primary.
But Rey Rodriguez, a former, award-winning Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office deputy who made his announcement as a candidate for sheriff last fall, qualified Wednesday as a Democrat. So he will appear unopposed on the May 19 Democratic primary ballot before facing the winner from the Republican side, either Brown or Howard, in the Nov. 3 general election.
The three candidates for the job of Bulloch County State Court solicitor-general all qualified as Republicans. So the race among assistant solicitor-general Mark A. Lanier and Ogeechee Judicial Circuit assistant district attorneys Catherine Sumner Findley and Ben Edwards will be decided either in the May 19 primary or a July 21 runoff, and only by voters selecting the Republican ballot.
2020 also presents local voters with a three-candidate race for the position of coroner. Two Democrats, Michele Fiorelli Rupar, who is an Ogeechee Technical College funeral services instructor, and Jonathan Paine, an Army veteran with funeral services and healthcare administration degrees, signed up as Democrats and so will face off in their party’s May 19 primary. The winner of that contest will go on to challenge the Republican incumbent coroner, Jake Futch, in the Nov. 3 general election.
Other officials elected countywide, namely Clerk of Courts Heather Banks McNeal, County Surveyor John A. Dotson, Probate Judge Lorna G. DeLoach and Chief Magistrate Judge June Bradley Braswell, remain unopposed for re-election.
So is Chairman Roy Thompson of the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners.
Only one seat on the Board of Commissioners presents a choice for voters, and only in multi-seat commission District 2, which covers more than half the county. Chris Akins is challenging incumbent Curt Deal for Seat 2A, and since both signed up as Republicans, the race will be decided on the May 19 Republican ballot.
Seat 1A Commissioner Ray Mosley and Seat 2C Commissioner Jappy Stringer emerged from qualifying week unopposed.
As with other races now headed to party primaries, including those with unopposed candidates, independent candidates could still qualify to appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot, but this requires collecting voter signatures on a petition.
Each seat on the Bulloch County Board of Education represents a district that – based on the last census 10 years ago – encompasses about an eighth of the county’s population. Four of the seats are due for election this year, and voters in all four of those districts now have choices.
District 1 BOE member Cheri Wagner is not seeking re-election. Elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, she will have served eight years on the board. But new candidates Ryan Brannen and Glenn Womack are now contending for the District 1 school board seat.
Meanwhile, in BOE District 3, Patrice Ellison is challenging incumbent member Stuart Tedders for the seat he won unopposed four years ago.
A three-person race has emerged in BOE District 7, with new candidates Joe Glisson and Lisa DeLoach challenging incumbent Heather Mims. First elected by the district in 2016, Mims is currently vice chair of the board by selection of the other members.
After qualifying Tuesday, BOE District 8 incumbent member Maurice Hill remained without opposition until the last half-day of qualifying. But Keisha Howard signed up Friday morning as his challenger.
For nonpartisan positions such as school board seats, the May 19 election is the general election rather than the primary. But if no candidate in District 7’s three-candidate race gets more than 50% of the votes, the top two vote-getters will advance to a July 21 runoff.