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Election season opens Monday

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Many in a nation, state and even region in economic and political turmoil have been posturing for months now, making pointed references to the 2010 elections.

The time for posturing is over. Monday marks the official start of the '10 election cycle when partisan qualifying begins across the state.

In Lee County, Democratic and Republican challengers for District 1 and District 3 County Commission seats currently held by Dennis Roland and Ed Duffy, respectively, will qualify Monday-Friday in the Kinchafoonee Conference Room of the T. Page Tharp Governmental Building at 102 Starksville Ave. North.

Qualifying kicks off each morning at 9 a.m. and runs through noon Friday.

"We always get one or two phone calls asking about qualifications to run, but so far no one but the incumbents have announced their intention to run or have filed declarations to accept campaign contributions," Lee Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson said Friday. "For the partisan general primaries July 20, any candidate must have qualified by noon on Friday."

Both Roland and Duffy, who was selected commission chair for a second year in January, have announced their intention to seek re-election. While no primary challenger has emerged for either so far, word has surfaced that Roland can expect an independent challenger in the Nov. 2 general election.

Mary Egler, who ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 (Smithville/Chokee) seat as a Democrat four years ago, is reportedly seeking the required number of active registered voter signatures on a petition that would qualify her to run as an independent.

"To qualify as an independent, a candidate must get verifiable signatures of 5 percent of the active registered voters in a district," Johnson said. "In District 1, that equates to 116 signatures of voters who must be registered and living in the district when they sign the petition.

"Independent candidates must still pay the $159 qualifying fee and meet other qualifications, but the last day to file the petition with the elections office is noon July 13. I always encourage independent candidates to get above the number of signatures that they need because once a petition is submitted, there is no altering it."

Roland said he's prepared to run against any challenger.

"Naturally, I would prefer that nobody runs, but that's the beauty of living in America," he said Friday. "We live in a country where everybody has the freedom and the opportunity to run for elected office."

The nonpartisan District 1 and District 3 School Board seats are also up for grabs during the 2010 election cycle, but qualifying for those seats, currently held by Robert Clay and Louis Hatcher, respectively, will not be held until June 28-July 2.

Hatcher previously told The Albany Herald he plans to seek re-election. Clay earlier said he was considering his options, but confirmed Friday that he will seek another four-year term.

"I have decided to run again," he said. "We have an excellent school system, but our work's going to be cut out for us in the coming years. The state is cutting back on appropriations, so we're going to have to tighten our belts."

Johnson said candidates normally contact Lee Republican Party Chairman Jimmie Brown (229-432-9310) or Democratic Party Chair Trish Batten (229-854-2368) to set up appointments for qualifying.

On Nov. 1, 2006, there were 2,310 active registered voters in District 1; as of April 1 of this year there were 2,407. In District 3 (Palmyra), there were 3,759 voters in 2006, and now there are 4,477.

Voters in precincts 1 (416 registered), 2 (808 registered), 3 (507), 4 (163) and 10 (479) are eligible to vote in the District 1 race; while ballots may be cast in precincts 6 (2,891 registered), 7 (677) and 8 (771) in District 3.

In addition to the county races, Lee registered voters will help select candidates for the partisan U.S. Senate seat currently held by Johnny Isakson and the U.S. District 2 House seat held by Sanford Bishop.

Statewide offices up for grabs include governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, insurance commissioner, school superintendent, labor commissioner and the public service commission seat held by Bobby Baker Jr.

Lee County voters will also have a say in the District 13 state Senate seat currently held by John Crosby and the state District 152 and 148 House seats held by Ed Rynders and Bob Hanner, respectively.

In the nonpartisan general election, voters will decide on the Supreme Court justice seat currently held by David Nahmias and Georgia Court of Appeals seats held by Harris Adams, Anne Elizabeth Barnes, Debra Halpern Bernes, Alan Blackburn and Edward Johnson.

Incumbent Southwestern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge James W. Sizemore's seat is also on the ballot.

Sample ballots specific to registered voters anywhere in the state are available on the secretary of state's website. A link to that site is available on the Lee County site at www.lee.ga.us.