Incumbents, newcomers qualify for races

ALBANY, Ga. -- A couple of Republican political newcomers and an equal number of long-serving Democratic incumbents qualified to run in Dougherty County's July 20 partisan primaries on the first day of qualifying Monday.

Lonnie Smith qualified to run for the District 2 Dougherty County Commission seat currently held by John Hayes, while Ewell Lyle threw his hat in the ring for the District 4 Commission seat currently held by Dr. Charles Lingle.

Lingle has already announced he will not seek another term, while Hayes has indicated he plans to run for re-election.

Meanwhile, Dougherty Commission Chair Jeff Sinyard and District 2 Dougherty School Board Rep. Milton Griffin qualified to seek four more years in office, according to Dougherty Democratic Party Chair Constance Burkes.

In Lee County, no candidates qualified for the partisan Districts 1 and 3 County Commission seats currently held by Dennis Roland and Commission Chair Ed Duffy, respectively. Roland has scheduled a meeting with Lee Republican Party Chair Jimmie Brown around noon today to complete his re-election paperwork, while Duffy was in Savannah Monday for the annual Association County Commissioners of Georgia meeting.

Duffy has already announced his intention to seek another four-year term, and rumors swirled Monday that a challenger planned to qualify to run against him.

"We heard the rumors, too, and we got a couple of calls about it, but no one qualified as either a Democrat or a Republican today," Lee County Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson said late Monday afternoon.

Lyle, who has been endorsed by Lingle for the seat the long-serving veterinarian is vacating, said Monday he wants to see local government getting back to following the dictates of the national and state constitutions.

"I think in some ways we've been misinterpreting (the constitutions), or borderline ignoring them all together," he said. "It's time for people to get involved in their government again. I look at this as maybe being my turn to pay my country back for what I've achieved."

Lyle, who retired after a 30-year career with the Department of Natural Resources, is a veteran of the Vietnam War.

While Griffin has signed on for a return to his School Board seat, District 6 Rep. Michael Windom has already announced he will not seek another term. Longtime District 4 Rep. Emily Jean McAfee has not formally announced her decision on a possible return to the Board, but three sources close to the noted public servant said Monday she will not run again.

Messages left for Griffin and McAfee Monday were not immediately returned.

According to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office, both Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Democratic U.S. House District 2 Rep. Sanford Bishop qualified for re-election Monday. Both already have competition, as Democrat R.J. Hadley qualified to run against Isakson, and Republicans Rick Allen and Lee Ferrell of Leesburg signed up to challenge Bishop.

Former Dougherty District Attorney Ken Hodges qualified to run for state attorney general, while John Dickey Crosby (District 13) and George Hooks (District 14) qualified to return to their seats in the state Senate.

Current state House members qualifying Monday included Republicans Ed Rynders (District 152) of Leesburg, Jay Roberts (154) of Ocilla and Buddy Harden (147) of Cordele. Area Democratic House incumbents qualifying Monday included Bob Hanner (District 148) of Parrott and Gerald Greene (149) of Cuthbert.

None of the state incumbents had drawn opposition by late Monday afternoon.

Qualifying for state and local offices will run through noon on Friday.