Duffy gets challenger; Ealum qualifies

LEESBURG/ALBANY -- Rumors of opposition for Lee County Commission Chairman Ed Duffy's District 3 re-election bid proved to be true Thursday afternoon when Lester Leggette qualified for the July 20 Republican primary.

The former Lee Utilities Authority board member met with Lee Republican Party Chair Jimmie Brown at 4 p.m. to fill out qualifying paperwork.

"This county is hemorrhaging money," Leggette said before meeting with Brown. "If you don't have money, you can't be spending it like you do.

"I think Ed Duffy is a fine gentleman, but I think it's time for new leadership on the Lee Commission."

Meanwhile, a name familiar to Lee and Dougherty county voters made a surprise announcement late Thursday. Darrel Ealum, who ran as a Republican for the U.S. House District 2 seat in 1996 and the state House District 137 seat in 2002, qualified to run for the District 6 Dougherty School Board seat being vacated by Michael Windom.

Registered as a Democrat, Ealum's opposition going into the last day of qualifying is retired educator Dean Phinazee.

"I have always had a profound desire to serve, and I will dedicate my time and efforts to ensuring District 6 has great schools where our parents can educate their children," Ealum said in a release. "Parent involvement by (wife) Linda and me was a key ingredient in our children's educational success, and parents participating in their children's education will be my major emphasis."

An independent businessman and former Marine, Ealum previously taught at Miami University. Linda Ealum, who now helps her husband manage their properties, taught for 28 years.

Ealum responded to questions that have already arisen about his residency.

"I first came to Dougherty County in 1979, and I did move to Lee County for a while," he said. "But I moved back to Dougherty County several years ago, and Dougherty County has been my legal residence since 2008. In fact, I sold my home in Lee County to my daughter, and she has rented it out for the past two years."

Incumbent District 2 Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes also qualified to run for re-election Thursday. Hayes so far has no Democratic challenger in the primary, but political newcomer Lonnie Smith qualified to run against him as a Republican.