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Two qualify for Leesburg Council seat

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Two candidates qualified for a Sept. 21 special election to fill the Leesburg City Council seat vacated last month by Steve Kitchens.

Businesswoman Rhonda Futch and computer analyst/political blogger Jeff Sexton qualified for the seat Kitchens left vacant when he moved out of the Leesburg city limits for "personal reasons."

Qualifying for the special election ran Wednesday-Friday.

"It's going to be an interesting race," Sexton, who ran unsuccessfully against veteran Councilman Richard Bush last year, said Friday after qualifying closed. "I think it's going to come down to who can get their people to turn out. I learned a lot (from last year's election), and I plan to be a lot better organized this time.

"I tried to do everything myself before; this time I'll have a strong team in place to rely on."

Futch, a mother of three who works with Specialized TelCom Solutions of Leesburg, is making her first run for political office. She said she was encouraged to qualify for the seat.

"(Running for office) had crossed my mind a couple of years ago, but Ms. Judy Powell ran and I knew she would do a great job," Futch said. "Some folks associated with the Council approached me about running this time, and I thought about it for a bit before deciding to give it a shot.

"I grew up in Leesburg; my dad was a councilman before, so I thought it was time for me to step up to the plate."

Since the special election to fill the vacant Council seat will be held on an odd date -- a statewide special election date -- the key to the race will no doubt be generating voter interest. Less than 10 percent of Leesburg's voters turned out for the 2008 election that saw Bush outpoll Sexton.

"We always want people to vote; that's what we're here for," Lee Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson said Friday. "We're going to run all the legal announcements required by state law, but I think it's really up to the candidates to generate interest in their races."

Sexton said completing an effective website and drawing businesses into the city are among the issues he will focus on during campaigning. Futch too said attracting business is crucial to Leesburg's future, and she said improving traffic in the city is another concern.

While early voting is currently ongoing for the state's July 20 primary elections, Johnson said early voting for the special election would probably start around Aug. 30. All early voting will be held at the elections office in the T. Page Tharp Governmental Building. Election-day voting will be conducted at the Leesburg Fire/EMS Station.