Thursday morning update: On the second day of qualifying, two more Lee County candidates have added their names to the upcoming summer ballot.
David Cheshire has qualified to run for sheriff against incumbent Reggie Rachals.
Susan Smith has qualified to run for re-election to the office of Lee County Tax Commissioner.
Qualifying continues until noon on Friday, May 25 for local and state offices.
LEESBURG, Ga. — The morning rush was so intense on the first day of the 2 1/2-day primary qualifying period in Lee County Wednesday that candidates started filing in at just past 8 a.m., when county offices opened.
And while qualifying did not officially start until 9 a.m., by noon five Republican candidates, one Democrat and two nonpartisan judges had completed paperwork and paid fees that made them official candidates to run in the July 31 primaries.
The enthusiasm did not dampen in the afternoon either, as four more Republican candidates and two nonpartisan Lee School Board incumbents jumped into the fray.
Meanwhile, Billy Breeden, who’d previously announced his intention to run, became the first candidate to officially qualify for a special election called to fill the vacant Post 6 seat on the Leesburg City Council.
“We’ve were really busy today; I guess everyone’s excited about the election and they made a mad rush to qualify first thing,” Lee Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson said. “Hopefully the excitement of the candidates will stir up voters and we’ll have a good turnout.”
Incumbent Lee County Commissioners Rick Muggridge and Bill Williams were among the early candidates to officially toss their hats into the ring, although each had previously announced plans to seek re-election.
Muggridge drew opposition for his District 4 seat from retired engineering consultant and Darton College professor Frank Taylor, while Williams will be challenged for his district 5 seat by retired Marine/defense contractor Greg Frich, who became an official candidate later in the afternoon.
“If I win, there’s going to be a whole different story around here,” Taylor said after completing qualifying paperwork. “I’ll be down here every day getting a look at budgets, salaries and a list of employees. I plan to evaluate the needs, wants and requirements of each department.
“I’m dissatisfied with the representation this district is getting right now. I feel (Muggridge) is just a rubber stamp for (Commission Chairman) Ed Duffy.”
Williams said his re-election campaign will center on a recurring theme: Keeping a close eye on the county’s taxpayer-funded budget.
“I plan to run on my record; I think I’ve got a proven track record when it comes to financial matters,” the CPA said. “I know we’ve said it plenty of times before, but I still think financial issues are the biggest issues facing county governments. The ACCG (Association County Commissioners of Georgia) has identified budgets as the No. 1 concern.
“I think we’ve done a good job of managing the county’s budget without raising taxes or furloughing employees, yet we’ve increased the fund balance.”
Mary Egler was the lone Democrat to qualify Wednesday, entering a District 2 commission race that became a little more interesting when incumbent Commissioner Betty Johnson announced last week she will not seek re-election.
Egler may not draw opposition in the primary, but two Republican hopefuls officially set their sights on the District 2 seat Wednesday afternoon. Both Raymond Timms and Luke Singletary, who had each earlier announced interest in running, made their candidacies official.
“I don’t think running as a Democrat (in overwhelmingly Republican Lee County) is going to really hurt me,” Egler said. “We always hear ‘this party did this’ or ‘that party did that,’ but I think it’s time we all started working together for the community.
“I have regrets that Miss Betty is retiring, and my thoughts go out to her. I was shocked at her decision; she’s a good woman. But Republicans have controlled this seat for the last 10 years, and I think it’s time for new leadership.”
Incumbent Sheriff Reggie Rachals also qualified Wednesday, as did 12-year Coroner Ronald Rowe and Clerk of Superior Court Sara Clark. Probate Judge John Wheaton, Chief Magistrate Jim Thurman and incumbent School Board members Frank Griffin (District 5) and Sylvia Vann (District 4) also qualified for re-election to their nonpartisan positions.
Rachals’ announced opponent, David Cheshire, did not qualify Wednesday, but he and supporters were in the middle of downtown Leesburg during the day, waving at passers-by and displaying campaign signs.
“It’s tough to campaign for office while you’re doing your job, but that’s the way the system works,” Rachals said. “I’ve had campaign events that I had to leave because I had to go out on a call. And that’s what I’ll continue to do.
“I’m running on what I think is a good record in office, but it is my goal to add to that. We want to keep moving forward with the latest technology that will allow us to do this job, and protect the citizens of Lee County, as well as we can.”
Lee Republican Party Chairman Mike Sabot said he was encouraged by the early excitement surrounding the qualifying period.
“The more people there are who get involved with our government, the better, more open government we’ll have,” Sabot said.