Incumbent Ward II Albany City Commissioner Ivey Hines returned to the commission table Wednesday after securing a spot Tuesday in a Dec. 3 runoff election with challenger Bobby Coleman for the Ward II seat. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — B.J. Fletcher may be rethinking the wisdom of freely giving out her cellphone number and email address right about now.
Deluged with “more than 500” calls and texts since her stunning victory Tuesday over incumbent Ward III Albany City Commissioner Christopher Pike and fellow challenger Cheryl Calhoun, Fletcher said she’s been overwhelmed with messages of congratulations. But she said Wednesday it was the first call she got on the day after the election that made her realize the real significance of Tuesday’s vote.
“The first call I took this morning was from Mayor (Dorothy) Hubbard, which I really appreciated,” said Fletcher, who claimed 64.5 percent of the Ward III vote to easily outdistance Pike (19.9 percent) and Calhoun (15.3). “I told her I was looking forward to working with her and the rest of commission to have a positive impact on Albany.”
In 2011, Fletcher and Hubbard faced on in a runoff for the mayor’s seat after former state lawmaker John White was the low vote-getter in the November primary that year. Fletcher said she wasn’t planning another campaign for the mayor.
“I have no interest whatsoever in looking beyond Ward III to the mayor’s office,” Fletcher said. “I just want to start turning Albany around. The only agenda I have going into office is to take care of the taxpayers of this city.”
While Fletcher’s victory was of the landslide variety, the story was different in Ward II where incumbent Ivey Hines claimed 45.95 percent of the vote to edge challenger Bobby Coleman, who had 42.68 percent. The race’s third candidate, Demetrius Love, got enough votes (11.21 percent) to force the Dec. 3 runoff.
“It’s a great feeling to know my message resonated with the voters of Ward II,” Coleman said Wednesday morning. “I was disappointed in the dismal turnout, but my strategy for the runoff is the same: I’m going to go door-to-door and talk directly to the people.
“One thing I learned over the course of the campaign is that the forums we took part in shielded the incumbents. My strategy now is not about debates, it’s about voter mobilization. We can’t keep sending the same ineffective people into office and expecting things to change. We’ve made one change in Albany already. It’s time for the people of Ward II to make another.”
Hines, who was back at the commission table for a work session Wednesday morning, said he’ll spend the next month figuring how to get his supporters to the polls on Dec. 3.
“I don’t know that there is a method, but I’ve got to work to get the voters energized,” Hines said. “I’m going to go about that the same way I always have: by talking directly to the voters. I sent information to everyone in the ward during the campaign, so I’m just going to have to work that much harder.
“I work with the latest technology (at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany), and I know how critical it is these days. But when you live in an area of low education and poverty like we do, the latest social networking technology just doesn’t resonate as much. It’s like putting all those signs up in people’s yards. People told me before Tuesday, ‘Bobby (Coleman) sure has a lot of signs out.’ I told them, ‘If all those signs could vote, I’d be in trouble.’ It’s contact directly with the voters that matters.”
Pike, who said Wednesday that he expected his race with Fletcher to go to a runoff, was philosophical about his defeat.
“I’m a person who doesn’t believe in living in the past,” he said. “I’m disappointed, yes, but I woke up (Tuesday) and said, ‘Whatever happens, God’s will will be done.’ I don’t know that (Fletcher’s election) will bring any significant change to the commission. No matter who sits at the table, once you’re there for a while you realize that Albany is one of the best-run cities in the state.
“If a person is at the table for the right reasons, it quickly becomes apparent.”
Pike said one of his primary concerns as he finishes out his four-year term in office is that he’s received a number of significant statewide appointments that have impacted the city positively.
“It’s not about me, but I have been placed in some powerful positions at the state level, including an appointment by the governor to a three-person panel (a review task force regarding a county commissioner),” he said. “I hope others here will get those chances. I’d hate for us to lose that influence.”
Pike said he’s not ruling out another political run at some time in the future.
“I’m not saying no; I’m not saying I wouldn’t run again even for a spot back on the commission,” he said. “A lot depends on the direction things are going in. I’m 35 years old. I’ve got a long ways to go. I have a lot of options, a lot of opportunities.”
Elections officials said Wednesday that while the Albany-Dougherty Elections Board will formally certify election results Friday at 3 p.m., the lack of military absentee ballots makes that exercise a necessary formality.
“Technically, the results won’t be official until certified by the board,” Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said Wendesday afternoon. “But all that needs to be done is for a technician to close out our machines and for the board to make the results official.
“There were no provisionary ballots, so the numbers are correct.”
Final results from the Elections Office Wednesday showed that 1,650 of 11,801 registered voters cast ballots in the two races, a 13.98 percent turnout.