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Several Democrats, lone Republican qualify for local commission, school board races

Opening day of primary qualifying keeps elections officials hopping

Three Dougherty County Commission candidates were among the early qualifiers Monday during the first day of state and local qualifying. Dougherty County Democratic Party chairwoman Constance Burkes gives instructions to, from left, Jack Stone, Tracy Taylor and Anthony Jones. Stone is the incumbent District 6 commissioner, and he is being challenged by Jones. Political newcomer Taylor is running for the District 4 commission seat currently held by Republican Ewell Lyle, who also qualified Monday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Three Dougherty County Commission candidates were among the early qualifiers Monday during the first day of state and local qualifying. Dougherty County Democratic Party chairwoman Constance Burkes gives instructions to, from left, Jack Stone, Tracy Taylor and Anthony Jones. Stone is the incumbent District 6 commissioner, and he is being challenged by Jones. Political newcomer Taylor is running for the District 4 commission seat currently held by Republican Ewell Lyle, who also qualified Monday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

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Attorney Chris Cohilas got the jump on county qualifiers early Monday morning when he qualified first to run in the May 20 Democratic primary for the Dougherty County Commission chairmanship. (Special photo)

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Incumbent Republican District 4 Dougherty County Commissioner Ewell Lyle completes qualifying papers Monday that will allow him to seek a second term in office. Lyle was the only GOP candidate to qualify locally on the first day of qualifying, but he learned that two Democrats will challenge for his seat. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Monday’s first day of qualifying for Dougherty County Commission and School Board races featured a flurry of activity as a number of Democrats and perhaps the lone Republican expected to run during the cycle qualified for May 20 primaries.

Democratic qualifying saw the expected — 28-year incumbent Jack Stone signing on for another District 6 run alongside his announced opponent, first-time candidate Anthony Jones; commission chair candidate Chris Cohilas making his candidacy official, and District 6 School Board candidate Dean Phinazee throwing his hat in the ring — as well as the unexpected — a surprise challenger for Republican incumbent Ewell Lyle for the District 4 commission seat.

Dental assistant Tracy Taylor, who is also studying at Albany Technical College, qualified to run as a Democrat for the District 4 commission seat, learning while filling out paperwork that he will have a primary challenger as well. Darton College assistant English professor Pat Garner, 37, announced in a news release Monday that he is officially declaring his candidacy for the District 4 seat and will qualify today at noon.

“I plan to represent everyone in District 4, but I feel that I will have a unique opportunity to speak out on issues that impact younger citizens in the community,” Taylor, 30, said. “I think there is a real need to energize our young people because they are not currently being heard.”

Garner, 37, said he plans to run on “Democratic values” in his quest to take the seat from Lyle.

“All I’ve heard from the person in that seat now is ‘consolidate, consolidate, consolidate,’” Garner said. “That Darwinistic approach is not the best way to govern Albany. (District 4) is a Democratic district in a Democratic community, and I intend to represent the people of the district based on good, old-fashioned Democratic values.”

Lyle was the lone Republican to qualify Monday and may very well be the only Republican in this year’s Dougherty races. While filling out paperwork, he noted, “I said when I ran the first time (unopposed in 2010) that I support the United States and Georgia Constitutions, smaller government, reduced taxes, less government spending and an open, common-sense approach. I believe I proved that in my first term and will continue to do so if re-elected.”

There had been much speculation that Stone’s health might keep him out of this year’s race, but he said Monday he’s got his doctor’s — and his wife’s — blessing to make another run. “It’ll keep me out of her hair,” Stone quipped.

Jones, meanwhile, said qualifying Monday was a significant moment.

“It’s real now,” he said.

Qualifying for the commission chairmanship and District 2, 4 and 6 seats on the County Commission and School Board will continue through Friday at noon. Current District 5 County Commissioner Gloria Gaines announced at the commission’s business meeting Monday morning that she will step down from that post Friday when she qualifies to challenge Cohilas for the commission chairmanship.

A special election will be called to replace Gaines on the board.