Election qualifying deadline nears

Election qualifying deadline nears

August 3rd, 2011 by Mike O'Neal in Catoosa

That elections will be held in Catoosa County this November is a given. What names will be on the ballot and if it will only involve voters in the city of Fort Oglethorpe is uncertain at this time.

"The only thing we know at this point is that Fort Oglethorpe will vote for a mayor, two council seats and a referendum," said John Campbell, custodian of elections for the county.

As of last week, incumbent Lynn Long's sole challenger in his bid for re-election is Ken Marks, currently a member of the Catoosa County Commission.

"Since actual qualification is from Aug. 29 through Aug. 31, it is too early to tell if this will be more than a two-man race," Orma Luckey, superintendent of elections in Fort Oglethorpe, said in reference to that city's mayoral election.

Long served on the city council from 1978-1982 and was elected the county commission's first chairman, a position he held from 1992-1996. In 2010 voters selected Long from a four-man field to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Ronnie Cobb who died of a heart attack last August.

Prior to election to the county commission, Marks was a member of Fort Oglethorpe City Council and had considered entering last year's special mayoral election.

In addition to the office of mayor, the terms of councilmen Johnnie "Red" Smith and Charles Sharrock both expire this year. Smith has said he will seek re-election, Sharrock has not made his decision public.

Fort Oglethorpe City Council races are non-partisan and "at large," with voters marking ballots in each contested race, not just the ward where they live, as well as for mayor.

"People can pick up their qualifying papers but are not considered for inclusion on the ballot until they have had that paperwork approved and paid a filing fee paid," she said.

One item that makes preparations of a ballot problematic is that if Marks qualifies to run for mayor he must immediately vacate his seat on the county commission and thus makes necessary a special election to fill the remaining years of his term representing District 1.

Luckey said election officials "have been talking back and forth" about the possibility of a special election being added to the Nov. 8 ballot.

"A special election for the commission would only be for voters in District 1," said Tonya Moore, chief election official for Catoosa County.

The state requires special elections be called at least 29 days before the November election, but Moore said that if Marks does decide to vacate his commission position the special election could be announced within a few days or weeks.

"There is a defined process that must be followed when dealing with special elections," she said.

Should any of the city council's members decide to run for mayor, they would be required to resign their current post which would require a city-wide special election being held to fill the vacated council seat.

But all talk of special elections remains only that - talk - until candidates file their qualifying papers before Sept. 1.

What is not open to speculation is that a referendum concerning Sunday sales of wine and beer will be on the ballot.

Though stating his personnel objections allowing package sales of malt beverages and wine on Sundays, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill in April that allows municipalities to regulate such sales between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and midnight.

A simple yes/ no vote will be required in November, with a "yes" being to allow such Sunday sales at licensed convenience and grocery stores and a "no" vote to allow such sales only on a Monday-Saturday.

The city council in March decided by a 3-2 vote to put that decision to a public vote.