Tea Party hosting sheriff candidate forum June 28

Tea Party hosting sheriff candidate forum June 28

June 28th, 2012 by Mike O'Neal in Catoosa

The election of Catoosa County's next sheriff may resemble a shoot-out in a Western movie where the last man standing is declared winner.

Candidates for this "constitutional office" are Larry Black, Mike Helton, Jeff Holcomb, Ben Scott and Gary Sisk.

That so many veterans of law enforcement are vying for the position is because Sheriff Phil Summers is not seeking re-election to the office he has held since 1991.

Because so many are running for the office, the likelihood of a runoff being necessary after the July 31 primary balloting is high.

If necessary, that runoff would take place Aug. 21, according to election official Tonya Moore.

Since all five candidates will be on the Republican primary ballot, the county's next sheriff will be selected either during the primary or runoff - unless one or more independent candidates qualify for inclusion on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The Catoosa County Tea Party is hosting a forum featuring those currently seeking election as sheriff June 28 at The Colonnade located on the Benton Place Campus. The public is invited to meet the candidates beginning at 5:30 p.m., with the forum scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

The forum will be moderated by Brian Joyce, host of "Live and Local" on WGOW Talk Radio, and feature questions selected by a bipartisan panel.

While the 2012 General Primary will take place on July 31, absentee voting is under way and advance voting begins July 9.

What and why is the sheriff's a "constitutional office?"

In "A Brief History of Georgia Counties," Ed Jackson of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia writes:

In addition to commissioners, counties have other elected government officials known as "constitutional officers" (since they are enumerated by office in the state constitution).

County constitutional officers include the clerk of the superior court, judge of probate court, sheriff, tax receiver, tax collector and tax commissioner (in those counties where the offices of tax receiver and tax collector have been consolidated into a single office).

County constitutional officers are elected for four-year terms and have such powers and duties as provided by general law.

Although dependent upon funding from the county commission, county constitutional officers have a degree of autonomy in carrying out their duties not enjoyed by other county government officials.

As of June 13, 96 absentee ballots had been mailed to Catoosa voters, Moore said, adding that sample ballots can be studied here.

Any registered voter can advance vote at either of two locations: Catoosa Hall (formerly the Courthouse Annex) on Nashville Street in downtown Ringgold or the Westside Precinct, at 3319 Lakeview Drive, adjacent Westside Elementary School.

In addition to weekdays, when polls are open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., advance voting will be allowed on Saturday, July 21 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Both locations will be open until 7 p.m. for advance voting on Thursday, July 26, Moore said.

"No one can vote on the Monday [July 30] before the primary," she said.

Moore said she and her staff are seeing "heavy" numbers of people registering to vote in the upcoming election.

The deadline for registering to vote or change voter registration information and being eligible to vote in this year's primary is July 2. Registration can be done in person at Catoosa Hall or online at the county website, or at the Georgia Secretary of State site.