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Paulding commissioner candidates headed to runoff as second airport issue looms large

Candidates for two seats on the Paulding County commission are headed for a runoff as a debate over a proposed second commercial airport in metro Atlanta looms large in campaigns.

At issue is a plan announced in 2013 to commercialize Paulding County’s airport and attract airline flights. Lawsuits filed by the county and residents challenging the commercialization have halted the plan. But some believe if the election shifts the five-seat county commission to majority pro-commercialization, the plan could move forward.

Vernon Collett, one of the current commissioners who opposes the commercialization of Paulding’s airport, lost the Republican primary election to candidate Chuck Hart, who will face Democratic candidate Taurus Madric-Morris in the general election in November.

On the airport authority’s pursuit of a certificate for commercial flights, Hart said: “I feel like if we’ve made agreements and we have a contract to where we’re supposed to pursue the [commercial certification], then I think that should happen.”

Two other commissioners who oppose commercialization will face challengers in Republican runoffs July 24. Incumbent Todd Pownall and challenger Sandy Kaecher are headed to a runoff, and incumbent Tony Crowe will face challenger Brian Stover in the runoff.

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Pownall, who has opposed the commercialization plan since it was announced, said most of the people he represents in his district “either live around the airport or they’re in the flight pattern.... I’ll continue to fight [commercialization] as long as I’m in office.”

If new candidates win seats on the county commission, it has the potential to shift the tide toward commercialization and possibly clear a path toward attracting airline flights.

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