Sandy Springs winners and losers say partisan politics in the election wasn’t good

Raw political partisanship played a role in the Sandy Springs election but winners and losers said local issues and what residents have in common outweigh national party politics. (Courtesy City of Sandy Springs)
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Raw political partisanship played a role in the Sandy Springs election but winners and losers said local issues and what residents have in common outweigh national party politics. (Courtesy City of Sandy Springs)

Raw political partisanship played a role in Sandy Springs’ municipal election, but winners and losers said local issues and what residents have in common outweigh national party politics.

Mayor Rusty Paul and four incumbent council members — John Paulson, Tibby DeJulio Jody Reichel and Andy Bauman — were reelected Tuesday. Two newcomers will join them in January, Melody Kelley and Melissa Mular.

“Personally, I wish national politics stayed out of municipal races,” Paulson said, adding that he was reelected because voters think the city is well run. “I think the people of Sandy Springs looked at what has been done and think, ‘Sandy Springs is not doing so badly.’”

Mayor Rusty Paul, left, was reelected after being challenged by Dontaye Carter Image Dontaye Carter Credit Keven Lowery; Image of Rusty Paul Credit Bob Andres
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Mayor Rusty Paul, left, was reelected after being challenged by Dontaye Carter Image Dontaye Carter Credit Keven Lowery; Image of Rusty Paul Credit Bob Andres

During the campaign season some residents and candidates complained of racially-charged campaign material. And within two weeks of Election Day, a controversial flyer from the Fulton Republican Party emerged supporting five of the candidates running for office.

Two winners, Paulson and Bauman, said Friday the flyer was a reflection of national politics. Paulson said when knocking on doors while campaigning, he partly expected people to reflect the anger he sees portrayed on national news but instead he was met with kindness.

While Bauman, a self-described independent and moderate, emerged victorious over conservative challenger Jeff Howe. The incumbent councilman said partisan politics in the election led some more conservative residents to stop supporting him and replace his yard sign with Howe’s.

Bauman said one resident told him he “didn’t really know about the party stuff. Nothing against you; I’m going to vote for the most conservative candidate.”

“The parties inserted themselves more than I’ve ever seen,” Bauman said. “I would guess there were people (voting) for me too on those same political grounds. It cuts both ways.”

Similar to Paulson, some of the winning and losing contenders said when they met most residents face-to-face partisan attitudes were set aside within minutes.

Kelley, who won a tight race against Linda Trickey with 51% of the vote said, “I learned … when you connect with a person ... based on what you have in common, you can overcome any challenge, any controversy.”

The City Council incumbents didn’t have challengers during the last election cycle in 2017, Bauman said. Paulson said this year was the first time he’s been challenged since taking office in 2009.

Newcomers such as Kelley said they wanted to give a voice to people who they think are not being heard in the community.

But losing candidates said they’re sticking around.

Tochie Blad, who lost a four-way race to incumbent Jody Reichel in District 4, said she will continue to advocate for residents and hold city leaders accountable for how tax dollars are spent.

“This is a nonpartisan race for a good reason, and I intended to make sure our local government works for everyone, regardless of party,” Blad said.

Paulson’s opponent, Megan Harris said that despite losing she’s invigorated.

Harris said that even when meeting residents who instantly brought up partisan politics that were opposite to hers, she was able to get them to engage in conversation to see commonalities.

Harris said she will remain active in Sandy Springs in some way.

“A permanent part of my title will be: My name is Megan Harris and I’m a public servant,” she said.

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