Trio of Fulton commission seats draw contested races

Fulton County elections workers open and sort ballots at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on Jan. 5, 2021. (John Spink/AJC)

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Fulton County elections workers open and sort ballots at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on Jan. 5, 2021. (John Spink/AJC)

Voters are set to decide who will fill three seats on the Fulton County Commission this election cycle, with races that feature two incumbents and one open seat.

Aside from the incumbent chair Robb Pitts, the other current commissioner with an opponent is Marvin Arrington, Jr. The attorney has been a commissioner for two terms. His father was president of the Atlanta City Council for nearly two decades and also served as a Fulton County Superior Court judge.

After a dramatic re-districting process, Arrington finds himself with new constituents only a few months before the May 24 primary and being challenged by Robert H. Kelly — who works for Fulton Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman.

Both candidates have their platforms: Arrington promotes the arts community along with youth programs, and Kelly wants to enhance senior services and southern Fulton infrastructure.

But the issues have been drowned out by multiple legal challenges. The campaign has gotten dirty, with websites sporting URLs “www.notarrington.com” and the anti-Kelly hub “www.avoiceyoucantrust.org.”

Early on, a citizen challenged Kelly’s residency by claiming he lived in Fayette County instead of in the district. That led District Attorney Fani Willis to open an investigation into whether Kelly perjured himself. The courts have decided not to address the residency question, and the DA investigation closed without a recommendation because the office didn’t have time to investigate the matter with the election so close, according to court documents.

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Kelly is among the anti-establishment contingent vying for the three seats. Joining him is fellow Abdur-Rahman employee Rick Blalock — who is running for the District 1 seat left open after Commissioner Liz Hausmann, a Republican, announced she was running for state senate.

The opening represents the third GOP commissioner on the seven-member board, but if the seat goes blue then Democrats would have a supermajority at the county level.

It will be Blalock or his fellow Democratic opponent Maggie Goldman facing Bridget Thorne or Matthew Tyser, who want to keep the seat in Republican control.

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The third race with a candidate backed by Abdur-Rahman is Sonya Russell-Ofchus, who is running for commission chair against long-time local politico and current chair Robb Pitts.

Russell-Ofchus is a former Atlanta Police Department officer and federal agent who claims she could root out and eliminate alleged corruption within the county government. South Fulton activist Jewel Johnson is also running for the chair position on a platform of transparency improving public safety. Either candidate would be the first Black woman and woman of color to hold the position.

Pitts has establishment credentials like endorsements from gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams, former Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador Andrew Young and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. Pitts served two decades on the Atlanta City Council and spent 12 years as a county commissioner before becoming chair in 2017.

The primary polls close Tuesday night.

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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