The race for Cobb Commission chairman is heating up as the county surpasses expectations for advanced voting in the July 26 runoff.
The most watched race of several runoffs in metro Atlanta pits incumbent Tim Lee against retired Marine Col. Mike Boyce in what many have cast as a delayed referendum on the deal to bring the Atlanta Braves to Cobb.
Boyce heads into the runoff with an edge after capturing 49 percent of the vote compared to Lee’s 40 percent in the May 24 primary. A third candidate, retired businessman Larry Savage, came in a distant third. Candidates must capture 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff.
Lee has blamed low voter turnout—just 13 percent—for his near-defeat in May. With both campaigns ramping up efforts in the home stretch, voter participation in the runoff is on track to surpass that of the general primary despite the Fourth of July holiday, which shaved two days off of advanced voting.
As of Wednesday, 10,213 Cobb voters had cast ballots for the runoff, with two days of advanced voting remaining. 7,968 of those voters appeared in person and 2,245 voted by mail.
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By comparison, a total of 11,646 people took advantage of advanced voting in the general primary, 9,894 of them in person and 1,752 by mail.
Janine Eveler, director of the Cobb Board of Elections, said she expects the number of ballots cast ahead of time in the runoff to exceed those in the primary by Friday when early voting ends.
“It’s not normal,” Eveler said. “Every other primary runoff that I’ve experienced, [advanced voter turnout] has been less than the primary.”
Eveler said she believed the uptick could be attributed to the contentious chairman’s race.
“There’s a heightened interest about that race,” she said. “Interestingly, in 2012 there was also a chairman’s runoff and it didn’t attract this kind of attention.”
Lee is presenting himself as a fiscal conservative who cuts taxes and brought the Braves to Cobb by committing nearly half a billion dollars in public funds to build a new stadium. Boyce is running on resentment to that deal, which was struck in secret and not put to the public for a vote.
Boyce also commands a large and well-organized grassroots campaign, knocking on tens of thousands of doors. For his part, Lee has papered the county in a series of mailers painting Boyce as “Tax Hike Mike,” the “liberal Atlanta media’s choice.”
Aside from the Braves deal, Cobb voters are paying close attention to candidates’ stances on taxes, development and zoning, public safety, and greenspace.
Separately, attorneys Kellie Hill and John Morgan will face off on July 26 to replace retiring State Court Judge Irma Glover.
Among the other runoffs in metro Atlanta are:
In DeKalb County, challenger Steve Bradshaw is trying to unseat Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton. Bradshaw says he would restore integrity and ethics to county government while working to repair divisiveness on the DeKalb Commission. Sutton argues that Bradshaw’s efforts toward compromise would sell out the people he wants to represent in the Stone Mountain-area district of 150,000 people. The race could swing the composition of the DeKalb Commission, which has split with 3-3 deadlocks on several key votes following the March resignation of Stan Watson who ran unsuccessfully for the county’s tax commissioner’s seat.
DeKalb’s race for tax commissioner will also be decided Tuesday, when Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson faces attorney Susannah Scott.
Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson is being challenged again by Richard Lankford, a former Fulton County sheriff who lost his seat more than 20 years ago after he became a target of the FBI. His 1990 conviction for income tax evasion and extortion was overturned on appeal. Lankford ran for sheriff in 1996 and again in 2012, when he lost to Jackson, the former FBI chief agent in Atlanta.
In the race for solicitor general, chief assistant solicitor general Keith Gammage is squaring off against prosecutor Clinton Rucker. Gammage has the backing of Ambassador Andrew Young and former Gov. Roy Barnes, while Rucker touts his support from Fulton County commissioners and Jackson, the sheriff.
There are also two runoffs for Superior Court: former juvenile court judge Belinda Edwards vs. magistrate court judge Sterling Eaves and DeKalb County deputy chief assistant district attorney Eric Dunaway vs. Gary Alembik, who has been a designated Superior Court judge.
The race to watch in Clayton County on Tuesday will be the District 3 Commission contest, which pits veteran businesswoman Felecia Franklin Warner against Eric Bell, a 25-year-old Naval Aviator and educator. Both say they will push to improve economic development and education in the county.
In the judicial races, attorneys Robert Mack and Leslie Miller Terry are running to replace Judge Deborah Benefield on the Superior Court Bench, while Judge Matthew Simmons’ Superior Court seat will be filled by either Shana M. Rooks or Jewel Scott, both attorneys.
US House District 3: Mike Crane v. Drew Ferguson
State Senator District 43: Tonya P. Anderson v. Dee Dawkins-Haigler
State Representative 59th District: Janine Brown v. David Dreyer
State Representative 62th District: William K. Boddie Jr. v. Valerie V Vie
State Representative 81th District: Jim Duffie v. Lane Flynn
State Representative, 64th District: K. Adams v. D.L. Jackson
State Representative, 80th District: A. Cole . M Hanson
State Representative, 63rd District: Debra Bazemore v. Linda Pritchett
State Representative, 77th District: Rhonda Burnough v. Darryl Jordan
State Representative 91th District: Vernon Jones v Rhonda S. Taylor
—Staff writers Mark Niesse, Arielle Kass and Tammy Joyner contributed to this article