Fulton commission race again pits Emma Darnell against Bill Edwards

For the second election cycle in a row, it’s Emma Darnell vs. Bill Edwards for Fulton County commission.

In the last election, redistricting pitted the two South Fulton incumbents against each other. Darnell, who was first elected in 1992, bested Edwards, who joined the board in 2000. The two Democrats had been allies on the board, and Darnell won a narrow victory for a two-year term. This race is for a full, four-year term.

There is no Republican in this year’s race.

This year, Darnell is taking nothing for granted. In a balloon-laden tent outside the C & C Unisex Salon on Old National Highway last week, she passed out donuts and sold herself to District 6 voters.

“Are you going to vote this year? I’d appreciate it if you’d vote for me,” Darnell said to one man, who had come by for a haircut. “I campaign every two years, but I work every day for this district.”

Edwards did not respond to several phone calls and emails, beginning May 6, seeking comment about why he planned to run again.

Last month, Edwards admitted that he had violated campaign finance laws. The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission found that he had spent $14,000 on membership dues and expenses at a local business club that were not legitimate campaign expenses and had failed to file two campaign reports. Last year, a joint investigation by the AJC, The Georgia News Lab and Channel 2 Action News found that Edwards could not account for nearly $80,000 in campaign cash. The discrepancy stemmed from campaign finance reports filed in 2010.

He has agreed to pay civil penalties, but said previously that he would not release details of the settlement before the election.

An attorney for the state commission said he couldn’t release settlement details until June, but that there was nothing stopping Edwards from doing so.

With the nickname “the Mayor of South Fulton,” Edwards had been an advocate for people in the unincorporated area.

In talking about her qualifications, Darnell said she doesn’t only fight for improvements in the area, but does so with integrity.

“Transparency should be more than a slogan,” she said. “In my experience, you can’t give too much information to people. I think we have to take these slogans seriously, like accountability and transparency.”

At the salon, Darnell told people the re-striping of Cascade Road was her doing. She talked about libraries, and what she was doing with senior centers and for children. People want her to continue improving the physical environment, Darnell said.

Lawrence Reeves, a former Edwards constituent, was there in support of Darnell. Already, he said, she has significantly improved the area. And Darnell has a vision, he said. She’s been the driving force behind the senior multipurpose centers in the county.

“I’ve seen what she’s done,” Reeves said. “We need that leadership.”

In addition to the commission race, there are contested Fulton County races for sheriff, clerk of Superior Court and solicitor general.