Voters across metro Atlanta will go to the polls Tuesday to decide on an array of ballot questions, from electing a new commissioner for the Cherokee County Commission to extending a SPLOST another five years for Clayton County Schools to a choosing an Atlanta City Council member to serve out of the term of longtime member Ivory Lee Young Jr., who died in November.
For many, the vote to watch will be in Gwinnett County where residents will decide whether to support bringing rail service to Georgia’s second-largest county. Gwinnett has historically been hostile to sweeping mass transit — especially as run by MARTA — and Tuesday’s vote will determine whether demographic changes since the last referendum on the topic and the county’s choked roads have changed minds.
Turnout is expected to be low despite the plethora of municipalities holding elections. Harvey Newman, professor emeritus at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, said Gwinnett voters notwithstanding, the lack of a big national or statewide race to draw public interest means many may not being paying attention to the election.
“Anytime there is a concurrent election like a presidential election or midterms, there is great interest,” he said. “But for a purely local election, turnout is usually at its lowest.”
Here is a look at some of the races and issues.
Voters will choose from nine candidates vying to fill the District 3 seat left vacant last year after four-term City Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. died of cancer.
Among those running are Shalise Steele-Young, the wife of the late councilman; former Atlanta school board member Byron Amos; ex-Georgia Piedmont Technical College president Jabari Simama; and Ricky Brown, who served time on drug charges but now helps felons like himself get back on their feet.
Others include Antonio Brown, a businessman; Matthew Charles Cardinale, founder and editor of Atlanta Progressive News; Greg Clay, founder of Atlanta Speaks Initiative; Erika Estrada, a CPA; and Mesha Mainor, a licensed physical therapist.
The winner, who will fill the remainder of Young’s term through 2021, will serve a district undergoing rapid redevelopment — including the westside expansion the Atlanta Beltline. But it also includes two of the city’s poorest communities, English Avenue and Vine City.
Cherokee voters will elect a new commissioner to fill the District 3 seat vacated at the end of last year by Commissioner Bob Kovacs. According to media reports, Kovac, a vice president with construction giant Skanska USA Building, stepped down in December because of increased work responsibilities.
Running for the seat are Benny Carter, a retired Kroger employee; Debra Frieden, a consultant and civic leader; Matt Lear, an account manager; and Kenny Phelps, a land development manager.
Clayton County Schools is hoping voters approve the extension of its newest SPLOST. Continuation of the penny sales tax for the district would raise $280 million over the next five years.
If approved, the money will allow the district to build three new schools with STEM programs, replace older buses, update HVAC systems and set aside money for an early learning system to serve some of the 50 percent or so of Clayton preschoolers who are not in pre-K programs.
The funding also will be used to create a career and college-prep academy, purchase more Chromebooks for students and build an arena large enough to host all the school system’s graduations.
Incumbent city of Hapeville Alderman at Large Michael Rast will square off against candidate Rod Mack in Tuesday’s special election for the seat Rast has held since 2017.
Rast was a member of Hapeville’s governing body between 1993 and 2001. He was brought back to the Council in 2017 when former Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him interim alderman after former councilwoman Ruth Barr was convicted in Gwinnett County of stealing more than $100,000 from her dying brother-in-law.
While most of the focus on Gwinnett elections has been on the mass transit expansion, there is another vote on the radar for many in the county.
Antonio Molina and Tod Warner are competing for a seat on the Snellville City Council. Molina, chief operating officer for medical practice Consultorio Medico Hispano, and Warner, a real estate investment adviser, are hoping to fill the seat formerly held by Mayor Barbara Bender. Bender became mayor in January after the resignation of former mayor Tom Witts.
In addition, Snellville residents will decide whether to support the Sunday Brunch bill to allow Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 11 a.m. Approval would let sales at restaurants begin April 9.
And finally, Gwinnett voters will decide if they want to increase their sales tax 1 percent to pay for transit projects and operations in the county. The tax, if approved, would remain in place until 2057.
Gwinnett is asking residents to approve a contract that would let MARTA take over and expand transit offerings in the county. It would mean expansion of bus service, new park-and-ride areas and more Express routes. The plan also includes potential heavy rail that could run from the Doraville Station in DeKalb County to a Gwinnett transit hub near I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard.