Several critical elections will narrow the candidates during primaries

By Saba Long

Crying babies, pizza delivery, stethoscopes, billboard sized mailers.

The onslaught of election ads and direct mail will do little to boost voter turnout for tomorrow’s primary vote.

Much to the chagrin of their opponents, Gov. Nathan Deal and Michelle Nunn, both front runners in their respective races, have smartly kept non-scripted public interactions to a minimum so far.

The longer general election campaign will require tenacity and an aggressive mix of defensive and offensive political plays.

Even while we’re focused on the Deal versus Jason Carter and Nunn versus an undetermined candidate races, there are a number of important races that cannot be ignored.

State School Superintendent:  Due to the crowded field in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, a run-off election is guaranteed.

On the Democratic side, Cobb State Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan and Valarie Wilson, head of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and former president of the Georgia School Board Association are both winning key endorsements.

The Republican candidates who seem to be gaining the most steam, post debates, are those with a history in education, including Mike Buck, chief of staff to the current State School Superintendent John Barge.

DeKalb School Board: Twenty-two candidates are vying for just seven seats on the DeKalb Board of Education. This marks the first election since Gov. Deal removed the majority of the board last year. Stan Jester, husband of State School Superintendent candidate and ousted Board of Education member Nancy Jester, is running unopposed in District 1. Of the members appointed by the governor, all but one chose to run for election.

Fulton County Commission Chairman: Incumbent Chairman John Eaves is trying to fight off District 2 commissioner and veteran politician Robb Pitts. Regardless of the outcome, the county will lose two incumbent commissioners due to redistricting. Expect a shift in relationships with the City of Atlanta following the general election.

There are also a number of nonbinding questions on the Democratic primary ballot. These yes or no questions include,

  • Should Georgia raise the state minimum wage above the current $5.15 an hour?
  • Should Georgians’ federal tax dollars be returned to Georgia to fund Medicaid expansion and relieve the indigent care burden on our hospitals?
  • Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended to create an independent ethics commission, not tied to the Governor’s office, legislature, or other elected office, to more effectively police potential ethics violations by elected officials?
  • Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended to make the education budget Georgia’s first funding priority?

Regardless of the office, be sure to vote down the ballot on Tuesday, May 20. Primary elections have consequences too.

In fact, given the expected low voter turnout on Tuesday, each vote stands to have a greater weight during off-year primary races than during presidential year general elections.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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