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Qualifying next month
for early primary


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

  Some major changes are in store for candidates in local elections in 2014, thanks to new legislation just passed regarding primary dates.

Qualifying for the 2014 early primary will take place March 3 - 7 at the McDonough Voters Registration Office. New legislation has been passed that extends the runoff period to nearly three times its previous length.                                   Special photo

  This year’s primary election for local, state and federal candidates is May 20, according to county election superintendent Janet Shellnutt. In past years the primary has typically been in July, with the runoff three weeks later.

  The federal courts ruled that there needed to be more time between the primary and the runoff, so the primary date was moved up. The runoff election will be July 22.

  State Sen. Rick Jeffares, who represents roughly half of Henry County, played a large role in getting the necessary legislation passed early in this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly. The primary had to be scheduled before June 1, he said, as mandated by a federal judge.

  The result is a two-month runoff period – nearly three times as long as before – which means more campaigning for a number of candidates and perhaps additional frustration for some voters who are bombarded by campaign ads during that stretch.

  However, Shellnutt acknowledged that her office had a difficult task under the old system handling absentee ballots, especially military personnel serving overseas, in a three-week period.

Because of the new timetable, qualifying will take place the week of March 3-7, ending Friday at noon.

  Three seats on the Henry County Board of Commissioners – now occupied by Gary Barham (Dist. 3), Reid Bowman (Dist. 4) and Bruce Holmes (Dist. 5) – are up for grabs in 2014, as well as districts 4 and 5 (Erik Charles and Ryan Davis) on the Henry County Board of Education.

  Two State Court judgeships, currently held by Ben Studdard and Jason Harper, will be on the ballot this year, along with the solicitor general’s seat now held by Trea Pipkin. Those are non-partisan races.

  Candidates for all of the above positions qualify in McDonough at the county election headquarters, while Superior Court judge candidates and those for legislative seats do so in Atlanta at the Secretary of State’s office. Anyone running in a partisan race will qualify through his or her political party.

  Another change in 2014 involves the filing of financial disclosures, which for the past two years were all handled at the state level. Now local candidates will file them with the county election office, and Shellnutt said the necessary software to handle that task was installed in her office last week.

  All incumbents will have to file disclosures by the end of January if they are running again; anyone not running will need to state that as well. Each incumbent will be notified by mail of these requirements, Shellnutt said.

  State officials are expected to be sending all relevant paperwork on local candidates back to McDonough so anyone who wants to see those public records can do so.



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