As early voting opens on Monday, July 9th leading up to Election Day on July 31st, voters in South Cobb County face a decision experienced almost nowhere else in Cobb County. As a result of bitter partisanship and strategic redistricting efforts, voters rarely longer elect local, state or national representatives in November. Instead, these races are decided in the July primaries along with traditional non-partisan judicial elections. For the residents of North Cobb, East Cobb and West Cobb, the distinction carries an advantage. For residents of South Cobb County, it creates a difficult choice.
This year, there are three very important and hotly contested races being decided county-wide. Those races include the County Commission Chairmanship (sought by incumbent Tim Lee, Mike Boyce, former Commission Chairman Bill Byrne and Larry Savage), the Office of District Attorney (an open seat sought by Vic Reynolds and Cindy Yeager) and the Clerk of Superior Court (sought by Joan Davis, Rebecca Keaton, and John Skelton). These are among the most important and powerful offices in the County and all will be decided in the Republican primary this July.
In South Cobb County, several very important elections are underway on the Democratic Ballot. Most eyes are on County Commissioner for District 4 where Woody Thompson is seeking to retain his seat against a large field, including Lisa Cupid, Monica Delancy, Ruth Negron, Michael Rhett and Connie Taylor. In the State Senate, Incumbent Horacena Tate faces a primary challenge from Reginald Crossley in the 38th District. In the House of Representatives, District 39, Alisha Thomas Morgan is being challenged by Anne Taylor and in District 53 (which touches the very southern portion of Cobb County around Vinings and 285), incumbent Sheila Jones is challenged by Jason Esteves and Robert Patillo. Further, the retirement of State Representative Terry Johnson leaves an open seat in State House District 41 being sought by Justin O’Dell (your author), Diana Eckles and Michael Smith. Finally, the Cobb County School Board, District 3, covering much of South Cobb, has challengers Bobby Allen and Karyn Harrison seeking to unseat incumbent David Morgan.
Here is where the advantage lies for those in the non-South Cobb portions of the County. Other than the 6th Congressional District Race (Jeff Kazanow v. Robert Montigel) which carries the right to face incumbent Tom Price in East Cobb, there are no contested Democratic elections in July in North, East or West Cobb County. As a result, many Democrats and Independent voters in those portions of the County will pick up Republican ballots in the July primary and participate in choosing their Commission Chairman, District Attorney and Clerk of Superior Court. Those same Democrats and Independent voters will then be able to vote for State Senator or House member in November.
Independent and swing voters in South Cobb do not have the same option. Essentially, they must make a choice: Vote for three county-wide races involving positions of great importance and power OR vote for those that provide the closest form of representation and where the vote carries the greatest weight (turnout for a county-wide race will generally range between 75,000 – 100,000 compared to 20,000 – 25,000 for a commission seat or only 2,500 – 4,000 for a state house or senate race).
The hard Democrats and hard Republicans will likely continue to pull traditional party ballots. However, the situation is an interesting and a tough dilemma for independent or swing voter in South Cobb. I am not sure there is a wrong or right choice to make, except not to vote at all.
Happy Fourth of July.