2012 to be marked by elections

Numerous local elections and ballot questions will be going before voters throughout the year.

Augusta-Richmond County voters will select five Augusta commissioners, five Richmond County school board members, six legislators, a sheriff and numerous other officials, as well as answer ballot questions about Sunday retail alcohol sales and two new sales taxes.

Five commission posts – in districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 – come open in 2012, and three new faces are certain, as District 3 Commissioner Joe Bowles, District 7 Commissioner Jerry Brigham and Super District 9 Commissioner J.R. Hatney are term-limited.

On the school board, the district 1, 4, 5, 8 and 10 posts also come open, and board members Marion Barnes, Barbara Pulliam, Patsy Scott, Jimmy Atkins and Helen Minchew are not term limited and free to run again.

Qualifying for commission and school board posts begins May 23, a date moved back by the General Assembly last year. House Bill 158 also attempted to move the commission and school board races to the date of the general primary, July 31, but the law had a loophole that allows the commission election to remain in November and the school board thinks it may have an out, too.

In the meantime, Augusta voters will decide on March 6, the same date as the presidential preference primary, whether to allow Sunday retail alcohol sales and whether to fund another one-percent sales tax for education infrastructure in Richmond County. The deadline to register to vote on March 6 is Feb. 6.

Voters in heavily-Democratic Augusta-Richmond will decide many races in the July 31 general primary, with candidates rarely opting to run as Republicans. On the July 31 primary ballot will be Democratic and Republican options for sheriff, coroner and tax commissioner. Sheriff Ronnie Strength has not indicated whether he’ll run again, but challenger Richard Roundtree has declared his intent to run for sheriff.

Also on the general primary ballot will be Augusta’s legislative delegation, with seats currently held by Sens. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, and Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, Augusta Democratic state Reps. Wayne Howard, Gloria Frazier and Quincy Murphy and Republican Rep. Barbara Sims all coming open next year.

New laws also place judicial races on the July 31 ballot, and Augusta has five superior court judgeships and two magistrate posts coming open next year.

July 31 also is when voters will decide whether to fund a regional 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects, unless the legislature when it convenes in January moves the date of that election to November.

And voters may have yet another referendum to decide Nov. 6 as they pick a president. The Augusta Commission voted last year to place a question about construction of a new baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets on the November ballot. Georgia does not allow non-binding ballot questions to be placed on the general election ballot, so if a question about a new stadium is used, it will be determinative.

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