The special election to fill the Georgia House District 127 seat has attracted significant campaign cash, with most of it going to former Glenn Hills athletic standout Brian Prince.
Prince, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has raised nearly four times as much as his nearest competitor, with $34,936 in the five weeks since qualifying began for the seat left open with the August death of Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta.
A married father of four, Prince received the maximum $1,000 donation from 10 people.
“As a freshman coming in, I’ll do a lot of listening, try to meet people and figure out who the power players are,” Prince, 49, said of the year left in Murphy’s term he’ll serve if he wins the Tuesday election. “I’m coming there to work with everybody, in particular those who are making decisions, who are in power.”
Centralized power is missing from local government, and Prince said he was willing to work at the state level to increase the authority of Augusta’s mayor, whose position is limited by existing laws to that of a spokesman and figurehead.
“Right now our mayor has a lot of responsibility, but he doesn’t have authority,” Prince said. “I believe we need to have a strong mayor. The position needs the power to go with it.”
With Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, stepping down to run for the mayor’s seat and with Murphy’s death, the Augusta delegation will lose clout in Atlanta, he said. “It would be my goal to try to gain some of that influence back,” Prince said.
Prince and fellow House hopeful Diane Evans said they were late filing the campaign financial report because they thought they were due last Friday, the due date for general election candidates, instead of the Oct. 28 deadline for special elections.
The only candidate to file her campaign finance report and personal financial disclosure form on time was Dianne Murphy, widow of the late state representative.
“That’s the way I handle my business,” Murphy said. “As part of a campaign, that’s important. I don’t take those things lightly.”
Murphy, who has raised $7,768, said running for her late husband’s seat both pains and soothes her as she campaigns door to door.
“It’s a combination of both. There are those moments, but you move forward. I know that’s what my husband would want me to do. I’m just staying prayed up and moving forward. It’s a calling that’s been put on me, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
The family service facilitator at Jenkins-White Elementary said she’ll take a leave of absence from her job and focus on economic growth and improving public education if elected.
“That’s one of my strong pushes, to bring back funding to our local school systems so we can continue to get the best education for our students… Parental involvement is No. 1, but we need to bring the paraprofessionals back to help our teachers in the classroom,” said Murphy, 61.
Murphy said not to overlook her “passion” for all people.
“I love people,” she said. “I love them from all walks of life; it does not matter where you’re from. I’m looking forward to working with the people of Richmond County, to continue the service to the people of Richmond County.”
Diane Evans, the only candidate from Jefferson County, is a retired educator who now pastors at Sylvania Baptist church.
House District 127 includes Louisville, Wrens, Stapleton and Avera in Jefferson County – as well as Blythe, Fort Gordon and parts of west and southwest Augusta in Richmond.
A longtime state Democratic party activist, Evans was upset to learn she’d missed the deadline for filing her campaign financial report, which showed she raised $7,310 when she filed it Friday.
“I believe I’m giving it 100 percent, as much as I can,” Evans, 52, said. “I’m having a wonderful time meeting people and getting my name out there and visiting places. I’m just enjoying it.”
Advance voting turnout has been low for the special election, with fewer than 2 percent of the district’s 26,871 registered voters casting ballots early.
If elected, “we’re going to have to go across the aisle, we know that,” Evans said. “All of us are talking about the economy and getting the resources to have good economic development and attract more businesses to this area, whether that’s Richmond County or Jefferson County.”
Since Republicans now dominate the Georgia General Assembly, Augusta’s majority-Democrat delegation has lost power. Republicans have succeeded in adding two Republican state senators – Jesse Stone and Bill Jackson – to Augusta’s delegation through redistricting.
Regardless of party, Evans said “the one thing we have in common is the people we’ll all represent, and their needs… How can we network, how can we utilize those programs, those incentives that can help a business come here? We have a common denominator, that would be the people we represent.”