After the issue resurfaced in legislation for a second consecutive year, Augusta Commission member Jerry Brigham wants a resolution in favor of keeping commission races nonpartisan.
“That was the way it was originally, and I think it’s the best thing to continue forward,” said Brigham, who has requested the resolution go before the commission at today’s meeting.
The city’s charter established Augusta’s mayor and commission races as nonpartisan, meaning candidates don’t register their party affiliation when they run for office.
Swapping to partisan races has been a favorite topic of several area Democratic legislators, however.
Last year, Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, introduced a bill to make commission races partisan. This year, he introduced a bill seeking a referendum to go before voters on the question of making the elections partisan.
Both bills have the support of the Augusta legislative delegation’s Democratic members but have little chance of passage without support of Augusta’s Republican legislators in the GOP-dominated General Assembly.
Brigham said he believes he has the six commission votes needed to get the local resolution passed, although it would not restrict the General Assembly, he said.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver is an advocate for keeping the races nonpartisan and has written an article called “Moving Beyond Partisan Politics” for the Georgia Municipal Association to cite his reasoning.
Richmond County Democratic Party Chairman Lowell Greenbaum has advocated for partisan commission elections as a way to strengthen the party, and 10th District Republican Party Chairman Dave Barbee has said the move would likely increase voter turnout during the primaries.
Should commission races become partisan, the federal Hatch Act would preclude members of the military and federal employees such as Commissioner Alvin Mason from seeking a partisan commission seat or the mayor’s post.
Brigham’s resolution is the second-to-last item on a lengthy agenda going before the commission today. The meeting starts at 5 p.m.