As he seeks election Tuesday to a second term, Augusta Commission member Bill Fennoy readily plugs the new stormwater utility fee as a virtual panacea for many of District 1’s ills.
At $6.40 a month for most households, the fee approved by Fennoy and other commissioners last year is expected to fund maintenance crews and supervisors assigned to cut, clean and repair rights of way and underlying drainage structures in each of nine drainage basins.
It is also unpopular with many large ratepayers such as churches, and could prove to be a key in determining whether he is re-elected to represent Augusta’s second-largest, most-diverse and most flood-prone commission district.
The District 1 contest between Fennoy and challengers Michael Thurman and Denice Triana is one of three Augusta Commission races that appear at the tail end of a long Tuesday ballot. Voters can choose a Democratic, Republican or nonpartisan version, which includes the commission races, multiple judgeships and Richmond County marshal.
Voters in Augusta Commission District 5 will choose between retired educator and electrician Andrew Jefferson and businessman Kelby Walker for the post.
Voters in Augusta Commission Super District 9 – which comprises commission districts 1, 2, 4 and 5 – will choose between incumbent pastor Marion Williams and Air Force retiree Ronnie Battle.
“We have more local contested races and more candidates than we have ever had in my career,” said Lynn Bailey, executive director for Richmond County Board of Elections.
Three weeks of advance voting ended Friday with nearly 6,000, about 6 percent of registered voters, casting early ballots, according to the elections office.
Bailey said turnout could easily top 40 percent on Tuesday.
The choice of a ballot proves challenging for many voters unsure which one includes the candidates they want to support. Others are reluctant to pick Democrat or Republican, Bailey said.
The state has moved nonpartisan races from November to May over the past few years, including state and Superior Court judgeships and Augusta Commission elections.
In heavily partisan districts, such as several state House and Senate races, the Tuesday primary will likely decide the winner.
The heated contest for House District 123 between Wright McLeod, Mark Newton and Lori Greenhill, for instance, appears on the Republican primary ballot while the race for Richmond County clerk of court between Ernest Thomas and Hattie Holmes-Sullivan appears on the Democratic primary ballot.
Richmond County has some 320 poll workers assigned to all polling locations for regular voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Voters must use their “home precinct” and not the advance voting locations available to all during early voting, Bailey said.
In addition to state House and Senate, and 12th Congressional District races, Columbia County voters will cast ballots on three local offices: coroner between incumbent Vernon Collins and Thomas King; District 1 school board between David Alalof and Eric Lewkowiez; and Commission District 2 between incumbent James E. “Trey” Allen and Lee Benedict.