Augusta Commissioner Matt Aitken has one less opponent to worry about Nov. 6 with Harrisburg activist Lori Davis’ announcement Monday that she is not seeking the District 1 seat.
Davis, who registered a campaign and announced plans to seek the seat in February, said in a statement Monday that the “politics of racial polarization” and District 1’s vote on the new transportation sales tax contributed to her decision.
A highly critical commentator on an online blog and during several presentations to the Augusta Commission this year, Davis, who is white, said she encountered racial politics at a recent candidates’ forum.
“Unfortunately, the politics of racial division have become the default mode for certain candidates and their political allies,” she said, declining to elaborate.
Davis, who lost a bid for mayor two years ago, also cited District 1’s overwhelming support for the new Transportation Investment Act as a reason not to run. Every precinct in District 1 favored the new tax, helping make the Augusta area one of the three Georgia regions to approve it. There were 12 regions voting on the measure.
“This vote proved to me that it will take more than one political campaign to loosen the grip of the same old political machines that heavily promoted this tax, with a familiar campaign of deceit and misinformation,” she said.
Aitken, who is white, surprised many local observers when he won a 2009 runoff against Bill Fennoy in a district that was more than 65 percent black. His election broke a long-standing 5-5 racial divide on the commission. After qualifying to seek a second term Monday, Aitken said he didn’t share Davis’ concerns about racial politics.
“I’ve grown more diverse than when I first was elected,” he said. “She has to do what’s best for her and her family at this time. I certainly understand that and respect that.”
Also qualifying for the District 1 seat Monday were Fennoy, a former Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority board member; Denice Traina, who has campaigned on improving Augusta Public Transit; and Thelonious Jones.
Also Monday, three candidates entered the race to replace Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, who cannot seek another term in District 3. They were Mary Davis, a former campaign manager for Mayor Deke Copenhaver; Coliseum Authority attorney Ed Enoch; and Cleveland O’Steen, an educator and Michigan native who ran against Bowles in 2009.
Donnie Smith and Ken Echols qualified in the race to replace District 7 Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who also is term-limited.
“Our district and our community is prepared for new leadership,” said Smith, a Georgia State Patrol lieutenant. “I don’t have any agenda from previous service.”
Echols said his experience as a school board member and being “retired and able to devote myself fully” to the commission put him above the competition. “Attendance is critical,” he said.
Bill Lockett was the only candidate to qualify for his District 5 commission seat Monday. Attorney Harold Jones and former District 2 Commissioner Marion Williams qualified to seek the Super District 9 seat. Commissioner J.R. Hatney is not eligible for another term.
Qualifying continues at the Richmond County Board of Elections office until noon Wednesday.