Aitken, Fennoy headed to runoff for District 1 commission

 

In a repeat of 2009, Augusta Commission member Matt Aitken and Bill Fennoy are headed into a Dec. 4 runoff for the District 1 commission seat.

Aitken, the first white commissioner to represent the majority-black District 1, received 3,310 votes, or 39.74 percent, to Fennoy’s 2,491 votes, or 29.91 percent.

“We did extremely well, especially with it being a presidential election,” said Aitken, a chemical plant worker, at a victory party as vote totals confirmed the runoff. “I’m very excited about the confidence the voters in District 1 had in me.”

Fennoy, a retired health educator who watched election results come in at a family member’s home, said the numbers confirmed that voters wanted more.

“Sixty percent of the voters in District 1 are not satisfied with leadership and are looking for a change,” Fennoy said.

The four-way race motivated a 72.81 percent turnout, and each candidate received at least 1,200 votes.

Third-place finisher Denice Traina, a physical therapist and neighborhood
activist, received 1,293 votes, or 15.52
percent.

Stanley Hawes, the longtime president of the Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association, finished fourth with 1,235 votes, or 14.83 percent.

Traina, who gathered with family members at her Harrisburg home to watch results come in, said she had “absolutely no regrets” about her first attempt at elected office.

“I’ve gotten a greater appreciation of the diversity of District 1” and learned that many residents are concerned about gridlock” on the commission that prevents progress, she said.

Hawes, who was endorsed by the Augusta Firefighters Association, said he enjoyed helping elderly voters get to the polls Tuesday.

The election moves to a runoff because none of the four candidates received more than 50 percent of votes, the majority needed to win outright.

Aitken and Fennoy met in a similar runoff in 2009 after a four-way contest that included Harrisburg activist Butch Palmer and event planner JoRae Jenkins.

Aitken led in the 2009 election with 40 percent of the votes to Fennoy’s 32 percent in a race that drew only 19 percent of District 1 voters to the polls.

Aitken ran this year on a similar platform to 2009 – facilitating growth in the district – while Fennoy raised questions about why the growth and progress seemed to exclude many areas.

Aitken went into Tuesday’s election with $14,630 – five times as much as Fennoy.

Some observers think District 1, which includes the Harrisburg, Laney-Walker, Bethlehem, east Augusta, Olde Town and downtown communities, should be represented by a black commissioner to ensure a 5-5 split on the commission.

Fennoy, who is black, said restoring the balance is important.

“I think it will cause the commission to have to come together and discuss issues as a group,” he said.

Had there been a racially balanced commission, several controversial issues – including the outsourcing of Augusta Public Transit, a government restructuring plan, approval of a new personnel manual and a decision allowing the commission to continue to meet in the Lee Beard Commission Chamber rather than at the new courthouse – might not have passed in the past three years.

Though Aitken and Fennoy head into a runoff, three other candidates won commission posts outright Tuesday, including District 3 candidate Mary Fair Davis, who got 65.95 percent of votes over second-place finisher Ed Enoch’s 24 percent; District 7 candidate Donnie Smith, who received 55.33 percent of votes over Ken
Echols’ 44.67 percent; and former District 2 Commissioner Marion Williams, who was elected to represent Super District 9, received 55.32 percent of votes over Harold Jones, who received 44.68 percent.

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