A first-time observer’s thoughts on Tuesday’s primary.
A breath of fresh air
The first candidate I talked to when I arrived at the gathering hosted by the Bryan County GOP Tuesday night at Fish Tales was Pauline Phifer. (Stopping by the venue should not be misconstrued in any way, it was simply a convenient way to talk to as many candidates as possible in one place as election returns came in.)
Dennis Seger, the incumbent school board member from District 2 who Phifer was challenging, soon came up to Phifer to tell her that early voting results showed him leading 76-30. He told her that no matter win or lose he hoped she would stay involved, attend board meetings and provide input.
Seger later told me the two ate dinner together at a candidate forum in Pembroke and he respected the fact she called him personally to tell him she was going to run. Seger would go on to retain his seat by a 425-117 margin.
“We need more of this in politics,” Bryan County News Editor Jason Wermers emailed me when he saw that in my election wrap-up story. “What a breath of class, civility and fresh air.”
Hitting the streets
Covering politics in Michigan for several years — and having served one term as a county commissioner during a brief foray into state and local politics — I’d never seen candidates standing on the side of the road holding signs and waiving to passing motorists. Most unique in that approach has to be Tim Gaylor, whose life-size cutout named “Robo Tim” waived to passersby from the back of his truck in several locations. Carter Infinger, who defeated Gaylor for the commissioners chairman seat, was the only candidate I noticed who was back out there Wednesday morning, holding up a large “Thank You” sign and waiving to motorists. If any other candidates did this who I did not see, my apologies.
Speaking of Gaylor, his campaign Facebook page indicates that he will maintain the site and post the monthly agenda for county board meetings to ensure transparency. Drew Humphreys, who finished behind Karen Krupp and Audrey Singleton in the race for school board vice chair, also appears to be staying active in the campaign as Krupp and Singleton head toward a July 26 run-off. His campaign Facebook page contains a resounding endorsement of Krupp.
Some people keep asking when the date will be set. It’s July 26. If you don’t believe me, you can ask the secretary of state: http://sos.ga.gov/index.php/elections/2016_election_dates.
Early voting vs. day-of voting
While incumbent Sheriff Clyde Smith defeated challenger Cleve White 2,169 to 1,526 votes overall, Smith only topped White by one vote — 1,107-1,106 — at the polls on Tuesday. The big difference was in early and absentee voting. White told me he is already thinking of running again in four years and that he didn’t spend as much time campaigning in south Bryan as he should have.
Just seven votes separate second and third place in the solicitor general primary. Andrew Johnson is at 1,111 and Chet Gregg is at 1,104. One of them will face Don Montgomery in the run-off on July 26 (yes, July 26, really). The difference between Johnson and Gregg is less than one-quarter of 1 percent. I’m surprised Georgia law does not have a mechanism in place for an automatic recount for such a small margin. The votes will not be finalized until Friday because absentee military ballots can be accepted until then. Gregg is a former Army JAG, spent 10 months in Iraq in 2003 and is a VFW member. It remains to be seen if the military absentee voting swings in his favor, but he did tell me he will request a recount if the vote differences remain close Friday.
A little more than 4,000 ballots cast out of 18,266 registered voters in the county — just 22.2 percent. Early voting ran 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays May 2 to May 20. That’s 15 days at nine hours per day (135 hours), plus six more hours of early voting on Saturday, May 14 and 12 hours on Election Day. This whole process is coming around again for the July 26 run-off, with early voting from July 5 to July 20.
You can even request an absentee ballot.