Maybe Bryan County’s estimated 20,000 registered voters are waiting until the last minute. Maybe they haven’t made their minds up yet. Maybe it’s just too early.
Whatever the case, turnout for early voting for the May 20 primaries has been lighter than light. It’s been, well, almost infinitesimal.
Only 297 people had cast ballots through Thursday during the early voting period that began April 28, according to Chief Registrar Warren Miller.
“It is lighter than I thought it was going to be,” he said.
Voters can vote from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at either the voting registrar’s office at the courthouse in Pembroke or at the South Bryan Administrative Complex off Highway 144. Early voting continues at the same locations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday next week.
Additionally, voters can request absentee ballots through the registrar’s office if they can’t make it to the polls. But Miller suggested those planning to vote by absentee ballot do so earlier rather than later — May 20 will be here sooner than one thinks.
He also noted that turnout during the 2010 midterm elections was about 20 percent. And that was considered light.
This year’s primary is ahead of its time, in a sense. A federal judge ordered the primaries bumped from July to May to give candidates involved in runoffs more time to campaign.
There’s only one contested local race — that for the County Commission District 5 seat where incumbent Jimmy Henderson is running against Rick Gardner, the man he unseated four years ago.
Other local seats up for grabs feature candidates who are running unopposed in the Republican primary. They include District 4 Commissioner Carter Infinger and District 2 Commissioner Wade Price.
Board of Education Chairman Eddie Warren, District 4 member Marianne Smith and District 5 member David Schwartz are also unopposed.
Federal, state races
While there’s only one local race, there are a handful of important contests. Longtime U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, is vying for retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat, which has led to a deluge of Republicans and a handful of Democrats hoping to replace Kingston.
On the GOP side there are current state Sen. Buddy Carter, a pharmacist; retired Army ranger and surgeon Dr. Bob Johnson; former President Ronald Reagan staffer Darwin Carter of Waycross; former state Sen. Jeff Chapman of Brunswick; and ex-congressional aide and businessman John McCallum of St. Simon’s Island.
Democrats hoping to win their party’s nomination include Richmond Hill Realtor and businesswoman Amy Tavio, who is running against two candidates from Savannah: Brian Reese, a UPS manager and minister; and Marc Smith, a retired police officer, former teacher and a Navy veteran.
The other federal race is that to replace Chambliss, who spent two terms as senator after a long career in the House that began in 1994.
In addition to Kingston, who has been in the House since 1992, there are a number of high-profile Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat.
Among them are current U.S. congressmen Phil Broun and Phil Gingrey and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. Also running as Republicans are attorney Art Gardner; minister Derrick Grayson, a Navy veteran; and businessman David Perdue, a cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Democrats in the hunt for Chambliss’ seat are Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Samm Nunn; former state Sen. Steen Miles, a retired TV news reporter; Branko “Dr. Rad” Radulovacki, a psychiatrist; and retired Army NCO and firefighter Todd Robinson.
Running as a Libertarian is former Flowery Branch councilwoman Amanda Swafford, a paralegal who won’t be on either ballot.
State House, Senate
There are four races for the General Assembly, which will impact Bryan County.
Those include the race for the District 1 Senate seat being vacated by Buddy Carter in his bid for the U.S. House. Running unopposed is state Rep. Ben Watson, a current member of the Georgia House.
Running for Watson’s District 166 seat — which includes a portion of South Bryan along the coast — are Jesse Petrea and Martin Sullvan.
Petrea is a CEO, vice president and co-owner of Altrus Assistant Living and officer and co-owner of Coastal Home Care Inc.
Sullian is an insurance salesman with Sapelo Insurance of Savannah and has worked as a senior policy advisor to Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.
No Democrats filed for District 166.
Running unopposed for his long-held District 164 seat is Republican state Rep. Ron Stephens, a Garden City pharmacist whose district includes much of South Bryan.
Also unopposed is Republican State Rep. Jan Tankersly of Bulloch County. Her district, District 160, includes North Bryan.
The biggest election in state circles is that for governor. Incumbent Nathan Deal, a Republican, is seeking a second term but is facing a challenge within his own party from State School Superintendent John Barge, and Dalton Mayor David Pennington, a businessman.
Democrat Jason Carter, an attorney, state senator and grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, is running unopposed in his primary in a bid for governor.
Libertarian Andrew Hunt will be on the ballot in November.
Other state constitutional offices up for grabs in 2014 include that of lieutenant governor; secretary of state; attorney general, state agricultural commissioner; state insurance commissioner, state labor commissioner and state school superintendent. With few exceptions, most candidates for these posts are running unopposed.
The big exception is the race to replace Barge as state superintendent of schools. Both parties are offering several candidates in those races.