Candidates raising funds

By Justin Reedy

A pair of candidates seeking two of Clayton County's highest political offices in next year's election have raised thousands of dollars more for their campaigns than the incumbents they could challenge.

Eldrin Bell, a former chief of the Atlanta Police Department who now runs a consulting firm in Jonesboro, has raised nearly $50,000 in his bid for chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, according to campaign contribution reports filed with the Clayton County Probate Court.

Crandle Bray, the sitting commission chairman, hasn't ruled out running for a fourth term but says he never raises money in an off election year. Bray has $7,913.13 in campaign funds left on hand from a previous election, but received no contributions between January 1 and June 30, according to his campaign finance report.

Meanwhile, Bell raised $49,547 during the first six months of the year. About $19,000 of Bell's contributions came from owners or employees of real estate, construction or development firms.

State Rep. Victor Hill, D-Riverdale, is running against incumbent Sheriff Stanley Tuggle in his bid for a third term as the county's elected law enforcer. Hill, a detective with the Clayton County Police Department, already has a fund-raising head start against Tuggle.

The incumbent sheriff only has $18.81 carried over from his last campaign, and hasn't raised any funds during the first half of this year. But Hill has already raised $8,335 to fund his bid for sheriff, including $800 in contributions from fellow CCPD personnel.

Hill also got contributions from several fellow state legislators, two of whom are from Clayton County n state Reps. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, and Mike Barnes, D-Hampton. Though Barnes likes Hill as a candidate, he also thinks Tuggle has done a good job as sheriff and didn't know the lawman would be seeking re-election when he donated to Hill's campaign.

"I think Victor's a good candidate and would do a good job," Barnes said. "And Stanley's done a good job. I consider him a friend, I just didn't think he was going to run."

Though some candidates are getting an early start on next year's races, others are having to scramble to get ready for the special election scheduled for this fall. Fred Zimmerman, a 50-year-old lawyer and former county magistrate judge who lives in Jonesboro, has already raised $5,350 n most of which was a donation from himself n for his campaign to become the next probate judge for Clayton County.

That judgeship opened up when long-time Probate Court Judge Eugene Lawson retired earlier this month. A special election has been scheduled for Sept. 16 to elect Lawson's successor, who will serve until Dec. 31, 2004, when Lawson's term ends.

Along with Zimmerman, local attorneys Clay Davis, Pam Ferguson and Bobby Dean Simmons are vying for the spot of probate judge.

Simmons, a 49-year-old Hampton resident, is a lawyer with offices in Forest Park. Ferguson, 39, is a lawyer from Jonesboro who ran last year for superior court judge in Clayton County. Davis, a 59-year-old Jonesboro resident, is a lawyer and former state representative.