Clayton candidates race to qualify

By Billy Corriher

Clayton County's 2004 election season will kick into high gear next week as candidates qualify for the July 20 general primaries and the nonpartisan contest for county sheriff. And with the primary only three months away, campaigning will start as soon as candidates qualify.

Clarence Cox, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said he's expecting a lot of candidates to sign up for the general primaries.

"It appears this is going to be a very busy election season," he said. "I've had indications from several people that are going to run, and there are some candidates who are already campaigning."

Cox said he ordered 90 information packets for candidates to the county's 20 open offices, but he's not sure if that will be enough.

"It's been overwhelming," he said. "It seems that politics is alive and well in Clayton County."

Democratic candidates for county offices will qualify at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro. Qualifying will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to noon on Friday in room 204 of the courthouse.

The local Republican Party is expected to hold its qualifying session next week at the ceremonial courtroom on the second floor of the Historical Courthouse in Jonesboro. Representatives of the local Republican Party could not be reached on Wednesday.

Independents and third-party candidates can file a notice of candidacy or have his or her name placed on the November ballot from June 28 to July 2 at noon at the county board of elections and registration.

Clayton County Libertarian Ken Parmalee, who is running for the state House of Representatives, said the local party has to gather a required number of signatures to have their names included on the ballot.

To get Libertarian candidate Mark Mosley on the ballot for chairman of the county commissioners for instance, Parmalee said the party must collect 5,000 signatures.

The requirements for state House and Senate are lower this year since time for collecting signatures was delayed because of the state legislature's redistricting battles.

"The Secretary of State decided to lower the required amount," he said, "but we don't have the final numbers yet."

Any county employees who are filing to run for office are still not sure if the county will allow them to campaign.

It seems that the fight over a county policy that requires employees to request a leave of absence from the board of commissioners will not be over before qualifying.

County Attorney Don Comer said the county has asked the Justice Department to clear the policy, as required under the Voting Rights Act.

Comer said that until the county hears from the department, employees who want to qualify won't be affected.

"There's no action (by the board of commissioners) on anything until the Justice Department rules on the law," he said.

Anyone in Clayton County who decides to run for a county office has to pay qualifying fees set by the county board of commissioners. This year, it will cost $3,178 to run for chairman of the board of commissioners. Anyone wanting to run for commissioner will have to pay $508.

Candidates for Magistrate Court Chief Judge and Probate Court Judge will fork over $2,245 this year. State Court Judge candidates are required to pay the county $3,894, and those running for Clerk of Superior Court must pay $1,762.

Sheriff candidates will have to pay $2,301 this year.

The county requires a $2,186 fee to run for tax commissioner and a fee of $2,555 to run for solicitor.

The fee for school board members is relatively cheap, only $216. The lowest fee of $35 is reserved for candidates for county surveyor.

Candidates for in the non-partisan races for state court judge can qualify in the county office of the board of elections and registration in the Historical Courthouse on McDonough Street in Jonesboro.

Candidates can come by between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday or 9 a.m. and noon on Friday. For more information, call the board of elections and registration at (770) 477-3370.

Qualifying for state-level candidates will be held next week at the state Capitol in Atlanta. Republicans and Democrats will hold qualifying from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to noon on Friday. Call the secretary of state's elections division at (404) 656-2871 for more information.