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Early, absentee voting opens for runoff

By Bob Paslay and Ed Brock

Clayton County officials are still waiting for the ballots to come from the printers, but hope to open early voting today for the Aug. 10 primary run-off.

Officials said more than 100,000 people are registered to vote in Clayton County and all of them are eligible to vote in the non-partisan runoff for state judgeships.

However, only those who did not vote in July or who voted in the Democratic Primary are eligible to vote in the Democratic Party runoff.

But that doesn't mean they won't be able to vote at all, said Annie Bright, Clayton County director of elections and registration.

"The only thing is we will not have Republican ballots," Bright said. All of those races were settled in the primary.

People who voted Republican can still vote in the non-partisan race for judge in the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Vying for that position are Debra Bernes, who with 11,529 votes received 40.36 percent of Clayton County's votes in the July 20 election, and Mike Sheffield who took in 5,549 votes, or 19.43 percent.

Other runoffs are as follows:

? In School District Seat 2, incumbent chairwoman Nedra Ware is being challenged by community activist and consultant Lois Baines Hunter. Hunter, 49, led the ticket in the first race but no candidate got a majority.

Ware, who has been at the center of a year-long of controversy, has not provided any information about her views on the issues.

Hunter said she supports "quality education through developing a positive communication between teachers, parents, school board members and the community."

She said she also supports programs to "increase test scores, mentoring youths through cooperative efforts with adult, senior, local businesses and non-profit organizations." She also said she would work to implement a technical school.

? In School District Seat 5, incumbent member Barbara Wells, 55, is being challenged by pastor and teacher Wendell Rod Johnson, 38. Johnson edged out Norreese Haynes by one vote to win a runoff spot.

Wells led the field but did not receive a majority of the vote. She said it is not that the schools are not good, but she would like to see them better.

"I would like to restore Clayton County schools to the prominence it once had and restore the public's confidence in our system," she said.

Johnson said he would work with the superintendent and other board members to develop policies that "promote educational excellence."

"My goal is as a school board representative is to work for the success of all," he said.

In School District 7, Carol Kellam, who was moved into the district a short time before being appointed to the board and immediately voting to fire superintendent Dan Colwell, has not responded to questions. She trailed David Ashe in the first race that eliminated a third candidate Devadas Lynton.

In House District 74, the seat held by Victor Hill who opted to run for sheriff rather than seeking reelection, pits Roberta Abdul-Salaam against George Jeburk. Two other candidates were eliminated in the primary.

In the County Commission race for District 3, Charles Davis will face off against Wole Ralph. Three other candidates were eliminated in the primary.

In the Democratic runoff, voters will also be asked to choose a candidate for the U.S. Senate to face veteran politician Rep. Johnny Isakson in November. The contenders are freshman U.S. Rep. Denise Majette and businessman Cliff Oxford. Oxford outspent Majette but came in behind her in the primary.

Just how many people will turn out for the runoff remains a question since many of the big statewide and county races were settled in the primary. About 32,000 turned out in the primary in Clayton County. Traditionally, runoff elections draw much smaller numbers than the first race three weeks earlier.