House, commission races extremely tight

By Ed Brock

Wole Ralph held a razor-thin 18 vote lead over Charles Davis in the Clayton County Board of Commissioners District 3 race Tuesday.

Meanwhile, community activist Roberta Abdul-Salaam held a 226-vote lead and apparently will face Republican Emory Wilkerson of Fayetteville for Georgia House District 74 in November.

Still out still out were absentee ballots in the nine Fayette County precincts plus any provisional and military ballots in Clayton and Fayette counties.

A handful of provisional and military votes are still also to come in and be counted in Clayton County and so it may be a few days before the final totals are known in the Ralph-Davis race.

Ralph in the runoff reversed the July 20 primary results in which Davis led the race but didn't receive 50 percent plus one vote.

With all 50 precincts and the absentee and advanced ballots counted, Ralph, 26, had earned 1,872 votes to edge out challenger 55-year-old Charles Davis who had 1,854 votes. In the July 20 election Davis had 2,660 votes and Ralph had 1,830 votes. Incumbent Commissioner Gerald Matthews chose not to run.

The number of provisional ballots, which include votes by those who were not on the official voter rolls but claimed to be registered, will not be known until today, said Clayton County Director of Elections and Registration Annie Bright. And members of the military who are serving overseas have until Friday to turn in their absentee ballots, Bright said, though she does not expect many of them to be returned.

But Ralph was already celebrating Tuesday night.

"I feel great," Ralph said. "We always believed that when the focus was off the more high-profile races the voters would respond to us in a positive way."

Ralph who owns Ralph Consulting Services said his main priority is improving the quality of life in the county. That will mean focusing on the burden the county's tremendous growth has placed on traffic, green space, education, residences and businesses, Ralph had said during his campaign.

On Tuesday Ralph said the first thing he wanted to do when he takes office is take a thorough look at the county's zoning law.

"I think there are a lot of changes that the voters are concerned with," Ralph said. "I'm looking forward to changing our focus."

As in the commission race, the run for House District 74 was extremely close.

As of Tuesday evening Abdul-Salaam, 48, had earned 1,343 votes to challenger George Jeburk's 1,117. Those numbers include Clayton County's regular, absentee and advanced votes as well as regular votes in eight precincts in Fayette County.

Fayette County's absentee ballots still had not been counted by press time.

Abdul-Salaam earned 474 of the Fayette County votes to Jeburk's 235. In Clayton County Jeberk led with 882 votes to Abdul-Salaam's 869 votes.

Abdul-Salaam earned 1,537 votes in the primary when Jeburk earned 1,477.

"I feel blessed, I feel truly blessed that the people have expressed confidence in me," Abdul-Salaam said.

Much of Abdul-Salaam's lead came from Fayette County where she maintained a solid lead in the precincts there that were included in the race. The support of the third place candidate in the initial election, John Jones of Fayetteville, probably helped a lot, Abdul-Salaam said.

"The Fayette contingency was strong," Abdul-Salaam said, crediting her entire campaign staff as well for their hard work.

Previously Abdul-Salaam said that she is very concerned about providing child advocacy in the juvenile justice system, something she personally promotes as a member of the county's FAST panel for Juvenile Court and the statewide Juvenile Justice Task Force.

Healthcare is another big issue for Abdul-Salaam.

"We've got to work on health care," Abdul-Salaam said. "We've got to work on living wages. We can't have people working two jobs to make a living wage."

But the first thing Abdul-Salaam is concentrating on is beating Wilkerson in November.

"We're not taking anything for granted," Abdul-Salaam said.

Abdul-Salaam is a former president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founder and president of Grassroots Connections Inc. and was the first chairwoman of the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration.

Clayton County Sheriff-elect Victor Hill vacated the House seat for District 74 in order to run for sheriff.

A total of 9,825 ballots were cast in Clayton County Tuesday. There are about 120,000 registered voters in the county.