By Joel Hall
Shegale Ralph, a candidate for the Clayton County District 3 Commissioner's seat, announced this week that she will host a kick-off fundraiser for her 2008 campaign this weekend.
Ralph said the event, which will take place Saturday from 3-5 p.m., at Boston's Restaurant at 2180 Mt. Zion Parkway in Morrow, will get the ball rolling on her fund-raising efforts, as well as dispel any rumors that she is not going to run.
"My primary concern with the fund-raiser is to let the citizens of Clayton County know that I am running, so I start doing the work and start listening to their concerns," she said.
The candidate said she had not set an exact, fund-raising goal, but added, "In Clayton County, in order to run a safe campaign, you need about $8,000."
She said that, because of the need to purchase billboards or automated phone-calling services, a campaign budget could run anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 -- or as much as $200,000 for a highly contested seat like Chairman of the Clayton County Commission.
"All that is going to have to happen for the chair's race, so I am glad I am not in that one," said Ralph. "[At the fund-raiser,] we're going to have a good time and talk about what's happening in the county."
Ralph said she wanted "to be clear that we're doing things differently" and defined her campaign as a "departure" from the current leadership in the county. She said some members of that leadership have let personal issues get in the way of governance.
"Clayton County has suffered greatly because of the lack of diplomacy of the leadership," she said. "I want them to know that, if they are supporting me, we are moving into a new level of leadership. We are going to be moving forward aggressively. Anything else, we don't have time for.
"We believed that there would be a change, when we voted [in 2004]," she said. "We've gotten change, but we've gotten a situation where nothing gets done because of personal issues. We need to sit down, find a solution, and get the work done."
Of the people who have expressed their intention of accepting campaign funds for the District 3 race so far, none is Republican. As long as there is no Republican opposition, Ralph said the race could be decided in the July 2008 primary.
"We're trying to win it out in the primary, so we don't have to go out to November at all," she said.
Wole Ralph, Shegale Ralph's estranged husband, currently holds the District 3 seat on the commission. He said that, while he intends to seek re-election in 2008, his attention is not yet focused on campaigning, but on current operations of the county, including discussions of a possible vote by residents on a special local option sales tax to pay for several county needs.
"I'm focused on the SPLOST," he said. "Having the SPLOST referendum is the most critical thing."
He said a SLOST referendum would have a critical impact on public safety in the county, and that the money collected could help pay for: repairs to the county's north and south police precincts; the addition of three new precincts; a new fire station; a new senior center in the Panhandle; a new Juvenile Justice Center, and a Public Safety Digital Network, which would use satellite tracking to determine the closest responders to the scene of any emergency.
"In order to make sure that we don't have a gap in collection, a vote has to take place on Feb. 5," he said. "That's where my attention is."
Angela Redding, a management analyst for the City of Forest Park, who is also running for the District 3 seat, could not be reached for comment.