By Joel Hall
Potential Democratic and Republican candidates for the July 15 general primary will register themselves with their respective parties from now until Friday.
Non-partisan candidates in the July 15 special election to fill the vacant school board seats in District 4 and District 8 -- once occupied by Ericka Davis and Norreese Haynes -- will also qualify this week.
Qualifying for the Clayton County Republican Party will take place at the Lee Headquarters Library, located at 865 Battle Creek Road in Jonesboro. Registration will take place today from 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m., to 2 p.m., Thursday from 12-6:30 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m., to noon.
The Clayton County Democratic Party will qualify in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the Historic Clayton County Courthouse, located at 121 South McDonough Street in Jonesboro. Qualifying times will be today through Thursday, 9 a.m., to 5 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m., to noon.
Non-partisan qualifying for the District 4 and District 8 school board seats will take place in the Elections and Registration Office of the Historic Clayton County Courthouse today through Thursday, from 9 a.m., to 4:30 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m., to noon.
The available elected positions and associated qualifying fees are as follows: State Court judges ($4,381.86), Probate Court judge ($2,750.48), Magistrate Court judge ($2,750.48), Solicitor General ($3,195.54), Tax Commissioner ($2,750.48), Sheriff ($2,842.77), Clerk of Superior Court ($2,750.48), Board of Commissioners Chairman ($3,940.41), County Commissioners ($654.69), School Board ($360), and Surveyor ($35).
Nancy Rahnert, treasurer of the Clayton County Republican Party, said the county has voted overwhelmingly Democratic for the last several years. However, she wants to strengthen the Republican party this year with more "grassroots" campaigning.
"There are a lot of Republicans in the area," said Rahnert. "We just need to get them organized." Rahnert said the party is interested in helping create more local TARS (teenage Republican) and college Republican groups, as well as hosting informal gatherings at local restaurants to allow the public to get to know the candidates.
"They are going to have to be very visible," said Rahnert. "They are going to have to be out there, walking the neighborhoods, answering the questions ... "
Clayton County Democratic Party Chairman Kevin Thomas said he is aware of the lead Democrats have had in the county recently, but said Democratic candidates should not be lulled into a false sense of security.
"I'm sure for every good Republican, there is definitely a good Democrat to vote for in Clayton County." However, Thomas said, "I think it's always important to be aggressive in getting our candidates out there."
He said in this election -- with the public schools' accreditation on the line -- it is important for the candidates to focus on the issues, rather than party differences. "We have some serious issues at hand that need to be dealt with in Clayton County, and they cut deeper than being a Democrat or Republican," said Thomas. He said starting next week, the party intends to host a series of weekly candidate forums, televised on Comcast Channel 23, to give the public a chance to scrutinize the candidates.
Thomas said he would also like to engage the local Republican party in debates, because "in recent years, that hasn't been done. "We want the people to really understand the picture that they see out there when they see those billboards," he said.