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Candidate Baker declines to debate Bodkin
BOE special election held to fill three-month term

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Mary Baker says Clayton County voters already know her, and they proved it by selecting her over six other candidates in the July 15 primary election.

That is why she e-mailed Marcela Bodkin, who is challenging her in a Sept. 16 special election for the District 6 Board of Education seat, and said she would not participate in a debate.

"I believe the results of the primary show I reached a lot of people, and that my message had some resonance with them," Baker said in a telephone interview.

Baker argued that the voters have already made a decision about having her as their representative. She was the top vote-getter in the July 15 Democratic primary, and won the Aug. 5 runoff, to determine who will serve a full, four-year term on the school board, beginning Jan. 1, 2009.

The special election is necessary because former board chairman Eddie White resigned with three and a half months left in his term. The winner will take office immediately.

Bodkin called for a debate Thursday, saying "our constituents need to evaluate which one of us would be the most suitable person for the position."

Baker disagreed, saying a debate would be "untimely, and logistically and economically unwise." She said she has been campaigning for a four-year term since May. In an e-mail, she told Bodkin the voters already know about her background and why she wants to be on the school board.

"I have been connecting with the constituents of the district for some time," wrote Baker. "I openly and honestly have made myself available to the constituents, news media, homeowner associations and special interest groups, answering questions and addressing concerns."

Baker also told Bodkin she wanted to focus her energies on the school system's accreditation crisis. Officials from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) will announce by Aug. 29, whether the district will lose its accreditation.

Bodkin accused Baker of not caring whether the voters of District 6 knew her and what she stands for.

"I think the voters will say, 'If you cannot entertain my problems, how do I know you have a vested interest in solving my problems," Bodkin said.

Baker has no Republican opposition in the November general election, but Bodkin is suing the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration to get on that ballot as an independent candidate.

The only people who can vote in the special election are those who normally cast ballots at the voting precincts located at Lee Street, Arnold, Brown and Jackson elementary schools; M.D. Roberts Middle School; Mount Zion High School; First Presbyterian Church of Jonesboro, and St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church.

Advance voting will take place Sept. 8-12, at the Board of Elections and Registration office, located at 121 S. McDonough Street, Jonesboro.