By Curt Yeomans
Three local residents are seeking to pull off upsets in the Nov. 2 General Election, as write-in candidates, in races that seemed to be finished after the primaries three months ago.
In the State Senate District 44 race, substitute teacher and consultant, Carlotta Harrell, is waging a campaign to keep former State Sen. Gail Davenport, a Democrat, from regaining her old seat.
The current occupant of that seat, Sen. Gail Buckner (D-Morrow), is challenging former Clayton County Board of Education Member Sandra Scott, a Democrat, for the State House of Representatives, District 76, seat. Buckner is also a write-in candidate.
In the race for Clayton County Board of Education, in District 8, Certified Nursing Assistant Michelle Lakes is waging a write-in candidacy against School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson, a Democrat. There are no Republicans running in any of the three races.
All three write-in candidates have been certified by the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration, according to a list of certified candidates provided by the county's elections office.
Because Harrell, Buckner, and Lakes are running as write-in candidates, voters who want to support them, will have to take an extra step to vote for those individuals. "On the touch screen voting machines, you have to select 'Write-in,' and then a keyboard will show up on the screen, and you will have to type in the individual's name," said Clayton County Elections and Registration Director Annie Bright. "You have to spell the name as close to correct, as possible. If you're voting by paper ballot, all you have to do is write in the person's name, in a space provided."
Harrell and Buckner said they are mounting their campaigns because they were not satisfied with the people who won the primary elections earlier this year. Senate District 44 includes parts of Clayton and Henry counties, while House District 76 lies solely in Clayton County.
Harrell, 49, a resident of Ellenwood, said she felt Davenport did little to advance the interests of Senate District 44 when she held that seat from 2006, to 2008. Harrell said she would not have run as a write-in candidate, if Davenport had been defeated by either State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), or another candidate, Dawn Randolph, during the primary in July.
"If either one of them had won, I would not be running as a write-in candidate, but after Gail Davenport won, I, as a citizen, and voter, in Senate District 44, just could not see her representing this district very well," Harrell said. "The type of representation we had the first time she was in office, well, we really didn't have representation when she was in office before."
Buckner, 60, a resident of Morrow, cited Sandra Scott's past as a member of the Clayton County Board of Education, from 2007 to 2008, as a problem. In 2007, Scott was accused of using her position as a school board member to have her son's football coach at Morrow High School fired, because she allegedly felt he did not do enough to help her son get a college football scholarship offer.
Scott vehemently denied the allegations were true, at the time, but they helped lead to a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) investigation of the school system, which ultimately led to the district's losing its accreditation. The accreditation has since been restored, but on a probationary basis.
Gov. Sonny Perdue removed Scott from office in August 2008, on the recommendation of a state administrative law judge.
"I am running as a write-in candidate because I share the same concerns that many people in the district have about Sandra Scott," Buckner said. "We would not have credible representation at the state capitol, if she is elected."
Davenport and Scott could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Buckner said she previously held the House of Representatives, District 76 seat, from 1990, to 2006, and has served as the Senate, District 44, representative since 2008. She has mounted two unsuccessful bids for the office of secretary of state -- in 2006, and earlier this year.
Lakes, 42, a resident of Conley, said she had personal reasons for mounting a write-in campaign against the school board's chairperson. She said her youngest daughter, a fourth-grader at Anderson Elementary School, was one of the 4,600 students who were affected by the school system's decision to stop providing transportation to students who live within a mile and a half of their schools.
"I feel like there is a lot that needs to change, and nothing's being done to make it better," she said.
Alieka Anderson declined to comment directly on Lakes' write-in candidacy, other than saying, "I am there for the children, and my focus is on making sure they get the best education possible."
Lakes does have ties to Clayton County School Board Member Jessie Goree, who often sides against Anderson in school board votes. Lakes said her daughter was Krystal Williams, who died in 2005. Goree serves on the Board of Directors for a foundation named after Williams.
Buckner, Harrell and Lakes all cited education as an issue they want to tackle. Harrell said Georgia needs to look at states that do well in education, and copy what they are doing. Buckner said the state should do whatever it takes to ensure children receive a world-class education. Lakes did not offer specifics on how education in the county could be improved.
Buckner and Harrell also said they wanted to bring more jobs to the Southern Crescent. They added that legislators are needed, who are willing to fight to bring jobs closer to local residents.
"I would like to see a state call center opened in Clayton County," Buckner said. "We have business people here in Clayton County who know how to run a call center."
Harrell said she also would like to work with local, and state leaders to get a commuter rail system in place, that would connect Atlanta with Macon.
"Transportation is not about building roads," she said. "We need a commuter rail ... We could put people to work, if we get everybody to agree in terms of making high-speed rail a reality."
After Davenport won the Democratic primary, in July, she said she ran on a platform of "creating job opportunities, education, transportation, [and] crime prevention."