Clayton County faces big elections in 2012

As the calendar changes, and 2011 becomes a memory, Clayton County will enter a year full of key national and county elections.

The new year brings a presidential election, as President Barack Obama fights to secure a second term in office. It will also bring a plethora of local races, as 19 elected officials in the county seek their own re-elections. Local races touch all areas of county government, from the county commission, to the school board, to the criminal justice system, to the tax commissioner’s office..

“In addition to 2012 being a presidential election year, there are several county, state and federal seats that are up for election,” said Clayton County Elections and Registration Director Annie Bright. “It is important that voters educate themselves on all the issues, before casting their ballots in 2012.”

Some key races to watch will be the three county commission, and five school board contests. With so many seats up for election on both bodies, the results could cause power shifts in county government and the school system. The balance of power could also change in the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, with the sheriff’s, district attorney’s and solicitor general’s offices, along with several judgeships, up for election.

On top of all that, the City of Lovejoy is scheduled to hold a special election in March, to select a new mayor to replace former mayor Joe Murphy. He resigned in late 2011. Georgia is also expected to hold its presidential-preference primaries, on March 6, mainly to help select the Republican challenger who will face Obama in the November general election.

Bright said a full list of local seats up for election in 2012 can be found on the elections section of the county web site –– www.claytoncountyga.gov/.

Qualifying for local elections is scheduled to take place from May 23, through May 25, she said.

The biggest changes on election ballots will come in the form of redrawn district boundaries for congressional and state legislative seats. The U.S. Department of Justice recently approved redistricting maps that were drawn up over the summer by Georgia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly.

“The maps offer rational district lines, equitable representation, and meet the strict standards of the Voting Rights Act,” said Gov. Nathan Deal, in a statement issued Dec. 23, after the Justice Department’s approval was announced. “The Justice Department’s decision demonstrates that our state’s districts serve our diverse population well,” Deal added.

A key change under the new maps, however, is the pushing of the Congressional district currently held by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), deeper into Clayton County. Several north Georgia congressional districts were pushed further south, and the Hall County area got a new congressional district.

Lewis, whose 5th Congressional District previously had only a small, northwest corner of Clayton County, now has the entire northern half of it, including the cities of College Park, Forest Park, Lake City and Morrow, and the Conley community. The Clayton County area in Lewis’ district, came from U.S. Rep. David Scott’s (D-Ga.) 13th Congressional District.

Scott’s district was pushed deeper into more Republican-leaning areas, such as central, and southwest Henry County, western Douglas County and northern Fayette County.

The Clayton County Legislative Delegation will lose State Rep. Joe Heckstall (D-East Point), whose district is being redistricted out of the county. In its place, will be the new State House District 63. It will largely be in Fayette County, but will include Clayton County’s Panhandle region. The area is now part of District 78, which is represented by Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro).

The currently vacant House District 60 seat, will pick up much of the Clayton County territory lost from Heckstall’s district.

The house districts currently represented by Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale), and Rep. Darryl Jordan (D-Riverdale) will each gain more central Clayton County territory, while simultaneously losing all of their Fayette County territories, to the new District 63.

District 75, represented by Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-Jonesboro), will be pushed southward into more of Jonesboro, and the area southwest of the county seat. Rep. Sandra Scott’s (D-Rex) district, which is currently only in Clayton County, will be pushed eastward, so half of it will be in northeast Clayton County, and the other half will be in Henry County.

Clayton County’s two state senate district’s will largely stay the same, although Sen. Gail Davenport’s (D-Jonesboro) district and Sen. Valencia Seay’s (D-Riverdale) district will swap some territory in the county. Seay will gain half of Forest Park, Lake City and Morrow from Davenport, who will, in turn, gain the county’s Panhandle region from her colleague.

Davenport’s district will also gain southwest DeKalb County, and lose its Henry County territory.

The Clayton County Elections and Registration web site shows the following local offices are up for election this year:

• U.S. Congress: District 5 (Incumbent: John Lewis); District 13 (Incumbent: David Scott)

• State Representatives: District 60 (vacant); District 63 (new district); District 74 (Incumbent: Roberta Abdul-Salaam); District 75 (Incumbent: Yasmin Neal); District 76 (Incumbent: Sandra Scott); District 77 (Incumbent: Darryl Jordan); District 78 (Incumbent: Glenn Baker)

• State Senate: District 34 (Incumbent: Valencia Seay); District 44 (Incumbent: Gail Davenport)

• County Commission: Chairman (Incumbent: Eldrin Bell); District 2 (Incumbent: Gail Hambrick); District 3 (Incumbent: Wole Ralph)

• Board of Education: District 2 (Incumbent: Wanda Smith); District 3 (Incumbent: Jessie Goree); District 5 (Incumbent: Ophelia Burroughs); District 6 (Incumbent: Mary Baker); District 7 (Incumbent: Trinia Garrett)

• Tax Commissioner (Incumbent: Terry Baskin)

• Sheriff’s Office (Incumbent: Kem Kimbrough)

• District Attorney’s Office (Incumbent: Tracy Graham Lawson)

• Solicitor General’s Office (Incumbent: Tasha Mosley)

• Clerk of Courts (Incumbent: Jacquline Wills)

• Judges: Superior Court Judges (Incumbents: Deborah Benefield and Matthew Simmons); State Court Judges (Incumbents: Harold Benefield, Morris Braswell, Linda S. Cowen, and Aaron Mason)