JONESBORO — Clayton County voters have nearly another month of campaigning to look forward to in the races for two out of three Clayton County Board of Commissioners races.
Candidates in the chairman and District 3 races failed to capture enough votes to avoid an Aug. 21 run-off as of press time with 58 of 60 precincts counted. Georgia law requires a run-off when no candidates capture at least 50 percent of the ballots cast.
District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick was the only incumbent commissioner to cruise to an apparent re-election victory.
In the chairman’s race, incumbent Eldrin Bell will face former county police Chief Jeff Turner in the run-off. In the District 3 race, incumbent Wole Ralph narrowly led attorney Shana Rooks, but he lacked enough votes to avoid his own run-off.
“It shows me the people are ready for a change and I believe we’ll get it done when the run-off comes around,” said Turner.
Turner led the field with 41.98 percent of the 30,165 votes cast, followed by Bell (41.89 percent) and State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (16.18 percent). Turner said he had prayed for a victory without a run-off but he also expected a close election. Bell, who faced a run-off four years ago in his first re-election bid, said he was unfazed by the prospect of another run-off campaign.
“We’re thrilled to death,” he said. “We understand we had the issue of the T-SPLOST on the ballot and that took away some of the voters’ attention. Now that we have that out of the way, the voters’ attention should be focused on what you’ve got versus what you’re likely to get.”
Ralph led Rooks 44.11 percent to 42.85 percent of the 8,395 votes cast, while another challenger, Ronald Ringer, trailed with 13.04 percent.
Ralph, who is awaiting trial on DUI, reckless driving, failure to maintain a lane and obstruction of an officer charges from a 2011 arrest in Fulton County, spent the night neck and neck with Rooks. His largest lead over the Jonesboro attorney was 44.61 percent to 41.98 percent at 10:30 p.m.
“I’ve been in run-offs every time I’ve run for this office so I’m used to facing run-offs,” said Ralph, who is seeking a third term. “We know how to win run-offs and I’m just excited about getting another chance to go out and talk to the voters about my plans for the county.”
But Rooks said Ralph didn’t go into run-offs in 2004 or 2008 with margins as narrow as he faced Tuesday. He entered the 2004 run-off about 10 percentage points behind the first-place finisher in that year’s primary. In 2008, he led his challenger into the run-off with a 23-percentage point lead.
“It’s clear that voters want a change,” said Rooks. “People are tired of his leadership and they want to restore integrity back to the county and especially in District 3.”
Hambrick appeared headed toward re-election with 73.4 percent of the 6,003 votes counted at press time over challengers Thomas Houston (15.89 percent) and Lisa Tinch (10.71 percent).
Hambrick could not be reached by press time.