By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — Early voting starts Monday for the March 19 special election to fill the empty seats of mayor and Ward 1 representative.
Qualifying for the races was held last week. Four candidates are vying for mayor — Sparkle Adams, Dabouze Antoine, John Finch and David Lockhart.
Vying for Ward 1 are Kimberly James and Tommy Smith. Adams resigned her Ward 1 seat Feb. 1 to make the run for mayor.
City Attorney Joe Harris said it takes about a week for ballots to be printed after qualifying ends so advanced voting begins Monday, Feb. 25, and will continue through Friday, March 15.
The last day to register to vote in the special election was Tuesday, Feb. 19.
If there is a runoff election needed, it will be held Tuesday, April 16.
Both seats are up for re-election in December so whoever takes the March election will have to run again before the end of the year. Ward 2 is also up for election in December. That seat has been vacant since July 2011 when Council ousted Karen-Brandee Williams. Because the removal has been tied up in litigation, the city has been unable to fill the seat.
Clayton County Superior Court Chief Judge Deborah Benefield ruled in favor of the city over Williams last month. Williams has appealed the decision. However, the matter becomes moot when the four-year term ends.
Antoine was living in Jonesboro in July 2010 when he ran unsuccessfully against Clayton County Commissioner Michael Edmondson. He also made a failed bid for commission chairman in 2008. Antoine said he holds a degree in community and international economic development from Beulah Heights University.
Lockhart is an attorney with an office in Forest Park. He attended John Marshall Law School in Atlanta and passed the bar in November 2010.
Finch is a fleet technician and mechanic with Army Air Force Exchange Service. He’s lived in Forest Park his whole life. Divorced, Finch has three children and three granddaughters. He coached neighborhood baseball and softball teams in Forest Park for more than 20 years.
Adams first ran in 2001 so she's been participating in the local political process for about 13 years. She lost that first bid by seven votes. Adams has also been on the board overseeing the transfer of property ownership of Ft. Gillem from the U.S. Army to City of Forest Park before being elected to Council in 2005.
James filed an ethics complaint against former Mayor Corine Deyton last fall. Deyton, who was battling health issues that led to her retirement from office, was accused of being derelict in her duties.
The complaint went nowhere when Deyton retired Oct. 15.
Smith and James lost to Adams in Ward 1 in 2009.