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Runoff election for Forest Park wards 1 and 2 set Dec. 3

Luke Gawel

Luke Gawel

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Dabouze Antoine

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Tommy Smith

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Kimberly James

FOREST PARK — Voters will return to the polls Dec. 3 to elect council members from wards 1 and 2 after choosing their mayor outright from a three-person race.

Elections Superintendent Charity Woods said 1,113 votes were cast in the three races. With about 8,000 registered voters in Forest Park, the turnout was about 14 percent.

The Ward 2 race was nearly captured by top vote-getter Dabouze Antoine, largely through absentee ballots, but it wasn’t enough to win the seat without a runoff. Woods said 152 absentee ballots were cast and Antoine got 73 — almost half.

Woods said she is satisfied that procedure concerning absentee ballots was followed. That procedure includes final approval from Clayton County Board of Elections.

“As election superintendent, I am much more concerned with the returned voted ballots as that is where there could be more of a chance of something unethical taking place,” she said. “We have done everything on our end to make sure we are ethical, transparent and adhere to the election code.”

Mayor David Lockhart got 101 absentee votes, 206 early votes and 262 votes Tuesday, giving him a total of 569, said Woods. Antoine got 27 early votes and 33 that were cast on Election Day.

Antoine faces Luke Gawel for the seat that has been vacant since former Ward 2 Councilwoman Karen-Brandee Williams was removed from office in July 2011 for ethics violations. Gawel took 96 votes, followed by Carl Evans and Deverick Williams, who each got 32 votes.

Antoine served 15 days in Douglas County Jail for a DUI conviction a month before he qualified to run for office. According to jail records, the June 17, 2012, DUI arrest was Antoine’s second in less than three years.

He was arrested in Douglas County for DUI, failure to maintain a lane and failure to obey a traffic signal. He also has a 2010 DUI conviction in Clayton County.

Antoine pleaded guilty to the misdemeanors and was sentenced to 15 days in Douglas County Jail, from June 18 to July 3. Antoine didn’t respond to a request by Clayton News Daily for a comment on his arrest.

Antoine qualified to run in Ward 2 in August and will face Gawel in the Dec. 3 runoff.

Gawel said he was humbled by the support he got during his campaign and the turnout on Election Day.

“I am 100 percent committed in making sure that we aggressively move forward with the economic growth, creating a better image of Forest Park and safety in our city,” he said. “This may be my first time running for office but it is certainly not the first time working and making a difference in our community.”

Gawel said he and his wife attend nearly every council meeting and know what is going on with the city and the people.

“We volunteer with Keep Forest Park Beautiful, the Forest Park Teen Council and Mission Forest Park, which serves hot meals and provides free groceries to hundreds of needy families right here in our ward,” he said.

Gawel said he is a professional computer project manager by trade, is not a career politician and doesn’t accept campaign contributions.

“I will work for the citizens of Ward 2 and not to repay campaign contributors,” he said. “Drive down Main Street and you will see that I have the full support of the business community in Forest Park. No other candidate has these qualifications.”

The candidate with the third most absentee ballot votes was former Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams with 37, followed by Ward 1 contender Kimberly James with 29.

Adams ran for mayor against Lockhart and retired Public Works Director Mike Gippert. Gippert garnered 216 total votes to Adams’ 328.

Adams said she believes God has another plan for her. She also vowed to stay involved with Teen Council, which she was instrumental in creating.

“I only know how to run a decent and respectable campaign,” she said. “I am moving forward with other opportunities. However, I will continue to coordinate the Forest Park Teen Council Inc., since the city did not want the burden of responsibility.”

James will face Ward 1 incumbent Tommy Smith for the second time this year. The two vied for the seat after Adams vacated it to run for mayor in the same March special election. Smith won by 15 votes but the term expires Dec. 31 so he has to run again successfully to keep the post.

Tuesday’s unofficial count show just six votes separated Smith, with 88 votes, and James with 82. Darnell Moorer came in third with 41 votes.

James said she appreciates the support of voters.

“I want to thank the voters for voting and would like to encourage them to vote during the runoff,” she said.

In Forest Park, a candidate must garner 50 percent of the vote plus one ballot to avoid a runoff.