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Ward 2 candidate leaves race as early voting starts in Forest Park

FOREST PARK — The pool of candidates seeking the Ward 2 post just got smaller.

Elections Superintendent Charity Woods said Thursday that Sheena Lowe has dropped out of the race. Lowe had asked about being taken off the ballot after she qualified in August but Woods said Lowe never filed the paperwork and she remained a candidate.

As recently as last month, Lowe spoke as a candidate during public comments at a regular city council meeting.

There are four remaining candidates for the seat that has been vacant since July 2011, when Karen-Brandee Williams was removed from office.

The four are Dabouze Antione, Carl Evans, Luke Gawel and Deverick Williams.

The Ward 1 seat is also up for election. Candidates in that race are Kimberly James, Darnell Moorer and incumbent Tommy Smith.

There are three candidates vying for mayor, Sparkle Adams, Mike Gippert and incumbent David Lockhart.

Absentee voting has been going on for more than a month but early voting started Monday. Early ballots cannot be cast after Nov. 1. Woods said 185 voters have cast early ballots so far this week.

“We expect next week to be fairly busy,” she said Thursday.

There have been 50 absentee ballots cast, she said.

Woods is encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting to avoid expected long lines at the polls Nov. 5. There are about 8,000 registered voters in Forest Park.

Any voter can request an application for an absentee ballot, fill it out and return it. Each application is faxed to the Clayton County Elections Office for verification. An application can be rejected if county officials determine the voter doesn’t live in Forest Park or has sent in more than one application.

In exchange, the city mails back a ballot for completion. The ballots must be returned to city hall and are not counted until election day.

The law previously restricted the use of absentee ballots to the voters unable to get to the polls in their districts on election day such as the elderly, college students, people traveling or those in the military, said Woods.

However, the law changed.

“We cannot deny anyone an application for an absentee ballot,” she said.

Woods said she is predicting a runoff based on the number of candidates in each race. To take the seat outright, the winner must garner 50 percent of the vote plus one.

Woods said she knows of no problems or irregularities in the voting process so far.

However, Moorer complained during the public comments portion of the Oct. 21 city council meeting about the theft and vandalism of campaign signs.

“I’ve had signs pulled up or defaced,” he said. “I can’t find mine. One candidate had his car vandalized.”

Moorer said during a non-election year, “it’s no big deal.”

“But it is an election year and there is a cost involved,” he said. “I’ve filed one police report and almost had to file a second one.”

The person who was seen pulling up Moorer’s signs was identified by witnesses but has not been cited or arrested so is not being identified by Clayton News Daily.

Lockhart told Moorer that he, too, has had issues with his own signs.

Moorer said he was also concerned that police officers aren’t taking the theft and vandalism seriously.

“The officer told me it was just a $6 misdemeanor, like it was not a big deal,” Moorer said.

Lockhart, who is an attorney, told him to contact the Clayton County Solicitor General’s Office if he believes cases aren’t being prosecuted.

Solicitor General Tasha Mosley was out of town Thursday but said there is no reason why prosecution wouldn’t be sought in a case with probable cause. She said she was unsure if any campaign sign-related thefts or vandalism are pending in her office but would check when she returns to work Monday.