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Monday, August 29, 2011 - 12:33pm

Qualifying Begins For Local Elections

Candidates statewide are qualifying this week for scores of city and county elections.

Rome, Warner Robins and Gainesville are among the cities holding races.

The Savannah elections so far haven't sparked much heat.

A term limit bars Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson from seeking a third term.

But despite the first open race in eight years and a hornet's nest of controversy coming out of City Hall over the past year, money has been slow to pour into the race for the city's top post.

Local political consultant Dave Simons says, with a half-dozen announced candidates, big campaign donors don't see a winner yet.

"They have really taken a back seat right now because nobody can pin who will be that candidate," Simons says. "The ones that write the big checks really can't fathom right now or pick out who they think will become the next mayor because of the problems at City Hall."

City politics were bitterly divided by race and other issues this year.

One of the biggest dust-ups involved the selection of City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney.

Still, Simons expects campaigns to intensify only after a run-off, with lots of apathy until then.

Voters in several cities, including Savannah, also will decide Sunday alcohol sales on voting day, November eighth.

Chatham County voters also will decide the fate of a special education sales tax and whether the County Chairman can run for a third term.

Qualifying continues through Friday.

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