In a little more than a day the chance to get new names on the upcoming Macon-Bibb County special election ballot will grind to a halt, as the deadline to qualify through the Board of Election ends Wednesday at noon.
Some voters hope the extension granted for qualifications will be enough to widen the pool of candidates from which they can choose. They'll be electing the first mayor and commission to lead the new consolidated city-county government that will take control Jan. 1.
The first round of qualification was months ago, but it had to be reopened after the election was moved to Sept.17. The original election date of July 16 was postponed. Democrats were challenging new voting procedures under the Voting Rights Act, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling means that the election can proceed as planned.
The majority of the candidates who previously qualified for elections were current or former office holders in city or county government.
Longtime Maconite Amanda Chester says she likes many of the candidates already on the ballot but wouldn’t mind seeing a few new names. She's hoping for a breakthrough in some tough areas like education, housing blight and crime.
“I would like to see some new faces in our government with new ideas, innovative ideas especially for the black community,” Chester said. “I would like to see all the candidates throw their hat in the ring to solve our issues.”
Voter Theresa Spencer says she hopes the extension will encourage those who think outside of the box to run for office. “We need to better our community so it can grow,” Spencer said. “I think if we get new people, we’ll have some new ideas. Change brings about great things.”
Candidates who already paid their qualifying fees won’t have to repay. But new candidates will have to pay $450 to run for a commissioner seat and $3000 for the mayor’s race.
Candidates applying must fill out a one page form indicating where they live, what they do for a living and how they would like their name to appear on the ballot, said Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson.
During the first day of this latest qualifying round Monday, only two new candidates submitted paperwork. Former Macon NAACP head Al Tilman will challenge current Macon City Council president James Timley for the District Nine city-county commission seat. Internet talk-show host Anthony B. Harris will mount a write-in campaign for mayor.
Previously-announced candidate Gary Bechtel remains unopposed in his bid for the District One city-county commission seat in northern Bibb County.