Around Town: This & that with qualifying in the rearview mirror
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
August 31, 2013 01:18 AM | 3607 views | 0 0 comments | 79 79 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA Ward 5 Councilman Anthony Coleman unexpectedly picked up an election opponent at the close of qualifying Wednesday. And Coleman, trailed by controversy throughout his three terms on council, is vulnerable. But even so, it’s an open question as to whether challenger Doug Martin is strong enough to unseat him.

Martin is a 1972 graduate of Marietta High School with a bachelor’s degree from Norfolk State University. He’s a former Marine and is a distributor for Happy Cheeks, a toilet-seat cleaner. He has worked at times as a janitor in the Marietta School System, but was unemployed when he ran for the Ward 5 seat on the city school board in 2005. He garnered 41 percent of the votes to businessman Stuart Fleming’s 59 percent and was plagued toward the end of the campaign by news reports that he owed thousands of dollars in child support.

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COLEMAN came in for heavy criticism after it was reported that he had a forceful altercation with Ward 1 Councilwoman Annette Lewis following a meeting of the council’s Redistricting Committee in 2011. The incident left Lewis with a deep bruise, and Coleman later pleaded guilty to an assault charge in connection with the incident. He was sentenced to 12 months’ probation, 80 hours of community service, a $600 fine and was required to undergo a violence evaluation.

More recently, Coleman was a no-show at a crucial meeting this spring at which the council voted on how to divide part of the proceeds from Mayor Steve Tumlin’s upcoming $68 million redevelopment bond for the Franklin Road corridor. Coleman’s ward was expected to get $1.2 million, but got nothing after he failed to attend the meeting, saying he was “under the weather.”

That episode repeated itself this month when the council voted to spend more than $800,000 to renovate the Lawrence Street Recreation Center, a high priority for the local NAACP. The measure passed — but without the help of Coleman, who left the chamber shortly before the vote in order to answer a call of nature. He later claimed he didn’t realize the council was about to vote.

“Anthony is vulnerable to the right candidate. Whether Doug is that candidate is another question. It’s Anthony’s race to lose,” a council source told Around Town on Thursday.

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COLEMAN has erected numerous signs and has been going door-to-door in the ward for months. Even so, Coleman would have been very vulnerable to a black female candidate, had one qualified, the source said. Such a candidate could have better exploited his assault on a female councilmember, his anger-management issues and his pattern of missing crucial votes.

“But even then, you still have to connect with the voters and go door-to-door. If you don’t take the time to knock on doors, you don’t stand a prayer,” he said.

Martin kept his candidacy secret to all but a few until just before qualifying.

AT’s council source predicted Coleman would refuse to engage Martin on the various allegations, preferring to talk about his annual sponsorship of the Ward 5 Job Fair.

“Can you make an issue out of those things? Yeah. But can you connect with the voters? There’s no guarantee that will occur,” the councilman said. “Just because you’ve got a good issue like that there’s no guarantee it will be a home run with voters. It might be just a single.”

“Are some of the voters in that ward upset at Anthony? Yes. Are there enough to elect Doug? I don’t know.”

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MORE POLITICS: Barry Loudermilk of Cassville arguably was the least-well-known of the four major Republican candidates running for the congressional seat being vacated by Phil Gingrey of Marietta. And that probably goes far toward explaining why he no longer has the title “state Senator” in front of his name.

Loudermilk announced Tuesday he was resigning the seat he was first elected to in 2004 in order to “fully” focus on his congressional run.

Why give up the potential spotlight that goes with being a legislator, you ask?

Because legislators are prohibited by law from raising campaign funds while the Legislature is in session. The Legislature will kick off in early January as usual, but if the recent past is any indication, probably won’t wind up its annual 40-day session until sometime in April. And that will leave very little time for raising funds before the May 20 primary.

Georgia’s party primaries in past years have taken place in July, when many voters are on vacation, turnout is correspondingly low and therefore easier for incumbents to manipulate. But back in July, federal Judge Steve Jones radically redrew the state’s election calendar, ruling in favor of a suit brought against the state by the U.S. Department of Justice that alleged Georgia’s electoral runoff periods are too short for those in the military and Georgians living overseas to return absentee ballots. Jones moved the federal primary day to June 3.

Then, in response to a request from Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Jones ruled Monday that primaries for congressional offices be moved again, to May 20 — the earliest primary date in the state’s history — so that the state’s polling places would not have to be open on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend for advance voting.

The state Legislature is expected to shift the election dates for state offices to match the federal calendar in order to reduce voter confusion and hold down costs.

But the bottom line is that many legislators, especially lesser-known ones, might face a funding crunch next spring, precluded from raising dollars until a month or so prior to Primary Day.

Loudermilk’s resignation will give him a free hand when it comes to seeking campaign cash.

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SO WHAT ABOUT the other incumbent legislator in the race to succeed Gingrey, House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead)? Lindsey is not well known outside the Buckhead precincts he represented prior to the enlargement of the district during the recent congressional redistricting. But he’s very well known in Buckhead, and Buckhead is by far the wealthiest part of the district, and his role as majority whip gives him access to state and local media coverage far in excess of what Loudermilk might have expected. So Lindsey says he is staying put. That also means he can keep his powerful legislative role if his try for Congress hits a dead end with voters.

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NORTH GEORGIA FAIR-goers this fall will have a chance to see a living legend — one of the few remaining giants of 1960s and ’70s-era country music — the one and only Loretta Lynn. “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” will perform Sept. 26 at the fair’s open-air theater, which seats 6,500, and demand for tickets that day is already heavy, Fair officials tell Around Town.

Miley Cyrus will not be appearing at the fair this year.

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EVENTS: The dedication and facility tour for the new Marietta Performing Arts Center will be at 6 p.m. Saturday and are open to all. They will be followed by an invitation-only concert by The Georgia Symphony Orchestra at 7. ... The Barnes Law Group will celebrate its 10th anniversary at 7 p.m. Thursday at its offices on Atlanta Street. The firm was founded by future Gov. Roy Barnes in 1972 and now includes Charlie Tanksley (1978), John Bevis, John Salter, Allison Barnes Salter, Cam Tribble and Charlie Bailey. ... Friends of Peter Simmons have organized “Peter Simmons Day” at Barnsley Gardens Sept. 13 in honor of the longtime C-130 communications manager at Lockheed Martin in Marietta who was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The fundraiser will give participants a choice of golf, shooting and spa treatment. For info, call Arlene Henson by Sept. 10 at (404) 697-1010.

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FROM the Around Town team, a happy Labor Day. We’ll see you next Saturday!

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