By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Busy ballot overshadows vital post
Seven candidates are on ballot Tuesday for secretary of state
0714SECSTATEG Sinkfield
Georganna Sinkfield

Secretary of State candidates 
PRIMARY DATE:July 20. If no candidate gets a majority of votes, top two meet in Aug. 10 runoff. Winners face off in November against Libertarian David Chastain..


Gail Buckner
Age: 59
Residence: Jonesboro
Experience: Elected to Georgia House in 1990, to Senate in 2008. Democratic nominee for post in 2006, lost general election to Karen Handel.

What she'll do if elected:
Seeks to return ethics, public service to the office. Will end practice of citizens not receiving professional licenses in a timely manner. Will end practice of some employees not answering questions of local election officials when they call state office. Will better protect citizens from fraud. Will help end culture of corruption at Capitol.

Gary Horlacher
Age: 53
Residence: Peachtree City
Experience: Attorney. Has worked on state campaigns and for Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. Press secretary for former Gov. Roy Barnes.

What he'll do if elected:
Give licensing boards top-to-bottom review of current rules and regulations. Corporate registration information will be secured, registration process streamlined to encourage, not hinder, business openings. Improving elections by instituting verifiable paper ballot; allow Saturday voting; establish a uniform database collections system; maintain more vigilant oversight of absentee ballots.

Michael Mills
Age: 36
Residence: Atlanta
Experience: Public relations consultant, businessman. Aide to former Secretary of State Lewis Massey. Press secretary to Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor.

What he'll do if elected:
Ensure security of elections while limiting unnecessary barriers to voting. Grow jobs and revenue. Protect consumers from financial ruin and fraud. Appoint elections task force to review security and accuracy of electronic voting machines; compare best practices in other states; and develop plans/budgets to instill confidence and accurate management by local election officials.

Angela Moore
Age: 47
Residence: Decatur
Experience: Businesswoman. Communications director for the DeKalb Democratic Party. Ran for post in 2006, lost in primary.

What she'll do if elected:
Retrofit voting machines with new software, including verifiable paper ballot. Create one package for business owners who require professional licenses. Establish interstate co-ops for professional license holders. Serve as official historian for the state as avant-garde of history museum. Secure, institute and require a more secure form of casting ballots.

Georganna Sinkfield
Age: 67
Residence: Atlanta
Experience: Elected to state House in 1982. Served as chairwoman of Legislative Black Caucus.

What she'll do if elected:
Guarantee elections are open to all qualified voters that ballots are secure. Create a verification system for counties to protect everyone’s right to vote without discrimination. Promote responsible investments, put an end to fraud and abuse. Streamline the licensing process and modernize how small businesses engage the office by cutting through red tape.



Brian Kemp
Age: 46
Residence: Athens
Experience: Appointed secretary of state by Gov. Sonny Perdue in January. Served in state Senate from 2002-2006. Owns real estate investment company.

What he'll do if elected:
Administer and protect elections in a nonpartisan, transparent manner. Establish a nonpartisan commission to analyze elections processes, suggest areas for reform, improvement. File suit in federal court to implement voter roll security programs. Implement additional e-government solutions to reduce bureaucracy, taxpayer money. Seek ways to help businesses grow, create jobs.

Doug MacGinnitie
Age: 43
Residence: Sandy Springs
Experience: Attorney. Founded brokerage firm. Elected to Sandy Springs City Council.

What he'll do if elected:
Believes process of troops mailing absentee ballots is outdated, and does not reflect current technology; will ensure that military personnel are not stripped of right to vote. Maintain integrity in elections and reduce voter fraud. Will streamline licensing process for businesses. Assure that all sensitive corporate information is secure.

Sources: Times research;; candidate websites

Election Guide, with contact information for area voting offices

Complete election coverage

It’s possible that, with five Democrats on the ballot for the party’s nomination in Georgia’s secretary of state election, Tuesday’s primary might result in a runoff.

But that’s about as exciting as the race for secretary of state might get.

With all eyes on Georgia’s multi-candidate gubernatorial primaries and contentious congressional elections, not even the experts devoted to Georgia’s political scene have heard much about this year’s race for secretary of state.

Ross Alexander, a political scientist at North Georgia College & State University, admits he cannot name one candidate seeking the seat.

“I’m sure there’s probably some academic in Georgia who could probably speak to this with authority, but I’m probably not it,” Alexander said. “...It’s just not one of those sexier offices, but it’s an important office.”

The actions of the secretary of state affect the lives of nearly every Georgian, according to Matt Carrothers, a spokesman for the office. The constitutional officer is responsible for administering elections, doling out professional licenses and serving as the administrative agency over corporate entities.

The seat, though important, doesn’t get a lot of attention, said Douglas Young, a political scientist at Gainesville State College in Oakwood.

It is a seat that is usually filled with little controversy and even less attention from the media.

“Have you heard anybody talking about that exciting, cool secretary of state’s race? I haven’t heard a person talk about that,” Young said. “... I just think that, as always, there’s so much more press attention, understandably and I think rightfully, devoted to the governor’s race and also to the lieutenant governor’s race.”

All the candidates seeking the post this year — be they Republican, Democrat or Libertarian — hail from places within reach of Atlanta, a sign of the metropolitan area’s growing influence on Georgia politics, Young said.

Young suspects the seat is seen increasingly as a political launching pad for the governor’s office.

Former Secretaries of State Lewis Massey and Cathy Cox both left the post to seek, unsuccessfully, the governor’s mansion.

More recently, Karen Handel also left the post early to pursue her bid for the Republican nomination in the state’s governor’s race.

“I think the facts that the last three Georgia secretaries of state have run for governor is a sign of how that office is seen increasingly as a potential launching pad for the governor’s office,” Young said.

Young and Charles Bullock, a political scientist with the University of Georgia, have yet to see the office as a successful launching pad, however.

“The last secretary of state that moved into the office of governor was Allen Candler and he did so in 1898 — so it’s been a while,” Bullock said.

Since Handel left the post with higher political aspirations late last year, Brian Kemp, a Republican from Athens, has served as the secretary of state as an appointee of Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Kemp is campaigning for the Republican nomination to run for a full term in the seat in November. He is challenged by Doug MacGinnitie, a 43-year-old businessman from Sandy Springs.

Usually voter interest wanes for down ballot races like secretary of state unless a voter has a specific interest in that post, Bullock said.

When they don’t have a stake in a down ballot race, voters are “completely motivated by party label,” Alexander said.

“So it makes it very difficult for voters to vote in a primary where they can’t be completely reliant upon a party label, because it’s all the same party,” he said. “...It’s going to be pretty low voter turnout. Primaries are low voter turnout elections anyway, and you’re going to find voters that are just going to skip that office who don’t know any better.”

Other voters, Alexander said, may vote for the incumbent or the first name on the ballot.

While Kemp will have the advantage of the incumbency on the ballot, MacGinnitie had raised more than two times the campaign cash of his Republican adversary by the end of June.

One of the two men will face Marietta Libertarian David Chastain and one of five Democrats — Gail Buckner of Jonesboro, Gary Horlacher of Peachtree City, Michael Mills of Atlanta, Angela Moore of Decatur and Georganna Sinkfield of Atlanta — seeking the Democratic nomination in Tuesday’s primary.

Bullock predicts the Democratic primary will end in a runoff. But the extended campaign likely won’t bring much more attention, he said.

“If that is the top position that goes to a runoff statewide, then there’s going to be fairly low participation in the Democratic runoff in August,” Bullock said.