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Democratic candidates sitting out of primary
July ballot all GOP so far
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2012 election

Candidate qualifying
Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. to noon
For fees and other information, contact local election offices or the Secretary of State Elections Division at 404-656-2871 or link to the Elections homepage at gainesvilletimes.com/wethepeople.

Key election dates
June 16: Elections office can begin mailing absentee ballots for general primary.
July 2: Deadline to register to vote in July 31 primary
July 9: Early voting for primary
July 21: Mandatory Saturday voting for primary
July 31: Primary election
Aug. 21: Primary runoff, if needed
Sept. 21: Elections office can begin mailing absentee ballots for general election
Oct. 9: Deadline to register to vote in Nov. 6 general election
Oct. 15: Early voting begins for general election
Oct. 27: Mandatory Saturday voting for general election
Nov. 6: Election Day
Dec. 4: Runoff, if needed

In 1988, politics in Northeast Georgia were solid blue.

“It was just the opposite of what it is now,” recalls Mike Freeman, who moved to Gainesville in 1988. “There was no chance of a Republican getting elected to anything.”

For months, several Republicans have been on the campaign trail seeking election to various local and statewide office. Five more are hoping to represent Georgia’s new 9th District in the U.S. House, including all or parts of 20 Northeast Georgia counties.

Those who are serious will make their official intentions known during this week’s qualifying period, which runs Wednesday through Friday.

Those three days serve as a sort of do-or-die moment for would-be candidates from the state’s two major parties.

And it’s still uncertain whether any Democrats will show up.

Except for one who made a brief foray in the race to be Hall County’s next sheriff, not one Democratic candidate has tossed his or her name in any ring.

It’s not a total surprise. Democrats don’t do particularly well in these parts anymore. All elected partisan posts in county government and all seats in Hall’s state legislature delegation are held by Republicans.

When he ran for a U.S. House seat in 2010, Freeman received 2,891 votes out of the 51,797 cast in the eight-man race to fill the vacancy Nathan Deal left when he ran for governor.

Freeman didn’t come in dead last. In fact, he finished ahead of three other Republicans, but he never exactly expected to win.

The same year, Democrat Mike Parker challenged former state Rep. James Mills, a longtime incumbent, for the chance to represent South Hall in the state House of Representatives.

Mills won with more than 84 percent of the vote. And it was painful.

“It does hurt to lose an election,” Parker said. “Even if you know it’s hopeless, it still hurts.”

More recently, Paul Wayne Godfrey sought Mills’ old position when Mills left the House last fall. He came in second to last in a pool of seven, and posted on his Twitter account the day after the election “the people have spoken and they didn’t want me.”

“Anybody who gets in the race (as a Democrat) knows they’re going to lose,” Freeman said. “With 75 percent of the electorate voting Republican right now, there’s just no way, and it’s so expensive to get in a congressional race — $5,000 just to qualify — that’s a lot of money knowing you don’t stand a chance.”

The last Democratic candidate who won locally was Ashley Bell in 2008. Bell beat former Hall County Commissioner Deborah Mack in the Democratic primary for the District 4 Post, which has historically been held by Democrats.

Now, even he is a Republican, as are the other four members of the board.

Bell is seeking re-election, with his only challenger so far Republican Jeff Stowe.

Local Democratic Party chairman Jim Taflinger says that seat has the potential to be regained by the Democrats. Yet he has remained coy about whether the party will produce a candidate, noting that Democrats considering seeking election won’t make a decision until qualifying time.

Hall County Democrats no longer have an individual in charge of candidate recruitment. Instead, Taflinger said, the local party has been “working as a group to get the feelers out and see who comes forward.”

While it doesn’t focus on recruiting candidates, voter registration will be the “main push” of Young Democrats of Hall County this year, treasurer Al Turnell said.

Taflinger said local Democrats will be part of “an extensive voter registration drive” within the Latino community.
But Taflinger won’t elaborate on which races might lure a Democratic challenger in the November election.

“We’ve had a lot of people coming forward and making inquiries,” he said.

Among their concerns are money.

“It’s become expensive to run a race in Hall County,” Taflinger said.

Several other members of the local party’s committee declined comment about the group’s focus this year, deferring to Taflinger.

Parker said he resigned from the local party earlier this year because he didn’t think it was visible enough. He wanted to see the party have a float in every parade, advertisements in local publications and regular monthly meetings at a regular time and place — something that would send a message, he said, that Hall County Democrats are “going to be here until hell freezes over.”

“I’d like to see them put up some candidates; I’d like to see them speak out,” Parker said. “I think they need to support more candidates than just Barack Obama. After all, President Obama will lose in this county.”

Parker is skeptical that party will produce a candidate for a local race this year.

Taflinger refutes Parker’s notion that Democrats are less visible this year in proportion with Republicans. He said people are just busy, no matter what party they’re aligned with.

“I’m amazed the Republicans don’t have more people running for the county commission seats, considering everything that’s gone on there the last four years,” Taflinger said.

Taflinger said the group is still trying to determine where to focus its energies. As Obama revs up his re-election campaign, he has a new campaign chairman in Georgia, and there certainly will be work for Democrats to do.
But Taflinger won’t know the focus of the local party until qualifying ends this week, he said.

“Obviously, we want to help the hometown people,” Taflinger said. “Help starts at home.”

Freeman is, too, though he says he has promised several people that if just one of them will run for the 9th District seat, he would do anything he could to help get that person elected.

It’s a long shot, but if it actually worked, there would be a Democrat representing the 9th District for the first time in almost 20 years.

“I haven’t had a representative in Congress in a long time,” Freeman said.

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