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Primary ballot now filled with local candidates
Lone Democrat jumps in 9th District US House race
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The Hall County Democratic ballot won’t be crowded for the July 31 primary, but it won’t be empty, either.

Jody Cooley, a Gainesville attorney, qualified Friday as a Democrat to run for the 9th District U.S. House seat.

He was the only Democratic candidate showing up on ballots for this summer’s primary before the deadline passed.

Cooley, an attorney with the law firm Hulsey, Oliver and Mahar, will go up against the winner of the Republican primary showdown between Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick and Martha Zoller.

Two other Republicans who had previously announced their candidacy, Hunter Bicknell and Cliff McDuffie, did not qualify. Bicknell announced he would instead run for re-election to his Jackson County Commission Chairman’s post.

Cooley, 51, has served in public office on the Gainesville school board, the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and is a former president of the Gainesville-Northeastern Bar Association.

He seems aware of the challenge he’ll face as a Democratic running in a heavily Republican district.

“I certainly know this is an uphill battle,” Cooley said. “Most things worth getting have an uphill path to them.”

Cooley also admits his elections experience is limited to a local school board. He decided to sign up for the race just before deadline as it became apparent that no other Democrat would do so.

“I believe everyone in the district should have a voice and a choice in an election,” he said. “I just believe from the bottom of my heart there should be a Democrat in the race, and we should have a spirited discussion about the issues that face the country.”

The first issue that will distinguish himself from his Republican opponents, he said, is a push from “shared sacrifice.”

“When you look at the current budget crisis, it seems like most news organizations talk about two extremes,” he said. “I do believe their is a place for the American people to be called for sharing the sacrifice it will take to start realistically addressing the budget problem.”

That discussion should include cuts to spending and entitlement programs, he said, but that’s not all.

“Does that mean some new revenue sources? Absolutely,” Cooley said. “To talk about it in any other way is unrealistic.”

That kind of language seems destined to meet from a lot of pushback from conservative voters, but the candidate sounds at least prepared for delivering an unpopular message.

“I’m going to say what I feel like is right and let the chips fall where they may,” he said.

No other Democratic or unaffiliated candidates qualified for local election, according to Hall County Elections Supervisor Charlotte Sosebee.

“I will tell you that it has not been like that in Hall County for a long time,” Sosebee said.

Typically at least one or two from an opposing party had qualified to run for one of the local positions.

Meanwhile, voters who chose the Republican ballot will have a long list of candidates for county, state and national positions.

Also Friday, Marion Merck qualified to run for Hall County Coroner, a position he currently holds. No other challengers qualified.

Steve Gailey qualified to run for chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners as a Republican. He will run against two other Republicans, Dick Mecum and incumbent Tom Oliver.

Retired FBI agent Ken Russell of Flowery Branch qualified Friday to run for an open state House seat, District 103, that represents parts of South Hall County and North Gwinnett. He will run against Lawrenceville resident Timothy Barr, who qualified Wednesday.