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Editorial: Tuesday’s election about so much more than next governor
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People vote during early voting at the Hall County Government Center on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

So we know what Donald Trump thinks about the 2018 race for governor of Georgia. And what Barack Obama thinks. And Mike Pence. And Oprah Winfrey. And a host of other politicians, celebrities and national political support groups.

Truth is, over the past several weeks we’ve heard from a lot of people insistent they are well enough informed to help those of us who live and work here decide who needs to be the state’s top elected official for the next four years. 

In a couple of days, the people of Georgia finally will have their voices heard, without the need for amplification nor translation by any national politician or celebrity campaigner. Truthfully, it will be a relief to see the polling places close on Tuesday to put an end to a long, expensive, loud and frequently painful election year.

An end, that is, unless there is a runoff, in which case we’ll have more days of apoplectic political ads and social media messages to wade through as a precursor to the Christmas holidays. Oh joy.

With Georgia as a battleground upon which Republicans and Democrats from across the nation have fought a philosophical war, it is easy to forget that there is more at stake on Tuesday than a decision on who will live in the governor’s mansion. But Georgians this week will decide a lot more than just the state’s chief executive.

Also included on the ballot are a number of other statewide offices that fill vital roles in the government, congressional races which will determine the balance of political power in the nation’s capital, state legislative races, local races and proposed constitutional amendments.

What makes this year’s election especially intriguing is the slate of important state races that do not involve an incumbent office holder. Regardless of who wins, Georgia will have new faces in the offices of the lieutenant governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner, as well as governor.

In addition to those positions, voters on Tuesday will choose an attorney general, agricultural commissioner, labor commissioner, state school superintendent and two members of the public service commission.

The “down ballot” state officials are often overshadowed by the position of governor, but each has broad sweeping authority and makes daily decisions that affect all Georgians.

The lieutenant governor serves as president of the state senate, and would step in as governor if the elected governor were unable to serve for any reason; the attorney general is the state’s top legal authority; the secretary of state oversees licensing of boards, registration of businesses, and the state’s election system; the insurance commissioner plays a major role in determining coverage requirements and rates; the labor commissioner helps keep the state’s economic engine running and oversees unemployment funds; the agriculture commissioner sets policy that affects all those in Georgia’s massive ag industry; the PSC controls utility rates and service plans.

While lesser known than the governor, each of these positions oversees the expenditure of millions of dollars in tax money, and supervises the state employees who work on your behalf. If you are not familiar with the candidates and are not among those thousands who took advantage of early voting, there’s still time to become informed so as to make an educated decision. Vote smart.

Also on the election ballot are state legislative seats. Every two years, the terms of Georgia’s state House and Senate members expire so that those who hope for re-election have to go before the voters again for approval. The same is true at the national level for members of the U.S House, though U.S. Senators serve six year terms and don’t come before the voters as often.

The reason for the relatively short terms for state legislators and Congressmen is so that the voters are constantly given the opportunity to be heard on the issue of governance. If they like the direction their government is going, they can re-elect incumbents; if not, they can make a change.

At the local level, some Hall County residents will be voting for a county commissioner, while all county voters will have a chance to fill two seats on the board of education. There will also be a local referendum to allow Sunday brunch sales of alcohol in licensed establishments in the county, and some cities will have a similar question for their residents.

All Georgia voters will cast ballots on five proposed amendments to the state constitution, which address issues ranging from land conservation to victim’s rights, and two statewide referenda which poll public opinion but do not automatically become law.

All in all, there are a lot of decisions to be made on Tuesday beyond whether the cheering crowds at the gubernatorial victory party are wearing red shirts or blue shirts.

The number of ballots cast during early voting suggests an incredible level of voter participation in this year’s election. If you haven’t already, please plan to cast a ballot on Tuesday – but before you do, take advantage of the many resources available to become informed about the decisions you will be asked to make. 

Then Wednesday morning you can awake to the knowledge that whether your candidate won or lost, the election season is over – unless of course there is a runoff, in which case we may all be wearing out the mute button on the TV remote for another few weeks.

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