It’s now official. Candidates seeking political offices in Baldwin County have paid their qualifying fees and can sit back and wait for Election Day, if unopposed, or launch their official campaigns if they have opposition.
Qualifying officially ended at noon Friday.
Unlike previous elections, there were a few surprises this time around, including one candidate who decided to withdraw his candidacy for a seat on the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners.
Another surprise is that several incumbent officials are being challenged.
And another deals with a little political landscape changing as two Democratic candidates and longtime incumbents opted to leave that political party and qualify as Independent candidates.
Those two candidates include Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee, who is seeking his ninth term as the chief law enforcement officer of the county; and Baldwin County Tax Commissioner Cathy Settle, who is seeking her sixth term in office.
Massee and Settle both qualified to seek re-election to four-year terms this week, according to Baldwin County Probate Judge Todd A. Blackwell, who also serves as the county’s election superintendent.
Massee and Settle, both Constitutionally-elected officials, are both running unopposed.
The same cannot be said of candidates in five other local political races.
They include a contested race between J. Skye Gess and Hoganne Harrison for Baldwin County Solicitor General.
Gess, considered the incumbent since being appointed by former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to fill the unexpired term of Maxine Blackwell, qualified as a Republican candidate on Thursday, while Harrison, a native of Baldwin County, qualified earlier this week as a Democratic candidate. Blackwell died unexpectedly during her term. Gess, was working as an assistant district attorney at the time before the former governor appointed her to that position.
State Rep. Rick Williams, (R-Milledgeville) qualified to seek re-election in Atlanta earlier this week, as did Quentin T. Howell, a Democrat, of Milledgeville, who will challenge him for the seat. Williams, the incumbent, represents District 145, which includes all of Milledgeville and Baldwin County, and the southern portion of Putnam County.
Meanwhile, a Republican incumbent county commissioner will seek re-election to another four-year term with Democratic challengers.
The District 5 commission race will pit incumbent Commissioner John H. Westmoreland against two Democratic hopefuls, Dr. Kelvin Butts and Amy Burt.
Republican Commissioner Sammy Hall, who represents District 3, had been opposed by Democratic candidate Danny Register, but he decided to withdraw as a candidate Thursday, according to Blackwell.
In yet another county commission race, District 2 Commissioner Tommy French Jr. decided not to seek re-election to another term. French, who is a Democrat, will serve out the remainder of his term that ends Dec. 31.
Another Democratic candidate, Kendrick B. Butts, qualified for French’s seat this week and because he is not challenged by a Republican or Independent candidate, is virtually assured of becoming the county’s new commissioner.
Two other county commissioners, Emily C. Davis, a Democrat and commission chairman Henry R. Craig, a Republican, were not opposed in their re-election bids and will return to the board for another four years.
In a political race that will be decided in the May primary, two Republican candidates will square off for district attorney of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. The circuit includes eight counties and is the largest judicial circuit in the state.
That race will pit a current assistant district attorney, T. Wright Barksdale, of Gray, against Carl S, Cansino, of Milledgeville. Cansino is a criminal defense attorney and former assistant district attorney.
The winner will become the new district attorney and replace current District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley, who opted to seek the seat of Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge William A. Prior Jr., who is not seeking re-election. Prior, along with Bradley, will serve out the remainder of their current terms in their respective positions, which run through Dec. 31.
Since Bradley was not opposed, he will join four other judges on the bench who serve the eight-county circuit next January.
One of those judges, Terry A. Massey, was up for re-election, too. But because he drew no opposition, he, too, will serve on the bench for an additional term.
On the non-partisian ballot, three incumbent members of the Baldwin County Board of Education all qualified for re-election.
They included District 2 BOE member Shannon D. Hill; District 3 BOE member Lyn F. Chandler Jr.; and District 4 BOE member John Noah Jackson.
Since they are unopposed, the trio will continue to serve on the local board of education.
Baldwin County Probate Judge Todd A. Blackwell also qualified this week to seek re-election to another four-year term. He, too, was unopposed.
Three incumbent Democratic candidates, Baldwin County Superior Court Clerk Mitch Longino, Baldwin County Chief Magistrate Shane M. Geeter and Baldwin County Coroner John P. Gonzalez, all qualified for re-election this week. Neither of them was opposed, so they, too, will be return to office for another four years.
The same holds true for Baldwin County Surveyor James E. Smith Jr., who qualified as a Republican candidate earlier this week for re-election.