TIFTON -- Voters in the Tift County Commission District 2 race may think they're suffering from double vision during the July 20 primary. Instead, they will be deciding on their commissioner for the rest of the year, and the next four years as well.
Commissioner Daughtry Melton's decision to seek the chairmanship of the board has caused an election anomaly. Two candidates, Melissa Hughes Chevers and Frankie L. Mathis, qualified to run for his seat with the term beginning at the first of the year. Then, Melton learned he would have to immediately give up his seat due to a law that forbids current commissioners from running for the chairman's seat while they are still on the commission.
So a special qualifying period was held that lasted from May 22 through noon on May 24 for an election to fill the vacancy from August 1 through December 31. Chevers was the only person to qualify for that race. Mathis said he did not know the qualifying was being held at that time and on Tuesday, went to the Tift County Elections office to announce his intentions to be a write-in candidate. If he completes the paperwork by June 8, he will be the only write-in candidate on the ballot against Chevers.
Both candidates are Democrats, so voters will have to choose between the two in the special election and the regular primary election, both of which will be on the same ballot on Tuesday, July 20.
"I think that law should be changed," said Chevers, referring to the law that forced Melton to step down. "I hope that if I'm elected, we can work to change that. Right now, our district is without representation."
Mathis, who is a construction manager with BellSouth, said he simply didn't see the announcement for the special election posted in The Tifton Gazette and did not know about it until he was called by a resident of the district Sunday.
"I don't think being a write-in will hurt me," he said. "People know who I am and a lot of people have asked me to run for years but we had Mr. Melton and Mr. Graydon before that and I knew they would do a good job. But after I prayed about it a lot, I had it on my heart to do this."
Both candidates say they have been in the community, listening to the concerns of the people in the district. Chevers said the beautification of the area and safety are big issues.
"I think the sheriff's department should have more of a presence and more patrolling going on," she said. "I've gotten a lot of feedback from the community and it's all been good."
Mathis said that, with the exception of college and military service, he has lived in the same area in Tifton for almost 55 years. He believes his familiarity with the people there and the issues will be an asset if he's elected.
"I don't come with a lot of promises," he said. "I just want to work with the rest of the commission for the whole community. We've got some roads that need to be improved and I applaud the sheriff's department for having the precinct on 5th Street. I understand there are some budget problems but I think if we eliminate some of the waste, we can make it work.
"My campaign is built on honesty," he added. "If I can't tell you the truth about something, I won't tell you anything. If you ask me a question about something and it's still being talked about but I can't say anything about it, I'm going to tell you that and not tell you something that isn't true. I will listen to anyone's concerns."
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