TIFTON -- Official qualifying begins Monday for several local elected seats up for grabs in the June 20 General Primary Election. Several incumbents and challengers have announced their candidacy while others who have expressed an interest haven't officially announced their intentions.

The General Primary Election is a partisan-sponsored election. Candidates for local seats qualify either with the local Democratic or Republican party office. Qualifying begins at 9 a.m. Monday and ends at noon Friday. Those who intend to run on the Democratic ticket should see Ralph F. "Rusty" Simpson at his law office at 112 E. 12th St. Republican candidates can file the paperwork with Rhonda Kunes at the Kunes and Kunes law office at 230 E. Second St.

Jean Edwards, clerk of the Tift County Board of Elections, said Friday that local Tift Superior Court judge candidates will qualify with the Secretary of State's office. Qualifying fees are calculated at 3 percent of the salary Tift County pays to officeholders.

Party offices will forward qualifying forms to Edwards, who will then explain the rules of campaign financing to the candidates and complete appropriate paperwork.

Tift County Commission Chairman Buddy Bryan has indicated he will not seek re-election to the seat he has held for one four-year term. District 2 County Commissioner Daughtry Melton III said he is vacating his post to run for the chairmanship. Local farmer and businessman Grady Thompson and Fun Channel owner and businessman Hayward Fowler have announced their candidacies for the chairmanship. Retired tobacco agronomist Robert "Bobby" Miles decided to withdraw from the race for chairman after announcing his candidacy. All voters in Tift County elect the chairman.

Chickasha lab technician Melissa Chevers announced in March that she will seek the post currently held by Melton.

Local attorney and former Juvenile Court Judge Fred W. "Buck" Rigdon Jr. announced that he will challenge District 5 incumbent Harriette Rowe for her position on the Tift County Commission.

Local attorney Joseph Carter announced in September 2003 that he would not run again for his at-large seat on the Tift County Board of Education; instead, he is running for the Georgia Senate District 13 seat. Pharmaceutical representative Andy Cross has announced he will run for the seat Carter is vacating and Liz Carson Keith announced Friday that she will run for the same seat.

Two additional seats on the Tift County Board of Education will be on the primary ballot. The District 1 seat currently held by Betty Parson and the District 3 seat currently held by Erick Willis will also be on the ballot.

Other Tift County posts on the ballot, and those who currently hold the positions, include: sheriff (Gary Vowell), tax commissioner (Gene Goode), probate judge (Lillian Radford), clerk of superior court (Gwen Pate), chief magistrate (Doug Jones) and coroner (Joe Beaumont).

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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