This week there were two entirely different runoffs in the hands of voters throughout the CSRA.
In Richmond County, the runoff for the State Court judgeship being vacated by John Flythe pitted local attorneys Robert “Bo” Hunter III and Kellie Kenner McIntyre in a heated race against one another.
Despite Hunter’s best efforts to get the word out about his more than 30 years of service to the local legal community and his dedication to Richmond County, McIntyre ended up handily beating Hunter at the polls.
McIntyre, who is the current Richmond County State Court solicitor general and the daughter-in-law of former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre, managed to receive 56.7 percent of the votes cast in the runoff compared to Hunter’s 43 percent.
This, despite the fact that McIntyre was heavily criticized by numerous media reports about her current job performance as solicitor.
Specifically, McIntyre’s effectiveness as Richmond County State Court solicitor general came under fire following a lengthy news story that was published in The Augusta Chronicle about the enormous backlog in the solicitor’s office.
The Chronicle’s story reported that nearly $1.4 million from fines paid by thousands of residents for minor traffic tickets before Jan. 1, 2014, and some cash bonds that people put up to get others out of jail had been sitting untouched in a bank account for years.
The money had allegedly been just sitting there because of the backup in paperwork in the Richmond County Solicitor’s Office, according to the Chronicle.
The Metro Spirit attempted to interview McIntyre prior to the July 26 runoff and give her an opportunity to address Richmond County voters, but she never responded to more than half a dozen requests for an interview.
McIntyre also refused to debate Hunter prior to the runoff.
It’s a sad day in local politics when an elected official running for a State Court judgeship can avoid the press, dodge questions from the public about the efficiency of her current office and still get elected to the bench.
In an ironic twist, Hunter, who also served as the former solicitor general of Richmond County State Court beginning in 1988, was probably best known for quickly addressing the tremendous backlog of cases in the office during his eight years as solicitor.
Did the better candidate for the State Court bench win this election?
Apparently, the voters of Richmond County truly believe so.
Let’s hope that they are right, because, to be honest, it certainly doesn’t feel that way.
Over in the race for the state Senate District 24 seat currently held by retiring Sen. Bill Jackson, two Republicans — former state Rep. Lee Anderson and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Greg Grzybowski — faced one another in a runoff.
Anderson, a proud native of Columbia County who often describes himself as “an old country boy,” beat out Grzybowski, the political newcomer.
Throughout this election, Anderson represented the more traditional candidate from Columbia County.
“I grew up in the Harlem/Grovetown/Appling area,” said Anderson, whose farm has been in his family for three generations. “I have to say that because I have a Grovetown address, I have an Appling telephone number and I went to Harlem High School.”
That’s pure Columbia County for you, folks.
Anderson also received some major political support from his local friends, including endorsements by former state Sen. Jim Whitehead, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle, state Rep. Tom McCall, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and retiring Sen. Bill Jackson.
While Anderson enjoyed telling more family stories than talking future legislation on the campaign trail, the long-time elected official had already proven his reliability to most local voters with his solid conservative record.
Over the years, Anderson had also served on the Columbia County School Board, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners and as a state representative for District 117 in the Georgia General Assembly.
In fact, Anderson insisted during the campaign that he was the stronger candidate because he has a proven track record throughout this community and state.
“I believe the difference between me and my opponent is I have been here my whole life and I didn’t try to go to the top all of a sudden. I started small,” Anderson recently told the Metro Spirit. “Before I even ran for the school board, I served on committees in the county. I was learning. I think you’ve got to learn and see how the machine works.”
On the flip side, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Greg Grzybowski represented everything new in Columbia County.
While he had two different tours of duty at Fort Gordon and “lived off and on” in Columbia County for about 10 years, Grzybowski was still seen as a newcomer to the area.
Despite being commissioned as a second lieutenant into the United States Army under the Reserve Officer Training Program in 1992 and serving 23 years as both a military intelligence and acquisition officer retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel, his impressive military career couldn’t beat out a local farmer.
Needless to say, over the past two years, Grzybowski, who was also a former District 3 candidate for the Columbia County Commission, has learned the challenges of running in a local election.
“When you are running against someone from here, the powers that be — not all of them, but a good number of them — support the local individual,” Grzybowski recently told the Metro Spirit. “It’s frustrating.”
Welcome to politics in Columbia County, Lt. Col. Grzybowski.