Good old-fashioned southern barbecues, an uptick in trash talk and a slurry of ethics complaints filed - it all just means another election season has officially begun.
Qualifying for nonpartisan and primary elections began at 9 a.m. Wednesday and close at noon today. But even before the qualifying period began, the battle lines had been drawn.
In , complaints were filed against and his chief deputy, , charging violations of the Hatch Act. The sheriff is running for reelection and . The allegations, filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel last week, claim that Chapman's open support of Wright is a violation of the Hatch Act. Chapman, however, refutes the charge.
"I want to know how someone in Alabama thinks they know the law here in Georgia," Chapman said. "Do they think we're a bunch of cowboys here who don't know what we're doing. We have people who advise us - the Sheriff's Association. In order to make that complaint stick they would have to overturn the ruling in the case of the Sheriff in Gwinnett County."
Similar charges were filed against Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway for openly supporting Lorraine Greene in her run against former Gwinnett County Commission chair Charles Bannister in 2008. In that case, the OSC found in favor of Conway and Greene. According to The Walton Tribune, a former Loganville resident who now lives in Alabama, Jenifer Truit, filed the complaint. She is reportedly the friend of a Loganville attorney who is running against Wright. Wright qualified Wednesday and Chapman said he and Duff qualified on Thursday.
But Walton County candidates aren't alone in filing ethics complaints against political opponents. The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that Debbie Dooley, who holds a leadership role with the Tea Party Patriots, has said she will likely challenge state Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville). In the meantime, she has filed a complaint against her potential opponent alleging he billed the state for mileage while out of town on trips that were funded by lobbyists. Balfour represents Georgia Senate District 9 and is chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.
And in Gwinnett County, there is already blood in the water in the Commission District 3 race. Former Snellville mayor and newcomers and have qualified to run against Incumbent Commissioner . Two of the challengers have already turned on each other. A 2004 letter of reprimand to Tommy Hunter has been posted on the Mike Korom campaign site, outlining several violations of Gwinnett County merit system rules and regulations, administrator policies and human resources management policies alleged to have occurred during Hunter’s tenure as a senior construction manager. A post on the Korom campaign site refers to the matter as “Tommy Hunter’s waste of government time and money.” Hunter, however, is reportedly blaming Beaudreau's campaign for supplying the documents, albeit anonymously, to Korom's campaign.
The final qualified candidates will be posted following the noon deadline today. The judgeship races are non partisan and will be decided on July 31 or in a runoff, if necessary. The primary races will decide who goes on to run against a democrat or republican, whichever the case may be, in the General Election on Nov. 6.
If qualifying week is anything to go by, 2012 promises to be a long and contentions election season.