Though the two runoff candidates for the District 3 Democratic nomination both want economic development, they have different ideas of what it will take to bring it to the county.
Jimmy Clark, the owner of Team Sports, and Nancy Schulz, co-owner of The Oaks Golf Course, came in first and second place, respectively, in the July 15 five-way District 3 primary. Clark, who is running for a fourth time for a commissioner's seat, captured 41 percent of votes cast compared to Schulz, who captured 35 percent.
In preparation for the runoff, each candidate was asked by The News to rank six issues in order of importance. The candidates' largely dissimilar rankings are a window into what issues each candidate would likely push if elected.
Both candidates ranked public safety highly but while Schulz ranked balancing the county's budget with available resources No.1, Clark ranked it No.5. Though both candidates have stressed the importance of economic growth, Clark ranked it No. 1 and Schulz ranked it No. 5.
"Right now we are a bedroom community, and I'd like to shift some of the tax burden from the property owners to commercial and retail because if the trend continues the way it's going, it's going to be very expensive to live in Newton County as far as homeownership," Clark said.
Schulz says the board of commissioners should focus firstly on fulfilling the basic needs of county residents, which she defined as public safety, a strong transportation infrastructure and recreation opportunities.
Once those three things are in place, Schulz said the BOC will have given the chamber of commerce the best tools it can to attract commercial and industrial growth.
The candidates also diverged on their views of transportation and environmental conservation. Schulz ranked transportation and conservation No. 3 and No.6, respectively, rankings which were directly in reverse of Clark's.
"With the county growing as fast as it is, we need to make sure that we have all of our natural resources in place," Clark said.
Said Schulz, "Environmentalism and green space are important but they come after we meet the basic needs. It's all intertwined."
Both candidates have been very busy this primary season. While many residents have become familiar with Clark over the course of his three earlier runs for commissioner, Schulz and her campaign team have been going door-to-door around District 3. Schulz estimated that she has covered 2,000 homes in the district.
Though Clark collected more votes than Schulz in the general primary (564 to 486), she far outpaced him in terms of fundraising, raising $12,581 to his $2,575, according to campaign contribution disclosure reports filed by the candidates.
A significant portion of Schulz's contributions ($5,190) came from small donors giving less than $101. Small donors contributed $175 to Clark's campaign fund.
Both candidates have spent the majority of funds collected. Clark's total expenditures were $1,738 compared to Schulz's $11,271.
Several large donors contributed to both candidates. Among them were Rob Fowler and Resource Piedmont, which gave Clark his largest campaign contribution of $1,000 while also donating $500 to Schulz's campaign. Resource Piedmont Inc. is a commercial and residential developer with several properties in District 3.
Two weeks ahead of the runoff, Schulz was cautiously optimistic about her chances of winning.
"I think it all depends on the voter turnout," Schulz said adding, "They need to look for the candidate that they believe will not compromise their values."
Clark struck a more direct tone in his calls for voter support.
"I have the pulse of the county. I'm engaged with people throughout the county. I know that I'll be the best for the job," he said.
Registered voters who did not vote on July 15, can still vote in the Aug. 5 runoff, which also features runoffs for the Democrats' nominee for county chairman and the Republicans' nominee for sheriff. Those that did vote in the general primary can only cast ballots in the party runoff that they originally voted for.
"I think it's really important that somehow we energize the electorate to understand how important the issues are on a local level," Schulz said of why voters should turn out again in two weeks. "I'm not sure the residents really understand how crucial it is to make their voices heard."