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Newton commission remains 3-2 Democrat majority
Voters line up
Newton County advance voters line up Oct. 23, 2020, outside the Newton County Administration Building in downtown Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County’s governing board will continue to operate with three Democrat and two Republican members.

Voters re-elected two Republicans who faced challengers in the General Election Nov. 3 despite Democrats sweeping the presidential and U.S. Senate seats and three contested countywide offices on the ballot.

They also formally elected a new Democratic member and re-elected the chairman, both of whom were unopposed Nov. 3.

Republican commissioners Stan Edwards of District 1 and Ronnie Cowan of District 5 and Democrat Chairman Marcello Banes won second terms on the Newton County Board of Commissioners.

Democrat Alana Sanders won her first term in the District 3 seat without opposition after winning the June Democratic Primary. Banes was unopposed in the Democratic Primary and General Election.

Cowan said he felt “pretty good” about his re-election. He said he was not surprised by the 60% margin he won because he believed he knew the political makeup of his district.

“I felt like District 5 was still predominantly Republican,” Cowan said. “I appreciate everybody.”

Cowan won majorities in nine of the 11 precincts in his district, including the Covington Mills and Cedar Shoals precincts where Democrat Joe Biden won.

Democratic opponent Dorothy Piedrahita won 75% in the Livingston precinct covering west central Newton County where Biden took two-thirds of the votes cast.

She also won a slight majority in the small part of the City Pond precinct in District 5, but lost everywhere else.

District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards won majorities at all but one of the seven precincts in his district to defeat challenger Catalata Hardeman with 71% of the vote.

He won in six precincts in which Trump won handily. He almost won in the sole precinct Hardeman won, Downs, which covered southwestern Newton County.

Edwards attributed his victory to his work to “listen” and “engage” with the residents of his eastern and southern Newton County district.

He said people could look at his votes to see the conservative stand he took on issues during his time as a commission member.

“I appreciate the voters of District 1,” Edwards said.

He also wrote on his Facebook page that any candidate “can only garner 71% of the vote if he or she is plugged in to an engaged, thoughtful and deliberate electorate — no matter the color of their skin, their political party, or any other factor. 

“I have no personal agenda and definitely nothing to gain personally from being a commissioner. My only motive is to do what I hope is best for the county each time I vote,” Edwards said.

Sanders received 10,038 complimentary votes after being unopposed in the General Election.

She defeated incumbent Nancy Schulz in the Democratic primary in June. No Republicans qualified for the seat.

The commissioner-elect said she was “humbled and honored” by the vote.

“I am humbled because my neighbors came out in record numbers to cast their votes and believing in the vision that we can work together to make a difference in the community. I am honored that they saw me as the person who will assist in making this vision a reality. 

“There is much work to be done, and it will not happen overnight.  It is my goal to get my neighbors involved in the government that speaks for them and have pride in the community in which they live. 

“Thank you, Nancy Schulz, for paving the way for others to continue on the legacy of District 3. Thank you, District 3, for your support, and I hope to make you proud as your next commissioner.”

Banes said on his Facebook page he was “humbled.” 

“I’ve made some tough decisions my first term that I believe was in the best interest of all of Newton County. I have learned that I am not going to make everyone happy and probably going to make some people mad.  

“Know that I will always have an open ear, welcome productive talks and work with anyone willing to work on solutions,” Banes said.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners includes five voting members elected from individual districts and a chairman elected countywide who only votes in case of a tie. 

It sets the property tax rate, authorizes expenditures and adopts the annual county budget for such departments as the sheriff’s office, the judicial system, animal control, elections office and more. 

It also is responsible for establishing county government policies; and approves or denies zoning changes governing land use in the unincorporated areas of the county.