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SPIGOLON: Is inexperience a good quality for an elected official?
Abigail Coggin
District 5 Newton County School Board member Abigail Coggin qualifies for reelection recently. (Special | Newton County Republican Party)

After the apparent apathy about politics seen in Georgia in recent decades, it’s either a good or bad thing so many local and state candidates qualified for the May 24 Democratic and Republican primaries last week.

It’s a good thing because county residents and voters appear to finally understand the role local government plays in their lives — that they should pay attention to more than the presidential sweepstakes every four years.

City, county and state governments are the ones closest to Georgians. It’s where decisions are made about where and when roads should be paved and widened. It’s the level of government where decisions are made about the amount of property tax owed by owners of land or businesses. Decisions about school system governance and funding priorities are made here.

But, others may view large groups of candidates qualifying as a bad thing. 

It may mean local governments are operating so poorly that many see the need to run for office to fix them. 

It also may mean a number of inexperienced people will be setting our tax rates and deciding how the money could best be spent — without knowing the true needs of local government and the basic services it provides.

Incumbent District 2 County Commissioner Demond Mason, who represents part of west Newton, apparently has the hardest path to reelection in the May 24 Democratic primary. 

Mason faces a challenge from Dwayne Stephens, a local pastor, and two of his 2018 opponents for the seat, Steven Rhodes and Earnest L. Simmons. 

Simmons served on the county commission from 2006-2010.

The race likely will go to a June 21 runoff between the two top vote-getters — just as it did in 2018 when Mason defeated Simmons.

However, the district has changed somewhat from 2018. The Georgia General Assembly reconfigured District 2 as part of its changes to Newton County’s commissioner and school board districts in response to 2020 census data. 

The district added some area from District 3 that is north of Brown Bridge Road and includes areas in the Wisteria community. It also lost a section between highways 162 and 81 to District 1.

Another race with almost no one seeing a clear path to victory May 24 is the race for the 10th Congressional District seat now occupied by U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro.

Hice is leaving his congressional seat to challenge incumbent Brad Raffensperger for the GOP nomination for Georgia Secretary of State. Eight Republicans and five Democrats are seeking their parties’ nominations for the seat representing a 19-county district that the Georgia General Assembly designed to remain in squarely in Republican hands. 

Only one of the Republicans, former congressman Paul Broun, and none of the Democrats have held elected office at the federal level — which, again, some may view as a good thing.

We have six-term incumbent J.C. Henderson facing a challenge from Covington youth pastor Willie B. Jackson for the Democratic nomination for county commission District 4 on May 24. Three-term incumbent school board member Shakila Henderson-Baker, the chairperson this year, faces a challenge from Victoria Redding in the May 24 primary.

Two-term state senator Brian Strickland, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, faces an apparent strong challenge from Rivian opponent Brett Mauldin of Madison for the Republican nomination for a Newton County seat in the General Assembly. 

In other words, lots of inexperience potentially winning seats at all levels of government. Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe not. 

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at