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Citizen group seeks candidates to challenge Oconee incumbents

by Michael Prochaska and Lee Becker

Watkinsville attorney Pam Hendrix is working with a group to organize a slate of candidates to run against all of the Oconee County incumbents—including the coroner, sheriff, tax commissioner, clerk of courts and Probate Court judge—in the May 21 General Primary.

Hendrix declined to identify the other people in the group who are recruiting candidates.

The chair of the Board of Commissioners comes with a $105,377 base salary. The incumbent constitutional officers—sheriff clerk of courts, tax commissioner and Probate Court judge—make above $100,000 due to raises and longevity. But the base salary for those positions is $83,750.

Hendrix said the public should know that the incumbents make six figures.

The base salaries of constitutional officers are set by the state and are based on a percentage of the population of the county.

Hendrix said she may run for the Board of Education, but she hasn’t decided which of the three posts up for election she will seek. When she makes that decision, The Oconee Enterprise will interview her.

“We also feel that if we run just one person, that person will be perceived as a lone troublemaker or disrupter that can’t possibly win election,” Hendrix said. “We feel that contesting as many of the seats up for re-election as possible will send a stronger message.”

Hendrix has long been active in the Oconee County Republican Party and has served as party treasurer. She served as an Oconee County delegate last June to the state Republican Party convention. She is also secretary of the Conservatives of Northeast Georgia.

Hendrix ran in 2010 for Superior Court Judge in the Western Judicial Circuit and as a Republican in the primary for Tax Commissioner in 2012.

In 2022, she led opposition to the proposal by the Board of Education to drop the millage rate of 16.5 to only 16.25.

She has spoken frequently before the Board of Education at recent meetings and was one of two citizens who attended the Board of Education retreat in January.

“We think running as many people as possible might cause the average person to sit up and take notice,” she continued. “Maybe they aren’t the only one frustrated with the current system…Plus it will hopefully force the incumbents to have to answer questions at public forums and state their positions on the record.”

The Oconee County Republican Party plans to hold a candidate forum on Monday, March 25 at DGD Farms off Cliff Dawson Road. Tim Bryant will moderate.

The Oconee Enterprise and retired journalism professor Lee Becker plan to organize a candidate forum for only Board of Education candidates. A date is yet to be determined.

As of press time, no Democrat has announced his or her candidacy for local office. Harold Thompson, chair of the Oconee County Democratic Committee sent an email to members on Feb. 8 with a list of seats up for election and encouraged people to run for office.

“There is an organized effort to recruit GOP challenges for the primary, so Dem prospects in these races…are improving,” he wrote.

Qualifying for the May 21 Primary will be held March 4 through March 8 at the Oconee County Administration Building, located at 7635 Macon Highway.

The GOP will be holding qualifying for Republican candidates in a conference room on the second floor of the Oconee County Administration Building throughout that week.

“Each party can choose to hold their own qualifying or to allow us to be the qualifying officer,” said Jennifer Stone, assistant director of the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration. “We are holding the Democrat, nonpartisan and independent qualifying at our office.”

For information about qualifying for local seats, visit oconeecounty.com, click on the “Departments Tab” and then select “Elections and Registration.”

Qualifying for the Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Superior Court Judges, State Senate, Sate House and U.S. House seat are done through the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, and those dates are also March 4-8. For more information about state qualifying, visit sos.ga.gov.

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