Happy New Year! Yep, as we close the door on 2012 and a very active political season, you might ask what is in store for 2013. This year should be interesting if you live in a city and for those of us who will be sitting on the sideline, it should still be fun to watch. Every city in Hall County will have seats available, but there will be two cities that will draw attention: Gainesville and Flowery Branch. You may ask yourself why you should care about a city that you don’t live in; have you looked at your water bill from Gainesville? Or have you been invited to court by one of Oakwood’s or Flowery Branch’s finest for some obscure traffic violation? The cities impact all of us. Today we will look at Gainesville, then we will look at Flowery Branch in another article.
Gainesville may be the headliner because there are a few new wrinkles that we need to keep an eye on. The first wrinkle will be the election of a Mayor. While this may not sound out of the ordinary, for Gainesville, it is a first. Up until now, the city has rotated the Mayor’s spot between the council members. Along with the Mayor, Wards 1 and 4 are up for grabs. That means that the Mayor’s, Danny Dunagan, council seat, 1, and George Wangemann are up. There is also the possibility that the city will be sued based on the at-large voting; this would impact the individual ward races.
It is early to speculate on who might be running for what, but that is what we are here for.
Gainesville Mayor– It has been speculated that there may be a 3 or 4 way race for mayor. In honor of Hugh Akston, here are the candidates in alphabetical order and my odds of them winning:
- Ashley Bell, 4-1: Commissioner Bell recently lost a bid for reelection to the county commission in a district that looks a lot like the mayor’s race. He has a name recognition advantage, along with the ability to raise campaign funds.
- Jody Cooley, 8-1: Jody recently ran as a Democrat for the 9th Congressional seat. Certainly, being a former or current Democrat in Gainesville doesn’t hurt. Word is that Mr. Cooley is a respected attorney and a good guy.
- Danny Dunagan, 3-1: he is currently serving as mayor and has his name recognition as well. While he may be the front runner, people will have to look at his record on forced annexation and the bridge to nowhere.
- Debra Harkrider, 50-1: Debra recently challenged Hamrick for his seat. If she still has the bug, she may jump in. As the only female, she might be able to make some noise.
Ward 1– in Gainesville, you have to live in the district, but the election is city wide, for now:
- Ashley Bell, 3-1: Rumor has it that Commissioner Bell has recently moved into Ward 1. I would expect that he would be one of the last to qualify since he can sit back and see who runs for what.
- Danny Dunagan, 2-1: If the current mayor thinks the race for Mayor gets too crowded, he may just decide to stay at home.
- George Wangemann, 3-2: whoo, since Council Member Wangemann is a Morman, is it even O.K. to put odds on his reelection?
- Rumored candidate, 10-1: there is a rumor that someone else moved into the city to run. I am trying to track this one down and will update you when I get a name.
Overall, this should be an active political year for Gainesville. It will be interesting to see how many people actually jump in considering that there are usually not a lot of challengers in municipal elections.