Heck, Who Knows What’s Gonna Happen in Little Ole Clayco on Tuesday? I Don’t. But, It Sure is Fun Speculatin’! My Prediction? Two of the Three Imcumbents Will Lose! How’s That for Hedgin’ My Bets?
By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
What’s going to happen in little ole Clayco? Who knows? Clayco, or Clayton County for those not in the know, is geographically the third smallest county in Georgia, but it does indeed have a lot a mess going on there at any given time. It is a very colorful county, a county from which novels are made and TV movies are written. You have a sheriff who has been accused by one former employee of being fired because she refused to engage in a threesome with him and his spokeswoman, a spokeswoman/deputy who has since this alleged event been indicted on a couple of unrelated charges. There has been more than one sexual accusation lodged against the current sheriff. The former sheriff who is trying to mount a comeback is currently under indictment (37 counts) for misuse of campaign monies and using the county-issued vehicle to cross State lines. (By the way, what happens to the sheriff in Muscogee County who wants to eat lunch in Phenix City, Alabama – just a tad across the ole Chattahoochee – and two of his deputies and he go over to the restaurant that you can actually see from the Dillingham Street Bridge? Or, what about the Dade County Sheriff who might have to jut up into Tennessee on his route to serve a warrant on a suspect who lives on the other side of Dade County? Just wondering.)
So, in this first race, we have embattled Sheriff Kem Kimbrough who apparently has plenty of money to send out slick mailings to the voters, reminding them that Victor Hill has 37 indictments against him. As we noted in an earlier article, there is a common adage within the legal profession about the ability to indict a ham sandwich. Only the District Attorney gets to present his or her side before a Grand Jury. In addition, Grant Jury witnesses are not cross-examined by the accused lawyers. But, this makes for good political grist. Victor Hill sent out a mailing to the voters apologizing for mistakes that he has made in the past (but not apologizing for the allegations in the indictment; he denies these accusations) and promising to be wiser and more mature if the voters give him a second chance. He claims that he will focus all of his energies on the thugs and criminal elements in the County, not on his political opponents. He asks the voters to “bring back the Crimefighter.”
Shana Rooks made a surprise showing in County Commission District 3. She is a Spelman graduate as well as a graduate of Tulane University Law School. This lawyer, who has apparently engaged in a significant amount of pro bono work on behalf of the indigent, is mounting an aggressive runoff campaign against incumbent Wole Ralph, reminding workers of his DUI charge, reckless driving charge, among other things, including, but not limited to, his participation in the largest tax increase in the history of the County Commission. From driving around the County, it looks like that Commissioner Ralph has gone back to his original red and white signs of earlier days, unlike the sign that he started off with this campaign season, a sign not unlike the ones used by Commissioner Gail Hambrick and District Attorney candidate Leslie Miller-Terry. Wole Ralph’s name is a little weird, but although Shana Rooks made the runoff, her earlier campaign efforts did not look overwhelming. It appears that she has stepped it up a notch in the runoff, however. Will this be enough to un-seat Wole Ralph, a member of the so-called Wade Starr Triumvirate on the County Commission? It was the triumvirate of commissioners, Sonna Singleton, Gail Hambrick, and Wole Ralph, which catapulted Wade Starr from Manager of Fleet Maintenance to County Manager, effectively stripping elected County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell of his power on the Commission.
Wole Ralph explaining to the media his DUI arrest.
Ahhhh. The County Chairman’s race. This ought to be interesting. I was personally shocked when former County Police Chief, Jeff Turner, went to the mattresses in his race against Chairman Bell. This really surprised me. These two candidates ended in a virtual tie at 42% a piece. I thought that with the help of Mark Rountree and Landmark Communications doing his mailings, etc., that Eldrin Bell would win without a runoff. Bell somewhat became the darling of the Lake Folk and other whites in the County when he took on Victor Hill when Hill brusquely fired about 20 deputies his first day in office, most of whom were white deputies. (Hill has since apologized for this action.) But, it appears that Bell got too caught up in the T-SPOST and was too cozy with those who were pushing for it. Also, when Jeff Turner had been the Clayton County Police Chief, he apparently made many friends, especially among those people actively involved in the neighborhood associations. Although Turner may not be able to sing as well or glad-hand as well as Chairman Bell, he nevertheless is fairly facile himself and presents a young, dynamic image for the County. The voters may simply being say: “We are tired of all of the in-fighting. We are tired of the ole guys. We simply want a change. We want a new beat in Clayton County.”
So, who’s going to win? I don’t know. I think, however, that two of the three incumbents will go down in defeat, and it will be a new day in Clayco…different characters and personalities, but perhaps more of the same. With whom will Michael Hightower line up? Doesn’t he and/or his company have the lion’s share of the contracts with the County Commission? Just asking.
If Turner beats Bell, this ought to present an interesting situation with Turner as the elected County Commissioner Chairman and Wade Starr as the appointed County Manager. Didn’t Turner accuse Wade Starr of orchestrating his firing as the County Police Chief? Again, just asking.
Is Wade Starr on the hot seat?
What if Shana Rooks beats Ralph Wole, will this be the effective end of the Triumvirate on the Commissioner, a Triumvirate often accused of being orchestrated by Wade Starr?
Steve Frey, Clayton’s most aggressive and effective attorney?
What if former Sheriff Victor Hill defeats current Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, what will happen next? Will Victor Hill demand a speedy trial, as is his right under the U. S. Constitution? Will Judge Albert Collier, known to be a very fair and impartial judge, grant Mr. Hill a trial quick enough so that the disposition of his case can be determined before his time to take office? Victor Hill’s attorney, Steve Frey, is certainly not a wall flower in the courtroom. He is quick on his feet and his mental acumen in the courtroom is rather enjoyable to watch if you are an outside observer. I personally think that Victor Hill’s personality and charisma, as well as Steve Frey’s gregarious and facile intensity, will work on a Clayton County jury. I freely admit that I don’t know a lot about the facts of the case, and I know that Clayton County District Attorney Tracey Lawson-Graham is very competent and won’t bring a case that lacks impact. If this case goes to trial, it will be one for the ages. It will be a trial that people talk about for years. © JRAT, August 19, 2012.