Sandy Springs voters head to the polls May 20 to nominate candidates in Republican and Democratic primaries who will meet in the general election in the fall and to choose a school board member.

In recent redistricting, a number of Sandy Springs voters were moved into new districts. Sandy Springs has been divided among three Fulton County Commission districts and lines for Georgia House districts were redrawn. Here are candidates in contested races in May for the state Legislature and in commission districts representing Sandy Springs.

If you aren’t sure which district you vote in, go to http://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/LoginPage.aspx. That website also will tell you where you vote and can provide you with a printable sample ballot.

To find out more about the candidates, go to ReporterNewspapers.net and click on “Voters Guide 2014.”

State Senate, District 40

Democratic Primary

Tamara Y. Johnson

Community: Northlake

Occupation: Advocate for licensed beauty professionals

Previous political office held: none.Registered lobbyist in Georgia; hosts a weekly, Internet radio broadcast on legislation that affects the beauty and barber industry.

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

Voters should choose me for this position because of my advocacy experience and my tenacity to get the job done.  I understand my role as senator of District 40 is to facilitate the needs of my constituents.  My method of serving is to listen and to address the needs of those who I am elected to serve.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

The biggest problem of the constituents of the office I seek is education and poor leadership. Georgia has to take a more balanced approach in the decision making process of what is best for our students.  The job of our elected officials (leaders) is to facilitate the process and not dictate the needs of our children based on politics or political agendas.   I plan to address this by working directly with our educators, our students and our parents to define and develop a strategic plan to improve education.

Benedict I. Truman II

Community: North DeKalb County

Occupation: consultant

Previous political experience: no

Why should the voters choose you for this position?
Voters should choose me for this position because I am the only candidate willing to fight for millennials and middle-class families. There are real kitchen table issues facing thousands of constituents in State Senate District 40, and they are not being adequately addressed. The overall labor participation rate is declining and the unemployment rate in District 40 is higher than the national average. Voters need a real voice in the General Assembly instead of advocates for big business.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem? 

The biggest problem facing constituents of State Senate District 40 is the economy. I plan to address that problem by sponsoring legislation that will give small and medium-sized businesses tax breaks for each new net hire. Also, I would encourage my colleagues in the metro area to seriously consider a bid for the 2024 Olympics. The construction projects alone would provide a much needed boost to the local economy. In addition, I would persuade legislators to re-invest in shuttered facilities such as the GM plant in Doraville.

Republican Primary

Richard D. “Dick” Anderson

Community: Chamblee

Occupation: Manufacturer

Previous political experience: Active in Republican Party, but has not held elected office.

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

 I am not going to be a career politician.  I will serve a max of 4 years.
I come only to restore the Constitution, Rule of Law and all our Natural Rights for the good of all the people – not for special interests.
I will not take any form of donation from anybody that represents any special interest.
I will vote 100 percent for the Constitution – 100 percent of the time.
I know that our loss of rights has been the reason for the decline of this once great nation – and I believe we can restore it to its former grandeur by simply restoring the Constitution, Rule of Law and common sense. Our government was formed to protect our rights – not to “take care of us.”  We are rapidly running out of “taxpayers” to pay the bills.

What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

   The biggest problem is voter ignorance – they do not know what their elected officials are actually doing.  Not even 5 percent are aware of the voting records of their Elected Representatives (I believe ElectTheRightCandidate.us is the best, most complete and easiest way to find this out about Georgia Legislators.  Of course all the info is available on the House & Senate websites, but it is quite difficult for most people.).
Very, very few are aware that approximately 75 percent of our supposedly Republican officials are voting more often in favor of special interests and against the Constitution and their natural rights. Unfortunately, most of the media is in “full concert” with this – they print all the glowing reports (press releases) output by these officials and never question, research or print anything about their other votes.
I intend to maintain my website with current information concerning issues that affect my constituency – all during the year, not only when the General Assembly is in session. I will have a summary of each bill I am to vote on, or have voted on, with how I voted & why I voted as I did. I will hold “Town Hall” Meetings from time to time so every constituent will have his opportunity to say whatever he feels.  And, I will send out all the above info to the media as well.

Fran Millar (I)

Community: Dunwoody

Occupation: Insurance broker

Previous political experience: Georgia Senate, 2011 to present; Georgia House of Representatives, 1999-2010.

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

I have represented North DeKalb for the past 15 years. As a Republican minority in DeKalb, I have been able to eliminate back-door tax increases through the property tax freeze; led the effort to keep our school accreditation by working with the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and Gov. Nathan Deal; and kept people informed via newspaper articles, mailings, social media and forums. I was named one of the most influential senators the past two years by “James,” the political magazine.

What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

The major issue in our state is education achievement by our young people. I passed the first career-ready versus four-year college option in the BRIDGE bill and we continue to build on this initiative. I have been a major support of Common Core because we need standards of high rigor and must have a basis of comparison with the balance of the country and the world. Remember, education is the largest component of our state budget (which is balanced – unlike Washington’s) and we need to get a satisfactory return on our investment.

Other issues include child welfare reform (I am on Gov. Deal’s Child Welfare Reform Council.) and transportation-mobility and integration of systems.

Georgia House of Representatives, District 80

Republican Primary

Catherine S. Bernard

Community: Brookhaven

Occupation: Lawyer

Previous political experience: Delegate to 2012 Republican convention; president of Republican Women; membership chair of DeKalb Young Republicans

Michael J. “Mike” Jacobs (I)

Community: Brookhaven

Occupation: Lawyer

Previous political experience: State House of Representatives, 2005 to present

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

My record is one of which our community can be proud. I authored the bill creating the city of Brookhaven and passed legislation this year to shrink the dysfunctional DeKalb School Board from nine to seven members. I successfully have been working with MARTA to privatize aspects of its operations at a cost savings. Property taxes have been capped in Brookhaven and Sandy Springs due to legislation I helped pass. We also have repealed the birthday tax on motor vehicles, capped the state income tax, eliminated the state property tax and abolished Georgia’s death tax, all with my support.

What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

Brookhaven and Sandy Springs now enjoy advantages that never would have been available if our communities had remained unincorporated. Georgia is a top place to do business and spends less per capita than nearly every other state. The greatest task for our State Representative is to maintain this momentum. Unlike my opponent who first registered to vote in our community in August 2013, I have more than a decade’s worth of community experience to keep generating positive results for Brookhaven and Sandy Springs.

Fulton County Commission, District 2

Republican Primary

Bob Ellis

Community:   Milton

Occupation:   Vice President, Chubb Corp.

Previous political experience: no

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

I want to use my years of experience in North Fulton to give back to the community. I am confident

that my knowledge of, and commitment to, all of the communities of District 2, along with my professional experience, will enable me to develop partnerships between the county and each city, and foster the collaboration necessary among all constituents to address the difficult issues and challenges currently facing the county.

The Fulton County government needs strong, experienced leadership that will listen, collaborate,make tough decisions, and do what is right for the homeowners, families, and taxpayers of Fulton County. North Fulton has been my home for 18 years, and I am committed to keeping it a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

The greatest problem facing Fulton County is its budget, which faces an approximate $75 million shortfall this year. I support a balanced budget, and I oppose using reserves to offset shortfalls. I plan to utilize my professional experience to address this issue and to help create a sound budgeting process, built on sound operating principles. A budget process involves constantly evaluating our resources and services, and asking how we can provide those services in the highest quality and most efficient way possible.

With new leadership and collaboration, I believe we can restore financial responsibility, eliminate deficit spending, reduce the tax burden on homeowners, and streamline Fulton County government.

Eric Broadwell

Community: Roswell

Occupation: Entrepreneur

Previous political experience: Elected in 2012 to serve as director on the board of electric co-op

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

With my board experience, training, certification and the time to serve the people of N Fulton, I will reduce budgets, cut staff and lower rates and directly affect the wallet of N Fulton citizens as I have done for my co-op members. I stand by my principles and I listen to my constituents.

What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

There are three top issues: 1. Gridlock: We must end the gridlock between county and our cities and require our county administrator to ensure cooperation as a region. 2. The budget: We need to reduce the budget while we reprioritize the spending so we can repeal the tax increase, cut the current tax levels, fund our library operations, and provide senior programs. 3. Term limits: Our commissioners serve way too long and become out of touch and stagnant. The boards they appoint people to have term limits so why doesn’t the commission. Pass a bylaw that limits the terms of the commissioners.

Fulton County Commission, District 3

Republican Primary

Bernard “Bernie” Tokars

Community: Peachtree Hills

Occupation: State & Local Government, Cornerstone OnDemand

Previous political office held: none

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

I have spent the last several years advocating for conservative principles in Fulton County. I have worked as a member of Republican Commissioner Liz Hausmann’s District 3 Budget Board  to expose waste, fraud and abuse in the County budget and find taxpayer savings. Unfortunately the tax and spend County Commission has rejected those proposals. The most important vote a Commissioner makes is during the second meeting of the year when the General Fund Budget is adopted, District 3 needs a Commissioner who can be ready to find short and long term savings on Day 1 and I am the only candidate with the knowledge and experience to be effective immediately.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

Fulton County Government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We need to reduce the size, scope, and spending of Fulton County Government. Fulton County needs a new service delivery strategy. My three point plan:

  1.  Repeal the 2014 Tax Increase.

Fulton County government taxes and spends too much. It is the 2nd largest item on our tax bill what do we get for that?

  1.  Reduce jail overcrowding, to cut down on criminal recidivism and long term costs.

By working with the City of Atlanta to utilize space at the Atlanta City Jail, we can reduce overcrowding, outsourcing of inmates and escape the Federal Consent Decree that is costing taxpayers upwards of $100,000 a month.

3. Develop a collaborative working relationship with the 14 cities of Fulton County.

Approximately 90 percent of the citizens of Fulton County living in an incorporated city. The County Commission must work every day to reduce waste, fraud, abuse and overlap in the County Government.

Lee Morris

Community: Brookwood Hills

Occupation: Chief financial officer and general counsel

Previous political experience: Atlanta City Council, 1994 to 2001; Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, 2003 to 2006;Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council, 2007-present.

 Why should the voters choose you for this position?

I am the only candidate in the race with local government experience and a proven track record of accomplishments while in office. (See my website, VoteLeeMorris.com, under “Proven”). I am the only candidate with deep roots in the district, having lived in Sandy Springs, north Buckhead and now Brookwood Hills for almost 40 years, having educated my children entirely in schools in the district, and having worshipped in the district for over 35 years. I have support from most of the leaders trying to fix Fulton County, who are the people with whom the next commissioner must work collaboratively.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do

you plan to address that problem?

The commission’s 2014 budget is not balanced, instead using about $40 million of reserves to close the shortfall. Compounding the problem, it contemplates a 15 percent property tax increase to produce the planned revenue, in the face of a state law prohibiting that increase. If the inevitable court challenge reverses that increase, the remaining reserves (and more) will be used. I would require zero-based budgeting with reviews of each department to find inefficiencies and waste, would utilize thoughtful privatization of services, and would make the tough political decisions to prioritize spending on the non-mandated services currently provided by the county.

Cory Ruth

Community: Buckhead

Occupation:   Technology integrations

Previous political experience: State Steering Committee for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign; director of programs for Gov. Nathan Deal’s Office of Workforce Development

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

The most significant challenge facing Fulton is a culture of gridlock that is based in deep cultural and economic divides and has over the years become intractable.  Voters should be clear-eyed about the seriousness of these divides.  Unfortunately, none of the other issues – from taxes, to jails, to elections, to the size and cost of county government – can be successfully addressed without first bridging these divides!  I am the only candidate with solid relationships on both sides of the aisle, who has credibility with constituents across the county, who can navigate the cultural divides, build consensus and lead change!

 What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents in the office you seek, and how do you plan to address the problem?

It is clear that the divide between north and south Fulton is the greatest problem facing constituents because it inhibits the ability to get anything done on behalf of constituents!  I am the only candidate who can leverage my business experience in Mergers and Acquisitions bringing people together and building consensus.  I am also the only candidate who has credibility with and can communicate effectively to constituents in both north and south Fulton.  And I am the only candidate who can navigate the deep cultural divides and end this gridlock so that we can actually get this done!

Alexander Palacios

Community: Sandy Springs

Occupation: Business consultant/owner

Previous political experience: none

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

My small business experience, strong financial background, being an outsider and knowing that our district has been yearning for representation I know I can make a difference, a brighter and better future for our district and county by:

 asking and listening, one voter and one neighborhood at a time

 asking people in my district to serve in areas where they pose strengths/show interest

 aligning myself with civic leaders, educators, business owners, doctors, accountants, lawyers and true public servants

 going to neighborhood civic associations, schools, churches, libraries

 using social medial to inform

 having transparency

What do you think is the greatest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

There are so many places we need to start. Every politician will tell you they will cut taxes; we don’t even have a balanced budget! What services do we cut back; who decides? Are there divergent needs for different districts of the county? Is the board of commissioners working in a cohesive way or fractured and only concerned in advancing their personal agenda? How much longer can my district go without representation? My top priorities are to balance the budget, reduce property taxes, and strive towards a cohesive board of commissioners while addressing the needs of my district.

Fulton County Commission, District 7

Democratic Primary

John Eaves (I)

Community: South Fulton

Occupation:   Chairman, Fulton County Commission, leadership trainer and executive coach

Previous political experience: Chairman, Fulton County Commission since 2007

Why should the voters choose you for this position? 

I have demonstrated leadership in the face of daunting challenges – making smart decisions in tough scenarios while always keeping the needs of Fulton County residents and taxpayers in mind. I am committed to creating jobs and growing our local economy, and I created Fulton County’s first-ever economic development arm to help achieve those goals. I have expanded mentoring and cultural programs that prepare our students to succeed in the global economy.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?
Public safety is a basic requirement of a prosperous community. One of the most rewarding initiatives I have launched is our SMART Justice Advisory Council, a group of community and law enforcement leaders working to reduce recidivism, find alternatives for first-time offenders, and help motivated inmates reclaim their lives. I’m also a champion for the Grady Hospital System, a pillar of thecommunity and chief caregiver for so thousands of working class people across metro Atlanta.

Robb Pitts

Robert L. “Robb” Pitts (I)

Community: Atlanta

Occupation:   Financial representative

Previous political experience: Member, Atlanta City council (1977-1996); President, Atlanta City Council (1997-2001); Fulton County Board of Commissioners, District 2, At-Large (2003 to present – 3 terms).

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

Because of my experience in city and county government, I will bring much needed leadership to Fulton County. There is a need to reform how county government operates and manages its financial assets. As Chairman I would champion reducing the inmate population, implementing budget reform and financial accountability, implementing the mandates of the library bond referendum, work with the state in expanding Medicaid and ensuring that Fulton County is at the table to articulate and negotiate its regional positions for the county. Additionally, I will work cooperatively with our municipalities to restore trust in county government.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek and how do you plan to address that problem?

The biggest problem facing constituents for the office I am seeking is a lack of strong leadership and basic trust in our county government. I will provide strong leadership on public safety by reducing crime and enhancing public safety. I will provide strong leadership in managing your tax dollars by implementing budget and audit reforms. I will also provide strong leadership in ensuring that the Library Facility Master Plan is implemented. Additionally, I will provide strong leadership to enhance health and human services by pushing for state and local funding of Grady Memorial Hospital and will seek a dedicated funding stream for the indigent citizens of Fulton County.

Nonpartisan election

Fulton County Board of Education, District 7

Julia C. Bernath (I)

Community:   Sandy Springs

Occupation:   School board member

Previous political experience: Has held this school board seat since 2000.

Why should the voters choose you for this position? 

I have a proven track record of success in keeping our school system one of the most innovative and progressive school districts in the country, increasing test scores, providing a safe nurturing environment for our students, supporting transparency and communication, putting the interests of the children in our district first and keeping our taxes among the lowest in the metro Atlanta area.  I have spent most of my adult life advocating for public education, and I am very excited about the path our governance team (Board and Superintendent) has set for school system reform in our district.  I want very much to continue this work!

What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

Parents want their children get the best education possible, taxpayers want the best use of their tax dollars, communities want quality schools and teachers, and business leaders want a qualified work force, all of which equate to strong public schools.  As a board member, I have helped implement: a charter system that will provide more choice, voice and opportunities for students and parents; a modified zero based budgeting process providing more transparency in school system spending; new processes for hiring top teachers and developing school leaders; more communication and collaboration with business and community leaders to engage them in providing hands-on experiences for students to be successful beyond graduation.

Kathleen A. Wittschen

Community: Roswell

Occupation: business person

Previous political experience: no

Why should the voters choose you for this position?

It has been 14 years since the incumbent took office (she was initially appointed). Our schools have changed dramatically since then. I understand what is going on in our classrooms today and I will not shy away from complex issues. I have listened to parents and teachers. They are frustrated that comments are “welcomed” but rarely considered in decisions. We need someone who will listen to concerns, has a passion for education, a sense of urgency in resolving issues, and the high level business skills necessary to tackle the work of today’s school boards.

 What do you think is the biggest problem facing constituents of the office you seek, and how do you plan to address that problem?

The ability to obtain and keep a good paying job is a critical issue today. Our school board must ask, are we preparing our students to be competitive? It is clear that some districts are doing a better job than others. Low graduation rates and dropping SAT scores in District 7 are of great concern to parents and community leaders. Neighbors moving from District 7 to other districts, to gain access to curriculum not offered in our schools, is alarming. Every district must offer excellent public schools. It is our job to get District 7 back on track.

(I)= incumbent

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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