Jockeying Begins for Fulton Commissioner Lowe’s Seat as Retirement Seems Likely
(APN) ATLANTA — According to five sources familiar with the matter, Fulton County Commissioner Tom Lowe (District 4) is not likely to seek reelection for the recently redrawn District 3 seat.
Two of those sources–former Atlanta Councilman Lee Morris (District 7) and Bernie Tokarz–are planning to run for what is expected to be an open seat. “As I understand it, Tom Lowe is not running again,” Tokarz, a Republican political operative, told Atlanta Progressive News.
At the last meeting of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Lowe appeared to be especially frail and in poor health, and he required assistance getting into and out of his seat, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Lowe–a veteran of public service and a giant on the Commission–declined comment when reached by APN for this story.
Lowe’s current district boundaries, for District 4, include parts of Atlanta’s Buckhead community, Sandy Springs, and part of Roswell. The new District 3 includes Sandy Springs, Buckhead, and even part of Midtown north of 10th Street.
The Board’s longest-serving member, Commissioner Lowe was elected to the first of his ten four-year terms in 1974. His most recent re-election was in November 2010. From 1983 until 1989, he served as Commission Vice Chairman.
“Being able to forecast a race is never a certain thing, especially given the amount of turmoil and changes that the County and the economy have had. There are two open seats, which should generate a lot of interest, and what should be a pivotal race for Chairman,” Lowe said, referring to the newly drawn District 2 seat and the newly open District 5 seat.
If, as expected, Lowe does not run for reelection, then there will be a third open seat this year.
“It’s clear that the makeup of the Board could look significantly different next year compared to this year,” Lowe commented when asked about this year’s upcoming Commissioner races.
Already four candidates have lined up to run for Lowe’s seat.
His district will be heavily fought over by four candidates: former Atlanta Councilman Morris; Tokarz; Cory Ruth, former state GOP steering committee member for Mitt Romney’s 2012 Presidential bid; and John Stoj, former candidate in 2013 for Sandy Springs City Council District 6.
All have filed their notices of intent to run. Stoj has raised 23,000 dollars to date. Morris has raised 18,925 dollars to date. Tokarz has raised 15,560 dollars to date. Ruth has not yet filed a disclosure.
Morris has been on the map for quite some time. He served as a Council Member for the City of Atlanta for two terms, and he made a run at the Fulton County Chairman seat against John Eaves in 2006.
During that race, prominent Georgia Democrats created a controversial radio ad suggesting that the election of Mr. Morris, the Republican nominee, as Fulton County Chairman, in 2006, would turn back the clock on racial progress in Georgia.
“On November 7, we face the most dangerous situation we ever have,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said in the advertisement.
“If you think fighting off dogs and water hoses in the ’60s was bad, imagine if we sit idly by and let the right-wing Republicans take control of the Fulton County Commission,” Lewis said.
“The efforts of Martin and Coretta King, Hosea Williams, Maynard Jackson, and many others will be lost,” then-Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin said in the ad. “That’s why we must stand up and we must turn out the vote for the Democrats on Election Day.”
“And especially for John Eaves for Fulton County Commission Chairman. Unless you want them to turn back the clock on equal rights and human rights and economic opportunity for all of us, vote for John Eaves as Fulton County chairman,” former Mayor of Atlanta Andrew Young said in the ad.
Ironically, Morris–who considers himself a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, environmentalist–is not as right-wing as Franklin and others have made him out to be.
While Morris lost that bid, his penchant for public service has never wavered.
“More people feel closer to their local government than at the state level,” he said. “I’m pleased and honored by the overwhelming support I’ve received from my friends, colleagues, and voters of District 3.”
Publicly supporting Morris for his bid this year are State Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), former Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, former Atlanta City Council Member Clair Muller (District 8), and Atlanta City Council Members Howard Shook (District 7) and Yolanda Adrean (District 8).
“I remember working as a Councilmember and getting calls at 3am from constituents. They know who their local elected officials are! I’ve lived in this district for 35 years; I’ve worshipped here for 35 years; my kids have gone to local, public schools in the district; and I feel I know everyone. I consider myself a fiscal watchdog; it makes sense to get back into it,” Morris told APN.
Raising money since October 2013, Bernie Tokarz also is no stranger to politics. According to his Linkedin profile, as a consultant, he’s worked for three firms; served as a fellow for US Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA); and was appointed to sit on the Beltline Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee (TADAC) by Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann (currently District 3).
“Fulton County needs a fresh voice,” Tokarz told APN. “The County has been poorly served by the current Commission. A change in culture has to happen; if we continue down this path we’re gonna have to pay a bill bigger than we can handle. Fulton needs to be a one-stop shop where everyone can do business. We need better performance and efficiency. Getting a better handle on the budget is key.”
Meanwhile, candidate Mr. Ruth works as an independent consultant in the area of Information Technology Business Mergers and Acquisitions. He is the former Director of Programs in Governor Deal’s Office of Workforce Development. Ruth currently serves on the Georgia Technology Authority Board of Directors, Georgia Science and Technology Executive Committee, and on the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Council.
“Taxpayers are feeling underrepresented and overtaxed; many of the core constitutional services that the county is expected to deliver are in crisis – from jails, to elections, to courts, and even tax collection; and the county is facing a 70 million dollar budget shortfall,” Ruth stated on his campaign website.
Finally, John Stoj touts himself as a small business owner with finance, investment banking, and real estate experience.