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Qualifying over; races take shape

Candidates in Lamar County and beyond have jumped into the political fray as qualifying for the July 31 general primary was held Wednesday through noon Friday. The qualifying brought out the expected candidates and a few that were unexpected. Here is a rundown on contested races on the primary ballot which will also feature the controversial TSPLOST referendum. Sheriff: Frank Usher qualified for this race as a Democrat while Brad White qualified as a Republican. Former sheriff Joe Buice has said he will run as an independent in November and does not have to qualify until this summer. County commission District 3: Three Republicans qualified for this post which is being vacated by incumbent Jimmy Hearn. The qualifiers are Van Baker, Kelvin Chute and Julia Heidbrink. The GOP winner will face off with Aaron Brown, the lone Democratic qualifier, in the November general election. County commission District 4: Incumbent Republican Nancy Thrash qualified for reelection and will be opposed by fellow Republican John Samek in the primary. Chief magistrate: Incumbent William Thomas is being challenged by Shannon Williamson. Georgia House District 131: Though redistricted and renumbered, this is the seat held by incumbent Billy Maddox who is not seeking reelection. Qualifiers in this race are former Griffin circuit superior court judge Johnnie L. Caldwell Jr. and former Lamar school board member Ryan Christopher, both Republicans. U.S. House, District 3: Incumbent Republican Lynn Westmoreland will battle it out with former Lamar commission chairman and local realtor Kent Kingsley and Jonesboro small businessman Chip Flanegan. Multiple incumbents qualified and are running unopposed. They include district 1 school board member Horace Hightower; district 3 school board member Susan Byars; coroner Jim Smith; tax commissioner Andrea Anthony; clerk of court Frank Abbott; probate judge Kathy Martin; Towaliga circuit superior court judge Bill Fears; Towaliga circuit district attorney Richard Milam; district 16 state senator Ronnie Chance; and district 130 state representative David Knight.

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