We had a nice thunderstorm at our place last night that left us with about an inch of rain. There’s more in the forecast for today, and it’s welcome to come, as it has been a little too dry lately.
As I’ve said many times before, in Fannin County, the Republican primary is the election. That proved true again this year, with insurgent Stan Helton defeating incumbent Bill Simonds by a rather wide margin – 60.46 to 39.94. Indications are that he will be unopposed in the general election in November, but – especially in a general election year – it is almost impossible for an Independent or Democrat to win. The local Democrats, feckless as always, are running only one candidate, Rusty Wittenbarger, for Sheriff. As in previous years, they are content to concede every other office.
The margin of Simonds’ defeat was perhaps more surprising than the fact that he was defeated. I haven’t seen a really credible discussion by anyone close to Fannin County politics, but if I had to point to one issue that was likely decisive, it was the discovery by the Fannin Focus of a check for $350, written on the SPLOST funds, signed by Simonds, and memoed “ice.” As local surveyor Sam Walker wrote in a letter to the editor, “That’s a lot of Jack Daniels, and no R.S.V.P. for you.” Simonds declined comment on this and other checks that the Focus questioned. Perhaps the expense of his lawsuit against the other two commissioners over their attempt to gain more say in expenditures and day-to-day operations also hurt his prospects. It may be that Simonds’ advertisement in the newspaper criticizing Helton for mentioning his college education was another factor in his defeat – at least with a certain constituency, that is, the people who still think education edifies.
Then there’s the library. I understand that one of the local crazies stood up during public comment at a commission meeting and threatened him with defeat if he did not support the library more strongly. I’m not sure how big the library vote really is – or the crazy vote, for that matter – but it is a sore point that every county around us has a very nice free standing, state standard, library. And that since we tore our little library down to build the new courthouse some years ago, there’s been little but lip service paid to that particular cause, even though significant state funding could be obtained. All this was apparently not lost on Helton, who promptly began to court the library vote (without necessarily committing himself to anything).
Helton himself is a bit of an unknown. He is a Fannin County native, who pursued a business career in the oil industry. Upon his retirement and recent return to the county, he chaired the Water Authority, but not without controversy. The way things are here, you just have to know what people stand for, because you’re not likely to find out by reading the newspapers or attending the forums. Aside from saying that Fannin County needs more transparency, Helton has said little about his policies and plans. You know, he’s a “life long conservative Republican” whose one promise is that he will “never forget they’re the TAXPAYER’S dollars.” So we’re all hoping for the best. That is, that it won’t be another completely depressing round of Fannin County business as usual.