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James Chafin said repeatedly in appearances during the campaign for District Attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit that he chose to run in the special election without a party label because he wanted to keep party politics out of the courtroom where the District Attorney operates.
Intentionally or not, his decision led to a campaign with strong partisan undertones that has spilled over into the runoff that will take place on Dec. 1 and for which early voting began on Monday morning.
Deborah Gonzalez, who ran as a Democrat and joins Chafin on the ballot in the runoff, was a featured speakers at the Oconee County Democratic Party meeting last Thursday. Chafin wasn’t invited.
Chafin, in turn, is a featured speaker at the Oconee County Republican Party meeting on Monday evening. Party Chair Steven Strickland did not invite Gonzalez, whom he labeled at a party meeting in September as a “far left Democrat.”
Republicans haven’t fielded a candidate in the District Attorney race in the Western Judicial Circuit, made up of Clarke and Oconee counties, since 2004, and no one ran with that label in the special election to fill the vacancy created when Democrat Ken Mauldin stepped down in February.
Chafin offered an alternative to Gonzalez and Democrat Brian Patterson in the Nov. 3 election, an analysis of data from the two counties shows, and he likely will play that role again in the Dec. 1 balloting.
Whether Republicans are motivated to cast a ballot in the race–the only one on the ballot–remains to be seen.
Gonzalez would seem to have an advantage on that front. She has served as state representative representing parts of the two counties and has stronger name recognition.
But it is such an unusual election that it is hard to even guess about who will turn out.
For more on this story, with a video of the Democratic Party meeting on Nov. 19, please go to Oconee County Observations.
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