Published Sunday, December 30, 2012
When the Georgia General Assembly convenes in January for the 2013 legislative session, Coweta County will be one short of state House members. That’s because Robert Stokely, who won the House District 71 seat this year, announced this month that he would not be taking the legislative office but would instead become a Coweta Magistrate judge.
Stokely’s decision means a special election must be held to elect a new House District 71 member.
That election will be Feb. 5. In the meantime, candidate qualifying for the race will be Jan. 7-9 in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office in Atlanta. If no candidate gets a majority of the votes on Feb. 5, a runoff election will be necessary on March 5.
If a new House member is elected on Feb. 5, the person elected will be immediately sworn in and take office less than a month into the legislative session. However if a March 5 runoff is needed, the new lawmaker will miss almost two months of the 2013 session.
Other members of the Coweta legislative delegation -- including Reps. Lynn Smith, Matt Ramsey and Carl Von Epps -- can pick up some of the slack in terms of dealing with constituent matters during the session. But House District 71 will not have a vote on issues that come before the legislature until a new member is seated.
Already, at least two candidates have indicated their intentions to run in this special election. More candidates may be planning to qualify from Jan. 7-9.
We find it unfortunate the House District 71 seat will be vacant during part of this important legislative session, but that’s how our government works.