Official endorsements from The Augusta Press in the 2022 Richmond County and Columbia County primary elections
After much deliberation and grounded on what we heard during in-person interviews with candidates, The Augusta Press Editorial Board announces with enthusiasm its endorsements for the May 24 primary elections in Augusta/Richmond County and Columbia County. Endorsements were not made in all races.
Augusta Mayoral Election: Garnett Johnson
After the tumultuous, scandal-plagued administration of Hardie Davis Jr., Augusta needs a statesman who can unite the community and who, at least so far as we have been able to determine, has a clean record. We believe that Garnett Johnson is that statesman.
Johnson has a big personality. He is a successful businessman who has built bridges to the White community and the Black community, to Republicans and to Democrats. Some may see those bridges as problematic. We see them as praiseworthy.
Further, Johnson has largely self-funded his campaign, has not accepted any out-of-state contributions and says he will refuse, if elected, to accept a city vehicle, gas card, credit card, travel allowance or cell phone. Johnson also promised in his interview with the editorial board to be transparent in his work for the city, to return phone calls and to enforce state sunshine laws regarding citizen and press access to city records and meetings. We believe Garnett Johnson has the skills and political acumen to restore stability, credibility and dignity to the office of Augusta mayor.
Augusta District 4 Commission: Alvin Mason
Alvin Mason, simply put, is good for Augusta. Mason agreed to come out of political retirement after District 4 Commissioner Sammie Sias was indicted on federal criminal charges and was sidelined by the governor of Georgia.
Upon returning to the Augusta Commission, Mason went right back to being the kind of public servant that endeared him to the public many years ago when he served eight years as a Richmond County commissioner. Mason may sometimes appear to be a bull in a china shop, but he has proven to be an honest gentle giant with Augusta’s best interest in mind.
Augusta District 10 Commission: John Clarke
There is an old adage that one should not change horses while crossing a stream. John Clarke did not coin that phrase, but it is totally apt when applied to this election. While Clarke’s main opponent, Wayne Guilfoyle, is certainly qualified for the position and did an outstanding job when he served as a commissioner previously, Clarke, in our opinion, has done nothing in office that would warrant denying him a second term.
In fact, Clarke, who is a retired Country and Western musician, has become somewhat of a folk hero in office by bucking the establishment and demanding transparency and financial accountability in government even when his audacity has put him at odds with his peers. Clarke is Augusta’s version of John Wayne, and he needs to stay in place for another term as the District 10 commissioner.
Augusta District 6 Commission: Jeremy Johnson
We found Jeremy Johnson to be a dynamic young man with impressive energy and ideas. We believe he has the skills and background to become an excellent commissioner. Johnson received high marks for his ideas and insights from each member of the editorial board especially with his thoughts on homelessness and how mental health is a major contributor to the issue.
Johnson is a former combat veteran and self-made small businessman, and the fact that he is a political neophyte is actually another good reason to vote for him as he will not take his seat on the commission with prearranged alliances.
Columbia County Commission District 4: Dewey Galeas
Dewey Galeas currently presides over the most complex district in Columbia County, complex because it is comprised of two municipalities, in addition to unincorporated areas, and sometimes the various governing bodies do not agree, especially when it comes to growth. Harlem and Grovetown are experiencing tremendous growth, but residents in the unincorporated areas prefer to keep their area largely rural.
Galeas has managed to walk a tightrope in his first term by trying to compromise between the various factions without involving himself politically in other governing bodies. The residents of District 4 are lucky to have a pragmatic county commissioner who rises above regional squabbles and votes for what he believes are the right policies for the entire district.
Columbia County School Board Districts 2 and 3: Kristi Baker and Judy Teasley
We deal with these two candidates together because they both are cut from the same cloth as the late trailblazing former Columbia County School Board Chair Regina Buccafusco.
Both Baker and Teasley are dedicated public servants who have shown their commitment to students and parents within the Columbia County School system and should be granted another term due to their good judgment, firm and stable leadership. Both are devoted to the best interests of Columbia County students, and both have served admirably during one of the most difficult times ever for schools not only here but throughout the country.
(The Augusta Press Editorial Board is comprised of Publisher Joe Edge, CFO Connie Wilson, Executive Editor Debra Reddin van Tuyll and Editorial Page Editor Scott Hudson. We would like to thank staff member Anna Virella and consultant David Peiltier for their help in facilitating the interviews.)