People often ask me what I think will happen in the Macon mayor's race. The short answer is: I don't know.
It's still too early (even 19 days before the primary) to predict anything, especially with so many candidates involved. I'm waiting to see the fundraising results, and for someone to go negative. Kudos to the candidates for not doing that... yet... publicly.
I will share some thoughts on the candidates, though, based on the five debates (it seems like a lot more) I've been to so far. Nothing here is an endorsement. And I suggest you visit our elections website, which has a lot of stuff on it already and is going to absolutely explode in the next two weeks.
You should also attend at least one function where you can meet the candidates you're interested in face-to-face.
Henry Ficklin - As a 28-year councilman and longtime chair of the council's appropriations committee, Ficklin continues to be the most knowledgeable candidate when it comes to city business. I don't think the other candidates would argue that. He's got a lot of long-term relationships with city employees that could affect his administration, but lately he seems to be more than nodding toward a willingness to make the hard decisions needed to keep spending in check. He may also be the most quick-witted. I told him the other day that if clever retorts were votes, he'd have already won.
Lance Randall - For a guy who seemed short on details when he ran for commission chairman in 2004, Randall sure does knock a lot of questions out of the park these days. He's giving very thoughtful, detailed answers - though I should note that another Telegraph reporter caught him plagiarizing his vision statement earlier this year. He also said Friday that, if elected, he won't leave the state for his first year in office. That's a double-edged sword, but given Mayor Jack Ellis travel habits, it should play well with voters. He's also promising local businesses that the city will pay it's bills faster if he's elected. That sounds good - except the reason it sometimes pays late now is because the city doesn't have any money.
Arlan Gibson - Probably the most conservative candidate and, since he's an outsider, might be the most willing to cut jobs to control the budget. I wonder if a Republican stands a chance in this thing, though. Still, if you want change, this is the most change you can get.
Robert Reichert - He's doing a lot of frank talking and is more knowledgeable about the details of city operations than I expected, given the time that's passed since he was on council. Having Sam Henderson, who once served in Ellis' administration, run his campaign may be part of that. The guy's running strong and has the best gimmick by far: Giving out Nu-Way hot dog coupons and promising a "New Way" forward.
Anita Ponder - Kind of the every-person candidate in the race. She's inside because of her years on council and time as a higher-up at the Tubman museum. She's a single black woman who's well-known and liked by the movers and shakers (aka "rich white folks") in town. (UPDATE: Didn't mean to imply there aren't black movers and shakers in town. Certainly there are. Just meant that Ponder crosses racial lines with relative ease.) She's an attorney. She hangs with the hip (for Macon) downtown crowd. She does a lot of charity work, including a yearly holiday dinner for the poor and homeless that prominently bears her name (Anita Ponder and Friends). That's a lot of voting blocks to draw from.
David Cousino - An idealist. Sometimes he gives thoughtful and relatively detailed answers to questions, sometimes he seems to ignore the question to talk about religion and voting with your heart. I might have been wrong above. Perhaps this is the most change you can get.
Thelma Dillard - Continually calls on her years as an activist, teacher and councilwoman as reasons to vote for her — and her resume in that department is long and distinguished. Her debate answers tend to be broad and idealistic, with few details about implementation.