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Three vacancies opened up this year on the busy 12-member Georgia Court of Appeals. Gov. Sonny Perdue recently appointed people to fill two of them but six candidates are competing for the third seat in Tuesday’s elections.
Five private attorneys from the metro area and a North Georgia district attorney are running to succeed Judge Edward H. Johnson, who is retiring at the end of the year. The ultimate winner will likely be decided in a runoff on Nov. 30.
Running a statewide race in a nonpartisan election for a seat on a low-profile court can be a daunting challenge, Lawrenceville attorney Mike Sheffield said. In both 2004 and 2008, Sheffield ran for open vacancies on the appeals court but lost both times, once in a runoff. He is not running this year.
“The problem is most people don’t know much about the Court of Appeals or how it affects them — but it does affect them a great deal,” Sheffield said. “Then you’re trying to get your name out there without having to spend a semi-fortune, which is not easy to do.”
In the most recent appeals court races, the amount of contributions raised or personal loans given to a campaign does not guarantee success. In 2004, lawyer Howard Mead raised $3.3 million, mostly through personal loans, and blanketed the airwaves with TV ads but lost in a runoff. Two years ago, the two candidates who initially raised the most money did not make the runoff.
This year, the candidates are: