Nine candidates for Augusta mayor to appear on May 24 ballot
Augusta voters have nine options in the May 24 election for mayor, making a June 21 runoff likely.
The nonpartisan position of Augusta mayor presides over meetings of the Augusta Commission and makes a handful of key appointments. The office lacks formal authority over commission actions such as hiring, firing and setting budgets or policy but has an annual budget of approximately $500,000.
Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis is serving the second of two terms so is blocked by term limits from seeking a third. Davis hasn't endorsed any of the candidates vying to replace him. Augusta elections require a winner to garner 50% of the vote plus one and if no candidates do, the two top finishers head to a runoff.
Two of the candidates, businessman Garnett Johnson and Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick, are leading the fundraising contest, with $180,000 and $80,000 on hand, while three others – Marion Williams, A.K. Hasan and Charlie Hannah – have experience holding elected office.
Garnett Johnson is CEO of Augusta Office Solutions and Modern Business Workplace Solutions, which are office-supply and furniture vendors. Johnson brings a pro-business background to the position, less common among Augusta candidates, and has a former appointment by Gov. Brian Kemp to the board of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Johnson has characterized himself as a results-driven outsider more concerned about giving back than being recognized. "I'm excited about getting Augusta going again," he said.
More: Office-supply entrepreneur Garnett Johnson joins race for Augusta mayor
Mayoral candidate and Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick has been elected tax commissioner four times, most recently in 2020, and ran for mayor in 2006. He has a business background with Augusta Blueprint, which his father started. Kendrick has served as board chairman for the Boys and Girls Club of the CSRA and has had a longtime role in Augusta leadership development groups, such as Leadership Augusta. Kendrick's campaign slogan is "Change Day 1."
If elected mayor, Kendrick stands to take an almost 50% pay cut from his tax commissioner salary. If he wins, his tax commissioner seat will be open and is likely to require a special election to complete his term, which ends in 2024.
More: Longtime tax commissioner Kendrick confirms run for Augusta mayor
Former Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams has been elected four times to the commission, most recently representing Super District 9, which is half of Augusta-Richmond County, through 2020. A pastor, Williams speaks about Augusta's need to develop more of a "wow" factor, to entertain the public and increase tourism. He's been a vocal stickler for commission meeting rules and the Consolidation Act, which created the current weak-mayor, strong-commission form of government in 1996.
One of two Richmond County school system trustees running for mayor, A.K. Hasan campaigned for months for the District 6 Augusta Commission seat held by his brother Ben Hasan, who is term-limited. Hasan condemned new Republican-drawn district maps that moved him out of District 6, but said it wasn't the reason he switched to the mayor's race a day later.
A frequent contender in Augusta politics, Hasan was elected the youngest-ever board of education trustee in the 1970s and later became the board's youngest president. On the board he was involved with efforts to establish Richmond County magnet schools and he's written a book, "Gladiator Leaders: Don't Drink the Laced Drink." He also served on the pre-consolidation city council, ran for mayor in 1993 and ran for the state House of Representatives in 1990, 1992 and 1994.
Charlie Hannah has made several bids for local elected office, and in 2014 won his first term as District 2 trustee on the Richmond County Board of Education. Twice reelected, he was selected by the board as its president last year. Hannah has said he wants to be Augusta's "education mayor" to bridge the gap between Richmond County schools and city government. While both are funded by property taxes, the two entities have separate budgets and governance. Hannah said he'll draw on support from the school system for support in the May 24 election. If his bid for mayor is unsuccessful, Hannah can continue serving on the school board.
More: Richmond County school board president wants to be Augusta's 'education mayor'
Lucas V. Johnson, an employee with insulation materials manufacturer Thermal Ceramics. At 29, Johnson is the youngest candidate and one of two white men running for mayor in majority-Black Augusta-Richmond County. A newcomer to Augusta politics, Johnson spent his early years in Augusta then finished high school in Columbia County. He said March 7 he is excited about what will be an "interesting" race and thinks voters will appreciate his honesty, transparency and accountability.
More: Augusta mayor candidates now tally 11, District 2 hopefuls up to 5
Retired Richmond County educator Lori Myles ran for mayor in 2014, Augusta Commission Super District 10 in 2018 and District 3 in 2020. She has a doctorate in education from Georgia Southern University and caused public controversy as a T.W. Josey High School language arts teacher by including a racial slur on a handout. Two years ago, Myles shaped the District 3 election by shifting supporters to Catherine Smith McKnight, who won the runoff.
Tax preparer Robert Ingham is among the most frequent Augusta candidates, having appeared in multiple races for commission and board of education as well as Georgia Senate and US Congress over the years. He's also been an official with the Richmond County Democratic Party.
A newcomer to the Augusta political arena, Donald Bradshaw is an Army reservist and former General Dynamics contractor who's worked in IT at Fort Gordon for the past 15 years. Bradshaw said he'd like to make Augusta the "Cyber Capital of the World" by enhancing partnerships with local universities and businesses, bringing the larger businesses downtown, and to improve transit and infrastructure.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Who are the candidates running to be mayor of Augusta