One of these special election candidates will succeed a Columbus area rep who died

Four candidates have qualified to be on the ballot for the special election to fill a vacated seat representing the Columbus area in the Georgia Legislature.

The April 9 election will determine who will succeed Richard Smith as the representative of Georgia House District 139, which covers parts of Muscogee and Harris counties.

Smith died from the flu Jan. 30 at age 78. He served in the Georgia Legislature since 2005, including as House Rules Committee chairman since 2020.

Who are the Georgia House District 139 special election candidates?

District 139 voters will decide Smith’s successor among these candidates, who paid the $400 qualifying fee and submitted the required documents to the Georgia Secretary of State Office by Friday’s deadline:

  • Sean Knox, Republican, president of Knox Pest Control in Columbus.

  • Robert Mallard, independent, founding member and associate broker with Inheritance Realty Group in Columbus until November. Now, co-founder and beekeeper with Foundation Honey Company in Columbus.

  • Donald Moeller, Republican, oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Columbus.

  • Carmen Rice (not related to this reporter), Republican, human resources professional in Columbus, first female Muscogee County GOP chair.

Because this is a special election to fill a vacated seat, no primary election precedes it. So any district resident could have qualified for the ballot, regardless of party affiliation, but no Democrat qualified to run for this seat, which is in a predominantly Republican area.

The winner of the April 9 special election immediately becomes the Georgia House District 139 representative and fills the remaining portion of Smith’s two-year term, which expires at the end of this year.

If the winner wants to continue serving as the representative for a full two-year term, starting in January, then he or she must qualify, along with any other candidate, during the March 4-8 period to be on the May 21 primary ballot. The general election will be Nov. 5.

What are the voting precincts in Georgia House District 139?

The following voting precincts are in District 139:

  • Britt David, Chattahoochee, Epworth, Moon, St. Andrew, St. Paul and St. Peter in Muscogee County.

  • Cataula, Ellerslie and Waverly Hall in Harris County.

Registration deadline for House District 139 special election

March 11 is the last day for residents of this district to ensure they are a registered voter if they want their candidate choice to count in this election.

Residents can register at their local elections office or online. Election officials encourage registered voters to check their status and verify their polling location at the My Voter Page on the Georgia Secretary of State Office website.

Early voting for the Georgia House District 139 special election

Early voting for this election will start March 18.

That’s when the mailing of absentee ballots can start, but voters can submit to their local elections office a request for an absentee mail-in ballot now. The last day to submit such a request for this election is March 29.

Absentee mail-in ballots must be received by the local elections office by 7 p.m., April 9, to be counted in this election.

March 18 also is this election’s date for advance in-person voting to start. The dates are March 18-23, March 25-30 and April 1-5.

The hours haven’t been set yet in Muscogee County, but the location will be in the City Services Center, 3111 Citizens Way, in Columbus.

The advance in-person voting location for this election in Harris County is at the elections office, 757 Carver Circle, in Hamilton. The hours will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

When would a runoff be conducted?

If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, a runoff between the two-highest finishing candidates will be conducted May 7.

Why not have the Georgia House District 139 special election on the same day as the May 21 primary to save time and money?

State law and unfortunate timing is the short answer.

This special election will cost an estimated $50,000 in Muscogee County and $17,000 in Harris County, according to officials. But it can’t be conducted during the May 21 primary because of the specifications mandated by Georgia Code 21-2-544, which is the law that explains how a vacancy in the state legislature is filled.

Smith died during the Georgia General Assembly’s session, so Gov. Brian Kemp had 10 days to issue a writ calling for a special election and set the date no less than 30 days and no more than 60 days from the issuance of the writ. May 21 is more than 60 days beyond that date.