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Low turnout expected for runoffs

LAWRENCEVILLE - The election that brought ethics complaints and even calls for new legislation will be over Tuesday, making way for the partisan contests of November.

While Democratic voters across the state Tuesday will choose between DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones and former state legislator Jim Martin for the chance to take on U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Gwinnett voters will make their final decisions on the Republican nominees for chairman and commission District 1.

While officials are expecting the highest ever turnout for the November presidential election, the runoff could bring in as few as 5 percent of the electorate.

Only about 15 percent voted in the July 15 primary, and GOP Chairman Gregory Howard said last week he was concerned the negative campaigning in the chairman's race could stifle turnout even more for the runoff.

But Elections Superintendent Lynn Ledford said she saw a steady stream of early voters last week at the Lawrenceville elections office, the only location open for advanced ballot casting.

About 1,938 people cast ballots during the advanced voting period, less than half of the 4,500 who used advance voting prior to the primary.

For more information about voting in the runoff and to find your polling location, visit www.gwinnettcounty.com.

Chairman's race

The chairman's race pits incumbent Charles Bannister against Lorraine Green, who is a commissioner.

Bannister has been in county politics for 30 years, beginning with a race for the Lilburn City Council on a campaign to fix a pothole. After a stint as mayor and two decades in the General Assembly, Bannister ran for the county's top position.

After becoming a neighborhood activist and planning commissioner, Green was sworn in along with Bannister, and they worked together to implement quality of life programs, such as Operation Fixing Broken Windows to clean up neighborhoods and decrease crime.

They both continue to stress crime, transportation and taxes as the county's major issues, but they have opposing views on each.

Green proposes replacing property taxes with a 1 percent homestead option sales tax. Bannister has a sales tax idea but believes the HOST will unfairly shift the tax burden to businesses and drive down the economic development progress he has made while in office.

Green wants to create a citizens task force to help with the county's budget, while Bannister is interested in creating a more viable land-use plan and forcing developers to apply for a change in the plan before they ask for a rezoning.

Both believe in mass transit options for Gwinnett's transportation needs. But Green is against any proposed extension to MARTA, while Bannister said he believes a regional attempt at transit - which likely won't be led by the Atlanta rail system - is the best way to solve traffic problems.

In the July primary, Bannister nearly avoided a runoff with about 49.4 percent of the vote, but Bannister himself was the second-place vote-getter in the Republican primary four years ago who turned over a victory in the runoff.

Third-place finisher Glenn Pirkle has cast his support to Green.

The winner of Tuesday's Republican primary runoff will face Democrat Vincent Passariello in the general election in November.

District 1 race

In the Duluth and Suwanee area District 1, the race has remained mostly cordial between former Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter and local businessman Bruce LeVell.

LeVell carried his desire to revitalize the community through service on the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District and MARTA boards to his campaign, and Lasseter wanted to spread her open-door policy from Duluth City Hall to the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

In fact, three points of her seven-point plan for her first 100 days in office involve meeting with constituency groups - city leaders, the county's three CIDs and the Chamber of Commerce.

Three more points of the plan, released Thursday, involve combatting illegal immigration, with the first priority as setting a 10-year water plan.

LeVell also revealed new plans during the waning days of the campaign.

Last week, he announced the Village would pursue a mass transit plan in the coming months, as well as a public safety plan to establish a Georgia State Patrol post within the county, tougher enforcement of bar and nightclub closing times and an increase in police pay.

He also wants to implement the "Officer Next Door" program, in which police officers are given financial incentives to live in targeted neighborhoods.

Third-place finisher Carol Hassell, who came in 19 votes shy of LeVell, cast her support to LeVell, a Duluth jewelry store owner.

The winner of Tuesday's contest will take over Green's District 1 seat, as no Democrats are running for the position.