Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Don Hogshead inserts his voter card into the ballot box at Duluth City Hall as Kristin McGregor gives him instructions on Friday. City hall is one of the open polling centers for early voting.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Atlanta's mayoral race is getting a lot of the publicity this year, but Gwinnett also has four mayoral seats up for grabs.
With polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at city halls and municipal buildings throughout Gwinnett, new leaders could be chosen Tuesday in Dacula, Grayson and Sugar Hill, and with the departure of Pat Graham, Braselton is sure to have a new mayor.
There, Councilman Ralph Richardson Jr. wants to take the helm of his hometown, but Bill Orr, a relative newcomer, said he has the business acumen to steer the town through the current economic doldrums.
The economy is also the main issue in Sugar Hill, where challenger Andy Sudderth wants to reign in spending.
Incumbent Gary Pirkle says wise management during his 12 years involved in the city government has helped the city avoid some of the economic pitfalls plaguing some local cities. He wants to continue work on projects where money from the county sales tax has already been raised.
Spending is also a big issue in Suwanee's council races, as well as in Duluth and
Berkeley Lake, where six political newcomers are vying for three open council seats. And the economy can't help but be a concern in all the local towns.
In Grayson, newcomer Damon Ladd-Thomas is contending long-serving Mayor Jim Hinkle doesn't do enough to involve citizens -- an issue that is rife throughout local politics.
In Dacula, the fourth city to hold a mayoral election, Betty Hale, the widow of a long-serving councilman, is challenging the incumbent because she believes she can mend the poor relationship between Dacula and county officials. Even during the campaign, she worked with Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks to try to preserve the local library.
Unity is also a big issue in Snellville, although there candidates are more concerned with the council getting along with each other than with the county.
Loganville and Lawrenceville candidates have public safety on their minds, as do many of the candidates throughout the county.
In the Barrow cities of Statham and Winder, the city's downtowns are major topics this election season.
This Tuesday, voters will also tackle two referenda -- in Loganville, voters will decide whether the city's leaders will remain with two-year terms or switch to four-year terms, while Snellville voters will consider a revitalization tool.
For the first time in 40 years, Norcross residents won't go to the polls, and elections were canceled after candidates were not opposed in Auburn, Buford and Lilburn.