Political races in DeKalb have been largely defined this year by one issue: the need to reshape county government.
Candidates for an open seat on the DeKalb Board of Commissioners say they’re up to the task, though neither is convinced corruption is the key issue.
Voters will decide between Greg Adams, an Emory University police officer, and Randal Mangham, an attorney, in the Dec. 6 runoff for Super District 7. They received the most votes out of nine candidates in the Nov. 8 general election. The winner of the race will represent 350,000 people in the eastern half of the county, from Doraville to Stonecrest.
Adams and Mangham say they hope to join the next generation of leaders, but they are more interested in looking forward, not behind at the corruption that has plagued the county. Voters have already elected a slate of candidates who have pledged to clean up the county, including incoming CEO Mike Thurmond, District Attorney Sherry Boston and Commissioner Steve Bradshaw.
Dozens of officials and employees have been found guilty of crimes over the past few years, including DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis and former Commissioner Elaine Boyer.
“I really don’t believe we have a (corruption) problem to that end at this point,” Adams said. “We just need to focus on moving forward. I will focus on being transparent and accountable for my actions.”
Mangham, who himself has been criticized over his failure to file financial disclosures on time, also said the county should move on from allegations of official wrongdoing.
“We’ve been through some stormy times in DeKalb County, and it’s time to turn a new leaf,” Mangham said. “It’s time to put some of that in the past.”
Neither candidate is fresh to DeKalb’s political scene.
Adams has previously run three unsuccessful campaigns for various DeKalb offices, and he’s now supported by Commissioner Larry Johnson.
Mangham was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives for a decade before quitting to run for governor in 2010. In that race, he finished in last place out of seven candidates in the Democratic primary.
While in the House, Mangham repeatedly missed reporting his campaign contribution and personal financial disclosures on time. The state ethics commission fined him $5,000 in 2009 for 15 violations. Mangham didn’t pay off those fines until Tuesday.
Mangham also didn’t file his campaign disclosure that was due Oct. 31 until after he was asked about it last week by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He could face $125 in late fees.
“He’s not being transparent,” Adams said. “You need to be accountable for your actions. I’m very open about who I am and what I stand for. Nothing about me is hidden.”
Mangham said he did file disclosures from his time in the Georgia General Assembly, although after state deadlines. He attacked Adams for his association with Johnson.
“My opponent is backed by the status quo, and I think the status quo has represented corruption, represented our businesses going down and potholes proliferating,” Mangham said.
The winner of the race will fill the seat left vacant since Commissioner Stan Watson left office in March to make an unsuccessful run for DeKalb tax commissioner.
Watson too was accused of ethical lapses — the DeKalb Board of Ethics reprimanded him last year for voting to approve $1.5 million in contracts for a company he worked for, and additional charges are pending related to his spending of more than $90,000 from DeKalb Chamber of Commerce accounts.
Both candidates say they want to work with other commissioners to heal divisions. The commission has been split into factions on key votes, with commissioners from the northern part of the county often voting together and those from the southern half of the county frequently aligning.
Neither will say which side they’ll vote with if elected.
“I would have to talk with each of the commissioners to see what would be best,” Mangham said. “I know how to collaborate with people and work across the lines.”
Adams said he’d fall in the middle of the commission.
“I’ll work with the other commissioners to bridge the gaps of division and different views,” Adams said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Adams raised $14,482 and loaned $6,151 of his own money to his campaign, according to his Oct. 31 finance disclosure. Mangham reported contributions of $14,430 and loaned $80,000 of his own money to his campaign.