2022: Gothia's leftovers, 5 Pct. 2 hopefuls
Last updated 11/16/2021 at 7:55pm
With just under four months left before the March 1 Republican Primary, it's doubtful that any Orange County candidate will raise more money than County Judge John Gothia already has in the bank.
With no big-money opponent in his first County Judge race in 2020, the popular ex-commissioner raised a lot of dough and spent little of it on advertising.
Gothia starts the 2022 election cycle with $19,299 left in his political fund-raising account.
No opponent has come forward to register early for a spot on the ballot to run against him, as either a Republican or Democrat.
"Never know 'til you know," Gothia said Tuesday about the prospect of having an opponent.
But so far, the big campaign war chest is doing what it's supposed to do.
Candidates have until Dec. 3 to register with their County Party Chairman, Leo LaBauve III for the Republicans, John Cash Smith for the Democrats.
All of the elected county officials in Orange have registered as Republicans. Ditto for all others signed up so far.
District Clerk Vickie Edgerly, who won the first of her six terms in office in 1998, announced her plans to retire in December 2022, after a 34-year career working in the clerk's office.
She is endorsing Chief Deputy Clerk Anne Gerity Reed, who has worked for the District Attorney's office for 6.5 years and for Edgerly for 18.5 years.
Almost every other incumbent elected office holder in Orange County with a four-year term expiring in 2022 filed for reelection with LaBauve Saturday or Monday.
Those include Precinct 4 County Commissioner Robert Viator, 260th District Court Judge Steve Parkhurst, County Clerk Brandy Robertson; County Treasurer Christy Khoury and the Justice of the Peace duo of Chad Jenkins, Precinct 2; and Joy Dubose-Simonton, Precinct 3.
Dubose-Simonton is the only incumbent to draw a challenge, from past challenger Candice Conroy Steele.
Herschel Stagner Jr. and Rodney Price, the incumbent Justices of the Peace in Precincts 1 and 4, respectively, have indicated their intention to stand for reelection.
The big buzz in March's GOP primary should be the mob that is filing for a chance to replace retiring Precinct 2 County Commissioner Theresa Beauchamp.
By Monday, five wannabes had either paid their filing fee with LaBauve or indicated their intention to do so.
Two-term Orangefield school board member Jude Graffagnino, Pastor Matt Chandler and county Road & Bridge Department employee Robby Lunsford have added their names to a list that also includes Shawn Hare and Chris Sowell.
"I think we're just about guaranteed a run-off because of the fragmentation," Graffagnino said. "I just can't see any of us getting 51 percent. I really can't.
"I think we have some quality people in this race and it's going to be a lively campaign."
There could be more. Another couple of candidates for the Commissioner seat are expected to throw their hats in the ring.
"I don't think all the names are in the hat yet," Lunsford, 53, said. "I think it's going to get very interesting."
Chandler, 34, is a pastor at Orange's Life Church. He works as a public adjuster with city and schools.
He is a former Pinehurst city council member who was the youngest Mayor Pro-Tem in that city's history when he was 27.
"I've always been involved in serving the community, and I really feel like the skills I have I can deal well for Precinct 2. I've worked with FEMA and have experience negotiating law enforcement contracts."
Lunsford is a McLewis native and Orangefield High graduate and resides in Mauriceville. In the past, he has worked as a deputy sheriff in both Orange and Newton counties.
"I feel like people deserve better than they've gotten," Lunsford said.
"The first thing I'll do is make myself available. When they call me, I will respond."
Graffagnino, 56, is an operator for Arlanxeo on Chemical Row.
"I think my experience on the school board overseeing and being a steward of tax money is going to be a big plus for Orange County," he said.
"Some of the stuff (industrial expansions) is going to be game changers. We need to have a good steward in there to make sure we come out on the end like we need to."