By DOUG NURSE The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 11/07/07
Milton voters on Tuesday appeared to elect a de facto three-candidate ticket by an overwhelming margin.
Unofficial returns showed Post 2 incumbent Councilwoman Julie Zahner Bailey, Post 4 challenger Burt Hewitt, and Post 6 challenger Alan Tart winning in Milton's first full-term election.
RELATED LINK:• Fulton County results
With partial results counted, Zahner Bailey was crushing challenger Roger Santi 62 to 38 percent; Hewitt was similarly hammering incumbent Post 4 Neal O'Brien 60 to 40 percent; and Tart appeared to have steamrolled Post 6 incumbent Rick Mohrig 55 to 45 percent.
"I'm riding a cloud right now," Tart said Tuesday night. "I can't say I was worried, but there were specific times when I was stressed. I don't deny that Julie, Bert and I ran on an equal platform, but I don't know that all the credit goes to Julie, Bert or me. We each had a good following."
As the campaigns progressed two unofficial tickets emerged. Where you saw campaign signs for one, you were likely to see signs for the other two. Santi, O'Brien and Mohrig are all using the same consultant, Rusty Paul of Sandy Springs.
On the surface, there didn't seem to be much difference between the candidates. They were all against sewer. They didn't favor density. They all wanted more parks and recreation. They all pledged to be fiscally conservative. Nobody supported tax increases. All promised to let the comprehensive plan guide their rezoning decisions.
The central issue was more about a lack of trust about who would best protect the city from overdevelopment.
On one side, the Bailey-Hewitt-Tart campaigns and partisans said the Santi-O'Brien-Mohrig ticket couldn't be trusted not to allow sewer and its accompanying density, pointing to developer contributions. The Santi-O'Brien-Mohrig faction protested it didn't support sewer and density. The three attacked their opponents on a wide range of topics.
Each side repeatedly accused the other of lies, personal attacks, and misrepresenting each other's positions.
"I think people were tired of the negativity on the City Council and in the campaigns," Hewitt said. "And I think they were ready for capable leadership."
Tart agreed, saying, "I think the negative campaigning by my opponent paid off for me."
Each each side claimed the future of the newly incorporated city was at stake. Thus far, the minority, led by Zahner Bailey, has managed to tie up the four-member majority through sheer determination and will, but the majority, including O'Brien and Mohrig, seemed prepared to exercise their strength.
Mayor Joe Lockwood and Councilwoman Tina D'Aversa, who have been on the losing side, actively campaigned against fellow council members, Mohrig and O'Brien, and Santi. Incumbents Bill Lusk and Karen Thurman campaigned for them and against the other three.
"I think the citizens spoke and said we want change and to move forward in a positive way," Lockwood said.