Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Watkinsville Attorney Organizing A Slate Of Candidates To Challenge Republican Incumbents In Oconee County Party Primary

***School Board Particular Target***

Watkinsville Attorney Pamela Lohr Hendrix is working with a group to organize a slate of candidates to run against all of the Oconee County Republican incumbents in the Republican Primary on May 21.

Hendrix said she has decided to run for the Board of Education, but she hasn’t decided which of the three Posts up for election in November she will seek.

At least one of those posts will be vacant, as Board Chair Kim Argo announced on Tuesday that she will not seek re-election.

Post 5 Board Member Michael Ransom announced on Wednesday that he will run for Post 1, which is designated as the Board Chair.

Post 4 Board Member Tim Burgess, whose term also expires at the end of the year, has not indicated whether he will seek re-election.

“A group of us feel that our elected representatives are not listening to the people,” Hendrix said on Wednesday in explaining her effort to organize candidates to run as a slate.

Hendrix was specifically critical of the Board of Education, which, she noted, has raised property taxes each of the last two years.

Full Slate

Hendrix said her goal is to organize a full slate of candidates to run against the county’s four constitutional officers, the coroner, and the three members of the Board of Commissioners.

Hendrix Addressing Board 7/25/2022

“We also feel that if we run just one person, that person will be perceived as a lone trouble-maker or disrupter that can’t possibly win election,” Hendrix said.

“We feel that contesting as many of the seats up for re-election as possible will send a stronger message,” she added.

“I don’t think it is too much to ask even the Constitutional Officers to come out once every four years to justify their current salaries,” she said.

The county’s Constitutional Officers are Sheriff James Hale, Tax Commissioner Jennifer Riddle, Clerk of Courts Angie Elder-Johnson, and Probate Court Judge Mike Hunsinger.

Coroner Ed Carson also is up for re-election, as are Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell, Post 1 Commissioner Mark Thomas, and Post 4 Commissioner Mark Saxon.

All were elected as Republicans, except Hunsinger. Probate Court races are nonpartisan.


Argo announced on her Facebook page on Tuesday that she was stepping down from the Board of Education at the end of her term in December.

Argo OCS Picture

“After much reflection and thoughtful discussions with my family, I wanted to inform you that I have made the decision not to seek re-election for the Oconee County Board of Education,” she wrote.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the community in this capacity,” she wrote. “I am grateful for the support and collaboration we have experienced together.”

“Through my 16 years serving on the board, combined with 18 years prior to that working as a teacher in the system, it has been my mission to make Oconee County the best place in Georgia to live and learn,” she said.

Argo was not elected by the voters to Post 1, which is designed as the Board Chair.

She was re-elected to Post 3 in 2018 and then selected by the Board to move to Post 1 in 2021 to replace Tom Odom, who resigned after being elected in 2020. Argo’s term thus expires in 2024.


Ransom, who was first elected to the Board four years ago to fill an empty Post 5, said in an email message on Wednesday that “I am excited to announce my intention to run for Post 1 (Chair) on the Board of Education in the upcoming election.”

Ransom OCS Picture

“With a passion for education and a commitment to Oconee County Schools, I am eager to continue contributing to the positive development of our educational system,” he said.

That move leaves Post 5 open, and, if Burgess does not seek re-election, Post 4 would be as well.

At what was billed as community listening session last September, Superintendent Jason Branch praised the existing Board of Education and said “Outstanding school systems have outstanding continuity in their leadership.”

“Any time you make a change on the team, at any level, then you have a new team,” he continued.

“And so any time we can keep consistency within our leadership, both at our schools and in our governing team, that is going to aid in the work that we do,” Branch said.

Hendrix And Board Of Education

Hendrix has long been active in the Oconee County Republican Party, has served as party treasurer, and was an Oconee County delegate in June to the state Republican Party convention.

She ran in 2010 for Superior Court Judge in the Western Judicial Circuit and as a Republican in the primary for Tax Commissioner in 2012.

In 2022, she led opposition to the proposal by the Board of Education to drop the millage rate of 16.5 to only 16.25, putting up a large number of signs outside the building where the Board was holdings its tax hearings protesting the increase.

She also spoke against the tax increase at two of the three public hearings on the tax increase that year.

She has spoken frequently before the Board of Education at recent meetings and was one of two citizens who attended the Board of Education retreat in January.

Reason For Slate

Hendrix would not say who else is in the group working to recruit candidates or who has agreed to run.

“Most people are not paying attention,” she said in an email message to me on Wednesday.

“They are over-whelmed with day-to-day responsibilities and financially trying to make ends meet. But most people in Oconee County do try to do their civic duty by voting," she said.

“Then they go to the ballot box and there is only one box to check--the incumbent,” she said. “That’s not choice.”

“We think running as many people as possible might cause the average person to sit up and take notice,” she continued. “Maybe they aren’t the only one frustrated with the current system.”

“Plus it will hopefully force the incumbents to have to answer questions at public forums and state their positions on the record,” Hendrix said.

“We are actively trying to recruit people to run for every position up for re-election,” she said. “Whether we are successful in that endeavor remains to be seen.”

No Democrat has announced to date a plan to run for local office in November.


Jay said...

One note of clarification: the position of Probate Judge is non-partisan, so Judge Hunsinger runs without a party affiliation.

Lee Becker said...

I don't usually post comments that are not signed with a full name. But this is a correction, and I wanted to acknowledge it and thank you.
I have updated the post to clarify that the Probate Court race is nonpartisan.