>Below: Q&A with Floyd sheriff’s candidates
2 p.m. update: All polls to stay open until 9 p.m. tonight in Rome/Floyd County after Superior Court Judge John Niedrach signs consent order to extend hours after problems and delays at voting machine earlier today. Election Concent Order
Tuesday afternoon update: Robert Brady, Floyd County Elections Chief Supervisor, days “all running smooth at all polling locations” and there have been no reported problems since 9:30 a.m. this morning. “We had some equipment issues this morning and some polls weren’t able to open, but we quickly identified the problem and took steps to fix the situation. Polls will be open an extra 2 hours tonight until 9 p.m. to make sure everyone who want to vote has a chance to vote,” says Brady.
Tuesday morning: Some voters to the Barkers precinct report some confusion on their voting location. Given the COVID pandemic, the polling location was moved to the VFW on U.S. 27 from the Renaissance Marquis. However, both the My Voter Page and Rome-Floyd Elections office still list the voting location as the Renaissance Marquis. According to Robert Brady, the change is temporary for today because of the Governor’s public health emergency with COVID.
At 8:35 Tuesday morning: Early problems for Floyd voters: We’re getting calls, texts and messages of issues almost across the county with delays as machines apparently are lacking proper coding. Reports Barkers, East Lindale, Howell, North Carolina, Riverside, Watters, and Vanns Valley. One report says machines working at Garden Lakes; another says they’re having the same issue as other precincts across the county. Etowah voter: “In and out in five minutes.”
Any issues at your precinct? Please comment on our Facebook page.
Expect extra safety steps at the precincts today for the 2020 primary runoffs thanks to the continuing pandemic. There could be some delay in voting as protocols similar to the June 9 primary will be enforced. Precincts are open from 7 a.m. until 7 tonight (now 9 p.m. in Rome-Floyd County only)
We checked with some of the elections coordinators in our area on Monday to see what voters can expect. Masks are being recommended — but not mandated. Here’s what they had to say:
Gordon County: “All of our voting precincts will be open on elections day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. We would like to encourage voters to wear face mask but it’s not required. We will be taking extra precautions with sanitizing and cleaning after every voter.” — Shea Hicks.
Polk County: “Everything will remain the same from June 9. Masks are not mandatory but are encouraged. All poll workers will be supplied with personal protection equipmentE and have been instructed to clean machines after each use. When in line waiting to vote, social distancing guidelines will be encouraged as well. Six-foot markers will be placed in all locations. Temperature checks will not be required for voters. Should possible exposure occur, we have supplied each precinct with “foggers” to set off in the building once it has been vacated.”
You can still hand-deliver absentee ballots at elections offices or drop boxes. In Floyd County, there are two – outside the library and outside the elections office in the county administration building/First Street side (please see the above photos).
Not sure where to vote? Try the My Voter Page option from the Secretary of State’s office. Just add your last name, first initial, county of residence and birth date. Click MVP
We’ll begin election coverage after 7 p.m. We will link you to the Secretary of State’s office, both with the District 14 results (12 counties vote in the House race including Floyd, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga). Bartow is in the 11th Congressional District and there’s no runoff there. We’ll also link you to regional results for the Senate District 31 seat (Polk County) as well as the county listings for Floyd, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga counties. Some of the links won’t be “active” until later this evening.
- 14th Congressional District
- Floyd County
- Gordon County / local and state
- Polk County
- State Senate District 31.
The two races on the Floyd County Republican runoff ballot on Tuesday couldn’t be more different.
- In January 2018, Sheriff Tim Burkhalter joined us on our radio edition to announce he wouldn’t seek a fifth term. That immediately started the race to be the community’s next sheriff and it mostly overpowered even a full primary and runoff ballot later that year even though we wouldn’t vote for another 29 months. Three candidates would qualify, all Republicans, with this Tuesday’s winner set to become sheriff in January 2021.
- Last December, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, the Republican 14th District congressman, stunned most watchers by saying he would not seek a new term in 2020. With the planned primary five months away, an immediate scrum broke out that ended with eight Republican hopefuls and a lone Democrat qualifying to run. The primary led to this Tuesday’s runoff with the final pick set for the Nov. 3 general election.
- One is a Floyd-only race, the other covers the region, 12 counties in all.
- The money involved magnifies the difference: The congressional race already is at $4.5 million in total contributions — donations, loans, whatever — while the sheriff’s race will end on Tuesday south of $250,000.
Also separating the races: the basic tone and campaign style. While the sheriff’s runoff race between former Chief Deputy Tom Caldwell and sheriff’s Maj. Dave Roberson has had its moments, the runoff between Dr. John Cowan and Marjorie Taylor Greene has been something akin to an MMA brawl that has made YouTube almost must-watch TV. The sheriff’s race is as much a high school popularity contest as anything else with both candidates having law enforcement experience. The House race has drawn national attention — from QAnon beliefs to China imports — and will continue to do so Tuesday night no matter who wins.
$4.5 million-plus. In terms of money, the congressional race is an eye-opener. Through July 22, Greene had receipts of nearly $1.6 million vs. almost $1.2 million for Cowan. Add in the other six GOP hopefuls defeated in the primary and the ongoing campaign of Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal so far, and you’re talking about $4.5 million in contributions alone. Together, Cowan and Greene have spent more than $2.4 million. For more.
The sheriff’s race has seen around $225,000 in contribution to Caldwell, Roberson and former GOP hopeful Ronnie Kilgo. There are no Democrats in the race so the Caldwell-Roberson winner takes the office in January.
Early votes: In Floyd County, more than 6,500 votes have been cast — either in-person advance voting of absentee (mail-in or drop off). Given the themes of the House race, we’re pretty sure that number will double if not more on election day as the more ardent Trump supporters don’t trust mail-in ballots. Add those Floyd votes to Gordon County — which has nothing else on the runoff ballot — and Polk County — which has a nasty state Senate race as the under card — and you get nearly 11,000 votes cast before the first precinct opens at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Pandemic and other problems: The ballot mostly has shifted attention from the other issues this campaign season — the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and resulting safety steps as well as the use of new voting machines that helped cause some of the headaches in the first vote June 9. Virus-fighting protocols will be in place at the precincts on Tuesday and there should be additional personnel on hand as well to help navigate the challenges of the new voting equipment. Be patient at the polls, please.
Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 11: Precincts will be open election day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Where to vote? Click here.
Aug. 11 runoff ballot:
Floyd County Sheriff, Republican
- Tom Caldwell
- Dave Roberson
- The runoff winner earns the seat; there is no Democratic candidate.
U.S. House, District 14: Includes voters in Floyd, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga counties as well as eight others. Bartow is in the 11th District.
- John Cowan
- Marjorie Taylor Greene.
- The winner faces Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in the Nov. 3 general election.
- Polk: The 14th District Race and the State Senate 31st District Race between Jason Anavitarte and Boyd Austin. The winner races Democrat Tianna Smith in the Nov. 3 general election.
- Chattooga County: 14th Congressional District, county commission (Blake Elsberry vs. Jason Winters), probate judge (Teresa Pope, Gary Woods).
- Gordon: No other races than the 14th District.
- Bartow County: No runoffs (in 11th Congressional District)
- Floyd County: 6,550 votes so far. 3,350 advance voters over last three weeks; the office has approximately 3,200 absentee ballots by mail as of Wednesday.
- Gordon County: 2,269 votes so far. 1,080 voters cast their ballot early; the office has 1,189 ballots by mail.
- Polk County: 2,045 votes so far. 1,059 Polk County residents voted in person in advance over three weeks. Absentee ballots returned through Friday stood at 986 of the 2,294 requested. Precincts open Tuesday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
FLOYD SHERIFF’S RACE:
Among the items on the Aug. 11 Republican primary runoff will be Floyd County Sheriff. Two Republican candidates are vying to replace Sheriff Tim Burkhalter who will retire at the end of the year. There is no Democratic opposition, so the winner of the primary (or runoff) will become the new sheriff. The candidates are Tom Caldwell and Dave Roberson. The interviews and profiles were complied, written and updated by Natalie Simms.
Tom Caldwell, 55, is a lifelong resident and native of Floyd County. Tom holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbus State University, a bachelor of science degree in Business from Shorter College and is a graduate of West Rome High School. He has a 29-year career in law enforcement. He was appointed Chief Deputy Sheriff in 2005, serving for 13 years. In 2009, he became the first employee to graduate from The FBI National Academy. He completed the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government Leadership Training in 2004. In 2006, Caldwell became the first Floyd County Deputy Sheriff to ever graduate from The Georgia Law Enforcement Command College. In addition of previously running for county commission, Caldwell worked in the last four elections on Tim Burkhalter’s election committee. He is active in the community, serving on the boards of The Salvation Army, North Broad Youth Center and LivingProof Recovery. He is a member/past president (distinguished) of The Rome Noon Optimist, where he served as the Respect for Law Program Chair since 2013. He’s a member of Trinity United Methodist Church and has chaired the finance and staff parish relations committees. Tom is married to Jan Lyle Caldwell and has two children: Thomas V, 27, and Katherine, 22.
Dave Roberson, 47, has resided in Floyd County over 20 years and worked in the community for 25 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice degree from Shorter University. He currently serves as major of the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office (on leave during the campaign) with 25 years of continuous service. He has worked his way up from entry level, holding various positions within the FCSO including leadership roles in every division. This is his first run for political office and he considers himself a public safety officer first and foremost. His community involvement includes the Coosa Valley Fraternal Order of Police, Exchange Club, Harbor House Board, LivingProof Recovery/Next Door Advisory Board, Optimist Club, Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia Board and Leadership Rome Class of XXXVI. He is married to T. Roberson and they are members of Bryant Chapel Baptist Church.
QUESTION: Tim Burkhalter is concluding a 16-year run that has transformed the agency into a model for 21st Century law enforcement and security. What is the key thing you and your administration would improve or change?
CALDWELL: “Our agency is a model because of the high standards we set for operations and expectations, an effort that I was proud to help lead. I am the candidate in this race that is committed to maintaining our national accreditation through The Commission for the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Transparency in our operations is how we will earn the public’s trust. We will be just as open about our failures as we are about our successes. I will give ALL of our employees a common purpose to work toward everyday by implementing both short- and long-term goals that we can achieve together. First priority will be to address the high employee turnover, employee morale and inadequate pay. These are the critical issues need to be addressed. Another concern is the high suicide rate occurring at the jail. We will focus on mental health issues by partnering with local non-profits like LivingProof Recovery and NAMI. Effective communication is a critical component of a successful operation. Communication within the sheriff’s department as well as external communication with the County Commission and the public are key. I have the leadership, experience and communication skills to be ready on day one.”
ROBERSON: “Mental health and the lack of resources for those who need help is one of the biggest issues currently facing law enforcement. That’s because people in a mental health crisis are more likely to encounter police and end up in jail than get medical assistance. The medical and mental health expansion is a step in the right direction to providing a safer environment for inmates and employees. Since the closing of Northwest Regional, our jail has been flooded with people with mental illnesses and no access to resources. We have been ill-equipped to handle it. We currently have four medical beds, insufficient to say the least. The new unit will bring that number closer to 50. New treatment programs will also be added. I’m also focused on promoting training. I was one of the first in our agency and our area to seek out Crisis Intervention Training and am also a certified CIT instructor. Our deputies need this training to do their jobs effectively. I hope that by creating a safer environment, adding training for our staff, and partnering with existing community organizations, we can help some of these people with mental illnesses get on a healthier path instead of jail being a revolving door.”
QUESTION: Salaries and turnover are a huge issue for law enforcement in our region. What guaranteed changes would you make and how so?
CALDWELL: “Without question employee morale, turnover and lagging pay are interchangeable as a top priority for any new sheriff when assuming office. Accomplishing short-term or long-term goals is dependent on addressing employee pay, morale and turnover. According to the sheriff, there are currently 22 vacancies at the jail. The jail is operating at a level that is not safe for the employees or the inmates. Improving things for employees will require support and action from our county commission as well as our community at large. My plan is to do what I have done before which is to make the employees my first priority! I’m committed to working with the County Commission to get this done and reporting the results back to the community. I know that we can accomplish this in Floyd County because we have done it before with our ‘Honor the Badge’ campaign. I’m the only candidate in this race who has been a part of the solution. The fact is that Floyd County’s starting pay lags behind other surrounding counties and we will continue to lose valuable employees until this issue is properly addressed. We must view this as a security issue, because it is.”
ROBERSON: “The recruitment and retention of employees is my top priority, and I’m the only candidate who has had this in my platform from the very start. That’s because I care about the hard-working men and women at the agency, and not just during a campaign. I will:
- Be proactive in recruiting so people see that this can be more than just a job, but a meaningful career that makes an impact. We need to get in front of younger people and look at creating partnerships with college and career programs.
- Make sure employees are properly trained.
- Treat people with respect, as I always have, and be a motivating leader who empowers people to do great work and want to advance within the agency.
- Create a community of trust and opening the lines of communication. I want to hear our employees’ ideas and what they think can be better.
- Continue to work with our County Commissioners on compensation. We have to find a way to do better.
- Ensure that the merit system for promotions is fair and transparent.
- Make a concerted effort to broaden diversity within the Sheriff’s Office so we are more representative of our community.”
QUESTION: In recent years, we’ve heard legislative rumblings on changing the dynamics of some sheriff’s offices, including Floyd. That is, doing away with a separate jails/warrants system and county police system and replacing it with a sheriff who is over both law enforcement and the jail. Are you pro or con on unifying the system and why?
CALDWELL: “I am a lawman by trade, not a politician. If I am elected Sheriff and chief law enforcement officer of Floyd County, I will work diligently to keep our community a safe place to raise a family. I will work hard, be dependable and will never let politics or the fear of losing popularity keep me from making the decisions that are right for the community and the sheriff’s office. I have worked with many fine Rome and Floyd County Police Commanders and officers over the years. I believe that we have worked very well together as independent agencies. Communicating well has been my goal during my tenure as Chief Deputy, and that has led to successful cooperation. As Sheriff, I would be confident and supportive of any law enforcement agency consolidation effort as long as the matter was brought before the people of our county on a ballot measure for approval during an election. I feel strongly that such a critical decision needs to be made by the community collectively. If the community voted to unify the current system: I am confident that we could make the necessary changes in operations with a beneficial cost savings for the taxpayers.”
ROBERSON: “Personally, I am not in favor of combining the agencies unless the cost-savings would be substantial (and I have not seen any data to indicate that it would be). I also think the separation adds a level of checks and balances, which is important. As they currently operate, each agency has an established purpose and provides different services, though we often work together. People are usually surprised how little overlap there is once they realize that the primary duties of the Sheriff’s Office are managing the jail, providing courthouse security, and serving warrants. We work very well with our local law enforcement agencies, which would continue under my leadership because of the relationships I’ve established over my 25-year career, and I definitely see opportunities for us to collaborate more frequently to help address community concerns. I believe collaboration, teamwork and strategic partnerships are the keys to making Rome and Floyd County a better, safer community for all the families that live here. However, if legislators and voters felt that unification of the agencies was warranted, as Sheriff I would certainly welcome this challenge, or any other one put in front of me.”
Q: Do I have to vote again if I voted in June?
A: Georgia voters are encouraged to vote early and often. The Aug. 11 runoff will be held in 93 of Georgia’s 159 counties. Georgians in areas where there are elections are encouraged to participate. (From Hometown): In Floyd County, Republicans will chose the next sheriff and also will be among those in 12 counties picking the GOP nominee for the 14th Congressional District.
Q: Do I have to vote again if I voted for one of the two candidates in the runoff? Isn’t it just the losing candidates’ voters that have to vote again?
A: The Aug. 11 runoff is a separate election from the June 9 primary elections. As a result, voters will need to vote again in the Aug. 11 elections if they want to participate in deciding the winner from among the candidates on the ballot. Voting on June 9, even if your chosen candidate continued on to the runoff, does not constitute a vote for the same candidate in the Aug. 11 elections.
Q. Can I change parties between the Primary and the Primary Runoff?
A. By Georgia law, Georgians who chose one party in the primary can only vote in that party’s runoff election.
Q: If I didn’t vote in the Primary, can I still vote in the Primary Runoff?
A: Yes. If the voter was registered to vote in Georgia in time for the June 9 Primary, i.e. May 11, even if they did not vote, they are eligible to vote in both federal and state runoff elections. Those who were not registered to vote in Georgia in time for the June 9 primaries can still register to vote by July 13, but they will only be able to vote for federal, not state, candidates.
Q: What is a Primary Runoff?
A: By Georgia law, if no candidate in a primary or general election receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters face off in a runoff election.
Q: Why do I have to choose a party in a Primary anyway?
A: Voters do not have to choose a party during a primary election. They can select a nonpartisan ballot but that would only include general elections held on the same day as the primary election or nonpartisan elections held on that day. Partisan primaries would be excluded. Voters have to choose a party for their primary ballot to determine which party’s primary candidates would appear on their ballot.
KEY ELECTION DATES
From Polk County: Candidate qualifying for the following offices will begin Aug. 19 at 9 a.m. and will end Aug. 21 at noon:
- Aragon City Council (to fill unexpired term of Candace Seiz). Qualifying Fee of $36.00, due at time of qualifying. Additional Information on this office can be obtained by contacting Aragon City Hall.
- Polk County Commissioner District 2 (to fill unexpired term of Jennifer Hulsey). Qualifying Fee of $144, due at time of qualifying. Additional information on this office can be obtained by contacting Polk County Elections Office.
- All qualifying paperwork must be submitted prior to noon Aug. 21.
- Any questions pertaining to the Candidate Qualifying Process can be sent to email@example.com.