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State, county races

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Here's a wrap-up of some hot state and local races. We've boldfaced our endorsements but didn't endorse in each of these races.
Lieutenant governor (Republicans): Since joining the General Assembly in 1988, Steve Stancil, 49, has established himself as an effective member of the GOP caucus. The Cherokee lawmaker's countrified smarts have brought him influence in both parties. He's also raised the most money and has the support of Georgia's GOP aristocracy, making him the best bet to give incumbent Democrat Mark Taylor a race in the fall. Stancil faces his most formidable challenge from conservative state senator and video poker opponent Mike Beatty, 50.
State Senate 35 (Democrats): State Rep. Kasim Reed appears the favorite among five Democrats. The 33-year-old attorney earned a respectable record as a state House member. He also heightened his political visibility last year when he managed Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin's campaign. The district includes south Fulton and east Douglas counties.
State Senate 36 (Democrats): Voters in the district, which stretches from Lenox Park to the city's extreme southeastern corner, are blessed with three impressive candidates: Samuel Bacote, 40, Brenda Joyce Muhammad, 51, and Sam Zamarripa, 59. A lesser-known candidate, Sean Waites, ran for City Council last year.
Bacote works as an investment banker for former Mayor Maynard Jackson's company and stresses his experience in public finance. His family's been active in civil rights and politics, and another former mayor, Andrew Young, serves as Bacote's campaign chairman.

Muhammad is a two-term Atlanta School Board member, former board president and community activist who pioneered victim assistance programs in the area. She's the only candidate to have held elected office.

Zamarippa is an investment banker, longtime Inman Park resident and civic leader. He's closely associated with both business and Hispanic groups, and has stressed growth and environmental issues.

No Republicans are running so the contest will most likely be decided in a Sept. 10 runoff.

State Senate District 40 (Democrats): Intown residents voting for Terry Lawler would be like Atlantans electing William Tecumseh Sherman mayor. Lawler is the lead lobbyist for the Northern Arc. He's a hired gun for Georgians for Better Transportation, a front group for developers and road builders, so he's spent a lot of time badmouthing Arc foes as "environmental extremists." The district neighborhoods, which are mainly inside the Perimeter, need Lawler's boondoggle about as much as they need a nuclear-waste dump.
The leading Democratic alternative promises to be an excellent senator. She's Liane Levetan, who made an awkward DeKalb County CEO but has always been a tireless and sincere public servant.

Levetan, a longtime DeKalb commissioner, sometimes tries too hard to please all sides. But she also has shown courage -- as she did when she stood up to the fat-cat special interests, like Lawler's group, and voted on the Atlanta Regional Commission board against the Northern Arc.

Because of redistricting, the Democratic nominee is favored to unseat Republican incumbent Bart Ladd in November. The district runs north to south in central DeKalb but also takes in Kirkwood, East Lake, and parts of Dunwoody and Roswell.

State Senate District 42: David Adelman has the most potential among two strong candidates in this district, which runs along western DeKalb from Candler Park to Dunwoody.
His chief foe is former DeKalb DA Bob Wilson. Adelman has an impressive record of civic service, is a good listener and seems to understand important neighborhood issues, like education and development.

The winner is expected to stomp Republican Kenneth Brett Quarterman in the fall.

Cobb Commission Chairman (nonpartisan): Here's a testament to how angry metro residents are about sprawl -- all three candidates for the top post in this free enterprise-oriented county say they dove into politics to get growth under control. But only one has held elected office before.
Attorney Sam Olens could become one of the stars of metro leadership over the next few years. He got into politics to protect his East Cobb neighborhood. In office, he's proven a pragmatic, pro-business commissioner, who has built consensus, worked to understand issues and -- oddly enough -- extended a hand of friendship to Atlanta. Olens says he'll continue former Chairman Bill Byrne's conservative fiscal policies while pushing for more greenspace, transportation alternatives and regional cooperation.

Fulton County at-large: If the Democratic primary is won by name recognition alone, then Robb Pitts, 60, should take it. Pitts, who served on the Atlanta City Council for more than two decades and lost last year's mayoral election to Franklin, seeks to replace outgoing commissioner Karen Webster.
Pitts is the only candidate who has held elected office, and, yes, he's running as a Democrat. (You may remember the Franklin campaign questioning his affiliation.) He faces Fairburn resident Sandra Hardy, 65; Sylvia Goldman, 36, an attorney from southwest Atlanta; and Jewel Johnson, a human resources director.

On the Republican side, Karen Handel, 40, the president of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, faces Dale Nesbit, 48.

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