Dalton Mayor David Pennington’s current term in office doesn’t expire until the end of 2015. But if he steps down to run for governor next year the city will have to have a special election to fill the remainder of that term.
“The City Council will have to call a special election,” said City Attorney Jim Bisson.
Pennington filed paperwork on Monday to raise funds for a possible gubernatorial campaign. State law does not require him to step down as mayor until he actually qualifies to run. Qualification for the Republican primary, in which Pennington plans to challenge incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal, starts in April 2014. Pennington says he doesn’t plan to step down until then.
Georgia law limits special elections to certain dates in March, June, September and November.
“I would think that the council would call the election to coincide with the state general election in November,” Bisson said.
Bisson said the special election would have to be called no less than 90 days from the general election.
Holding the special election for mayor at the same time as the general election would save the city money. Whitfield County Chief Registrar Mary Hammontree says it would cost the city roughly $6,000 to add a special election to the general election compared to about $12,000 to hold a standalone special election.
Pennington, who has spent the last five years leading the council’s efforts to cut spending, said he may pay for the cost of a special election.
“I’m not sure that I can legally do that, but I may do that,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem George Sadosuk, who currently serves in Pennington’s absence, would serve as mayor until a new mayor is elected. Sadosuk said he doesn’t anticipate any problems.
“I’ll have to brush up on my public speaking is all,” he said.
Sadosuk says he doesn’t anticipate running in the special election to fill Pennington’s term.
Council member Dick Lowrey said the council will run smoothly until a new mayor is elected.
“George will keep things rolling,” he said.
Council member Denise Wood said council members will probably begin planning for Pennington’s possible departure early next year.
“It’s almost a year until he would have to resign, and we’ve got an election coming up for two council seats this November. We would want to include whoever wins those elections, whether it is the current members or someone new, in those plans,” she said.
Dalton last held a special election to fill a City Council seat in 2010, when Charlie Bethel stepped down for a successful run for the state Senate. Gary Crews was elected to fill his unexpired term as Ward 4 alderman.