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Debate planned for District 4 runoff between Sutton and Bradshaw

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Debate planned for District 4 runoff between Sutton and Bradshaw

Photo by Dena Mellick
Photo by Dena Mellick

Photo by Dena Mellick

There’s a debate planned ahead of the July 26 runoff election between Incumbent District 4 Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton and Steve Bradshaw.

The debate will be held on Thursday, June 30, at 7 p.m. It will be held at New Bethel AME Church, 8350 Rockbridge Road, Lithonia, GA 30058. The debate will be hosted by the Lambda Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. The group is nonpartisan and won’t make any endorsements.

The moderator will be Steen Miles, a retired journalist and a former state senator.

The race between Sutton and Bradshaw has taken a nasty turn, with Sutton being accused of racism for sending a mailer featuring a picture of Bradshaw’s wife, who is white. When asked about the mailer, she told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that she wondered why Bradshaw was trying to “hide” his wife from voters. According to Crossroads News, people recently tore into Sutton during a County Commission meeting over the mailer.

One speaker, who was white, reportedly told the commissioner, “How can you say you represent me when I don’t look like you?”

If Sutton attends the debate, it will be noteworthy. In the days leading up to the May 24 primary she avoided public forums.

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Sutton is clearly facing an angrier electorate than she has in previous election years. She’s been a magnet for controversy.

Even before her 2012 reelection bid, questions were raised regarding her campaign spending. Jim Walls, who runs the Atlanta Unfiltered website, wrote that despite being saddled with debt, Sutton was still able to personally spend $69,000 to win the DeKalb County Commission seat in 2008.

She has a penchant for alienating some of the politicians in her district. Former Clarkston mayor Emanuel Ransom, who was defeated in the 2013 elections, told Decaturish in 2014, “She’s one of the worst commissioners we’ve ever had in the fourth district.” She was accused of personally holding up a contract to reconstruct the fire station in Avondale Estates. Sutton said at the time she delayed awarding the contract because she wanted to explore the possibility of entering into an intergovernmental agreement with Avondale Estates that would ensure the city would pay a “fair market rate” for the station if the city ever wants to buy it.

The fire station reopened last year.

Sutton is also facing questions concerning her use of her county-issued purchasing card. She sued the county’s ethics board, claiming it is unconstitutional. That effectively put the complaints against Sutton on hold while the lawsuit is pending. That has spared her from headlines regarding the rulings of the county’s Ethics Board. Her former assistant was recently found to have used her county issued card to make personal purchases and was fined $1,000, according to the AJC.

There are questions surrounding her free memberships to the YMCA. Sutton voted in favor of a partnership between the county and YMCA, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. The memberships were suspended after media inquiries.

Sutton was criticized for her handling of the issues surrounding the Brannon Hill Condominium Complex in her district. Brannon Hill has made national news after being featured in a Vice.com article. Brannon Hill Condominium Complex residents in DeKalb County are desperate for help in cleaning up their Clarkston neighborhood where burned out buildings, piles of trash and debris, open drug deals and violence have been the norm for many years.

She also recently came under fire for holding a festival in her district. She said the festival wasn’t political or related to her reelection campaign.

Sutton has given some interviews. She recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution she’s being targeted by her opponents on the County Commission, Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon. Sutton’s political consultant Warren Mosby, who has been romantically involved with Sutton in the past, ran against Gannon in the May 24 primary. Gannon easily won reelection, pulling down 80 percent of the vote against her challenger.

She told the AJC she is the victim of a “smear campaign” and said she’s looking out for the interests of her district, which she says has been treated poorly compared with the northern part of DeKalb County.

On May 24, Bradshaw led Sutton, getting 5,253 votes to Sutton’s 4,712. It’s a turnaround from his last showing against Sutton in 2012, which Sutton won with 73 percent of the votes.