Fayette DA Ballard to challenge incumbent for superior court judge post

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Candidates line up for DA post; Tax Commissioner Wingo to retire in 2016

The 2016 local primary elections may be months away, but District Attorney Scott Ballard has his sights set on the Griffin Judicial Circuit seat held by Superior Court Judge Tommy Hankinson, and long-time Fayette County Tax Commissioner George Wingo has announced that he will retire at the end of his term in 2016.

Ballard on Monday said he will square off against Hankinson for the Superior Court seat. Ballard said he recently informed Hankinson of his intent to run for the seat in 2016.

“I decided at some point to step back and assess where I’m needed the most,” said Ballard. “I feel like I’m doing what I should do, not what’s safest, but how I can best serve.”

Ballard, a native Fayette Countian, was first elected as district attorney in 2005. Hankinson lives in Upson County, the southern-most point in the district.

Because he can’t run for both offices, Ballard will be serving his last year as D.A. in 2016.

Other superior court judges in the Griffin Judicial Circuit are Chief Judge Christopher Edwards, Fletcher Sams and Robert “Mack” Crawford.

With Ballard’s upcoming departure, there are others who want to fill the district attorney’s position for Fayette, Spalding, Upson and Pike counties.

To date, those include Fayette County attorney Cindy Manning and Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Ben Coker.

A Fayette resident for the past 10 years, Manning worked in Ballard’s office from 2005-2007 before moving to law firms in Atlanta. She established a private practice in Peachtree City in 2012.

Coker has served as ADA in the Upson County office since 2005, though he has prosecuted cases in each of the four counties in the judicial circuit.

A third candidate has been mentioned, an attorney from Griffin.

Historically, the path to a superior court judgeship in the Griffin district has led through the district attorney’s office as a first stop. However, D.A. Ballard was passed over when the two most recent openings occurred, resulting in the governor appointing Crawford, a Pike County native and former state legislator, and State Court Judge Fletcher Sams, a Fayette native, to the two open posts in August 2010.

Another long-time official is saying he will not seek re-election. Fayette County Tax Commissioner George Wingo said on Monday that he will not run again.

Wingo said he plans to retire after 24 years as Tax Commissioner and spend time with his wife, who recently retired, and with their grandchildren.

Wingo said he will support Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner Kristie King to fill his position. Having served in his office for 14 years, she is well-trained and thoroughly knows the operation, Wingo said.

Also having recently announced his intention for future office is Peachtree City Post 1 Councilman Eric Imker who did not run for re-election. Imker previously announced that he will run against Mayor Vanessa Fleisch for the mayor’s seat in 2017.