Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012
By The Outsider
Well it looks like Damon Cline's bid to unseat current Columbia County Commissioner Trey Allen may have just been torpedoed before even leaving the harbor. The CCNT reported yesterday, that new redistricting maps will put Cline's Petersburg Station home in Dist. 1 (represented by Ron Thigpen) instead of the current Dist 2, which is held by Trey Allen.
Since the Magnolia Trace debacle blew up, there has been an effort to get someone to challenge Trey Allen, who many residents partly blame for helping to push through the controversial government subsidized housing development adjacent to the Petersburg Station subdivision in Martinez. Eventually Damon Cline stepped to the forefront and announced his candidacy this past Monday. But it appears that may have been premature.
Now Commissioner Trey Allen is saying that he has known for over two months that the area around Magnolia Trace would likely not be in his district for the November election. The problem is, no one bothered to tell Cline until after he announced. He already had a campaign Facebook page and a website up by Tuesday and was already starting to receive campaign donations. And it wasn't like Cline's candidacy was out of the blue. There was buzz on The Say No to Magnolia Trace Facebook Group for well over a month that Cline might challenge Allen. And even Austin Rhodes dropped his name on air in early December that Cline might be a potential candidate since it appeared that Jennifer McRae, the leader of the citizens opposition group to Magnolia Trace, was uninterested in running.
Trey Allen says he was the one who asked the board of elections earlier this week to verify that Cline would not live in Dist 2 under the new maps, and then asked County Administrator Scott Johnson to notify Cline that he was running in the wrong district. Now it does seem that Trey Allen had to know that someone from the area around Magnolia Trace (especially Petersburg Station) might try to challenge him for his commission seat after the controversy of Magnolia Trace...but he waited now to inform them that their neighborhood would no longer be in his district. Well.. now isn't that convenient!
Damon Cline says he still intends to run for the commission because he says Columbia County needs a government "watchdog". However, he will have to wait until 2014 when the Dist 1 seat becomes available if these new maps are approved. Now there will likely be a scramble to find a new candidate to oppose Trey Allen this fall. So far, no names have emerged as potential candidates on the Say No to Magnolia Trace Facebook Group. In fact, chatter on that group has been relatively quiet over the past few days, however that doesn't mean that behind the scenes that plans are not being made.
It would be a shame for Trey Allen to go unchallenged in this election. Magnolia Trace will happen, despite the efforts of the citizens to stop it. But it was hoped that the politicians responsible for it would at least have their day of reckoning, and it appeared a strong grassroots citizens political movement was emerging in Columbia County. The challenge now for the Magnolia Trace opponents is to keep the momentum going by getting behind a candidate to challenge Allen. But their first victory may come long before the November election. Voices are growing louder each day to dump County Attorney Doug Batchelor, who many people see as the one most to blame for pushing Magnolia Trace through.
As for Damon Cline, his bid for the commission may have to wait, but he has already sparked a lot of interest and we do hope to see his name on a ballot at some point. Columbia County certainly does need a "watchdog" in local government.***
Magnolia Trace prompts Cline to Challenge Trey Allen