Nancy Jester Versus … Oh … Wait … No Flipping Way?!

Hail to the glorious weird of DeKalb!

Some days, you just don’t want to fight it. Some days, it’s better to just sit back and let the weird wash over you and laugh like the day you discovered Japanese game shows.

Jim Traficant’s hair. Mark Sanford hiking the Appalachian trail. The Rod Blagoyevich musical. The Marion Barry arrest tape. Reading the write in candidates for Paul Broun’s last Congressional run.

And Holmes Pyles making the county commission runoff in North DeKalb. No … Holmes Pyles coming in first to make the runoff.

Because screw ’em if they can’t take a joke. 

I wrote about Tom Owens‘ candidacy in this contest last month, largely as a demonstration of the perils of an electorate not giving a damn. Should we be surprised, given the hilariously negative national attention Owens drew after obtaining a temporary protective order against me during the campaign, that he still earned nearly 5000 votes out of about 35,000 cast last night?

Should we be similarly surprised that Owens outpolled Larry Denese, a highly-qualified two-time candidate for the seat?

Should we be utterly flabbergasted that Wendy Butler, another highly-qualified candidate who appears to have outspent Jester four to one, missed the runoff by about 310 votes … while Pyles – who has not filed financial disclosures – earned 600 more votes than she?

Pyles and Jester – a Republican former school board member removed from office with the rest of the DeKalb officials last year in an accreditation crisis – are both vying to replace Smoke Rise Republican Elaine Boyer on the county commission. Boyer, one might recall, resigned in September to get her rap game together and learn how to pee in front of other people.

I didn’t write much about Pyles last month, except to say that he was an 86-year-old retired civil servant running as an independent. I regret, profoundly, that I dismissed the likely effect of his candidacy on the contest. I cop to operating at a journalistic disadvantage: I saw him in person.

I’ve met Holmes Pyles twice now. He’s a UGA grad in soil chemistry with some night course work in law at the now-defunct Woodrow Wilson College of Law. He’s earnest to a fault. He enjoys talking about the importance of his work as a toxicologist at the state crime lab he served for many years, and how all of his brothers returned from World War II intact. My grandfather often told the same kind of stories — the five of them built a Catholic church at home to celebrate when they came back from the war. No one cared except my grandmother.

But … Pyles … tends … to … speak … very … slowly … about … whatever … point … he … is … trying … to … make … and … by … the … time … you … realize … he’s … just … drifted … off … again … wait … someone … is … taking … the … microphone … away …

Holmes is by evident measures a decent human being with an admirable record of government service. But his public appearances raise legitimate questions about his fitness for office. I couldn’t conceive of him being competitive. In fact, I don’t actually believe he’s competitive. But he’s also not a Republican. He was the only not-a-Republican on the ballot.

While North DeKalb’s gloriously mottled political map strongly favors Republicans overall, about a quarter of the electorate there won’t vote for one, ever. If the choices are four Republicans and anyone but a Republican, they’ll choose the other guy, sight unseen.

Pyles went sight unseen. Thus, in a five-way race, the political equivalent of Herb Welch comes in first place.

Hail to the glorious weird of DeKalb!


  1. ryanhawk says:

    Why do his public appearances raise questions about his fitness for office? County Commissions and City Councils all over the state (not to mention the state legislature) are chock full of people who lack this gentleman’s authenticity and dignity. Perfect, no? But authentic for sure, and that counts for a lot.

    I’m just glad Jester nosed ahead of Butler. She too deserves to move forward, and for the same reasons. Perfect, no. But authentic for sure and asking a lot of darn good questions.

    • George Chidi says:

      Brother, I don’t believe he lacks dignity or authenticity. Neither does a oak tree, but I wouldn’t vote for one.

      Watch the tape, folks, and draw your own conclusions.

      • ryanhawk says:

        You might want to meditate for a while longer on why two candidates you consider well qualified lost to a man you consider worthy of derision. If Holmes Pyles is such a joke and yet his vote total far exceeds your own how fit for elected office can you really be?

      • dodadagohuhsgi says:

        “Neither does an oak tree, but I wouldn’t vote for one.” GREAT COMMENT, GEORGE!! Holmes Pyles also strikes me as a good, decent man. He also strikes me as being far and away the least qualified of the five original candidates in this race. I’ve been involved in local zoning issues for forty years now, and this was the biggest upset of them all. No campaigning, no fundraising, no yard signs, no website, no Facebook, no e-mail–and first place in the voting!! What does this say about DeKalb County voters?? And what does this say about what he also would also NOT bother to do as a DeKalb County Commissioner??–Tom Reilly

    • George Chidi says:

      I have his campaign card and it doesn’t have a phone number, never mind a website. As you contemplate the search for a web presence for Mr. Pyles, consider that the fellow went off on a digression about police training in which he talked about how common it is for murderers to cut the phone lines to a house before killing someone.

  2. seenbetrdayz says:

    Well, I always talk about how government does a lot of things without taking the time to think about it. By the time this gent gets done telling you his ideas, you’ll have had enough time to decide whether or not you like the idea.

    If his run for commissioner fails, I think they should send him to D.C. and put him in charge of reading the bills before they vote on them.

    And no, I’m not being disrespectful. I’m dead serious.

  3. Will Durant says:

    Geezer’s unite! He’s 8 years younger than Strom was when he stood (sort of) for his last election.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    Not unexpected from a Georgia electorate that largely casts votes based on the letter next to the name for offices down ballot. The four GOP candidates split the GOP vote. Independent Mr. Pyles was the only option for those that won’t vote for those with an R by their name.

    MS. Jester will win the runoff with ~75% of the vote.

  5. Tom Taylor says:


    2 small corrections. Boyer is not from Dunwoody, lived in Smokerise at the other end of the district. Larry Danese has always been a Democrat, and ran for County Commission last time as a “D”. If he would have run as a Democrat this time, he would probably be in the runoff,

  6. jmacs12000 says:

    Hi George, hope your recovering from Tuesday.

    I must admit I find you the most “in your face blogger” of the crew on this site, which does make reading some of the observations humorous. But along with several other postings on other issues, perhaps your over enthusiasm, to point out the short comings of “the opposition”, comes across as a bit over the top.

    Having said that, I would also say a thank you for the over the top reports regarding the goings-on in DeKalb County, for while I have lived here for over 12 years, I was gone a lot (GAANG) and now my job makes me travel a lot. So I am very concerned when it’s time to vote and I have no idea of the local personalities. We use to call “you’ll”, “townies” back home. I’m originally from Massachusetts so politics is in my blood. I would not have known about all the “Owens” stuff without your diligent and perhaps rightly so, indigent blogging. However, I don’t get the one sided shots at Nancy Jester? Where’s the fair balance regarding Ms. Butler’s short comings? I saw several red flags with this lady regarding her credentials/resume. “Larry” is a victim of age and not really campaigning. I did see one of his sign’s somewhere. Let’s suggest you present the pros and cons on “all the candidates” – not just the low hanging fruit. These are local people or our fellow citizens now thrust onto the stage warts and all. Neighbors perhaps urge them, despite sometimes limited skills and education and even non impressive credentials. Yes they need to be “outed” but perhaps not so sharply to the state/nationwide.

    My real pet peeve on all local and State elections (many States require Judicial Office elections) is the lack of information on those running for Judiciary offices. While often initially appointed or “highly recommended” by the local bar association, they are in fact very, very political in their judicial temperament. Very tough to research their opinions once on the “Bench” time wise, yet it seems taboo and never discussed by all you pundits.

    Keep working and you’ll one day be a real news reporter.

    One last shot for Peach Pundit – You all really didn’t know the polls were BS???

    • George Chidi says:

      Jim, I grew up in Northbridge, just south of Worcester, and served five years of active duty (and a couple in the NG) so I think I get you.

      I left the Atlanta Journal-Constitution six years ago for … well, a lot of reasons … one of which was that the need to “balance” stories often passed as code for avoiding offensive observations. The word “sprawl” was banned at the copy desk, for example.

      Peach Pundit is not a monolith. We’re a melange of opinion, generally backed with hard data and live observations. I’m generally a progressive. Icarus, Jon and others are much more conservative. I don’t hide it, neither do they. But I think together we’re close to seeing all the angles.

      I write here because I think opinion backed by rigorous observation has value here. And I’m interested in writing things that are interesting and important. If I don’t happen to find Nancy Jester particularly interesting … perhaps someone else will. This is largely why no one dives deeply into the judicial races. Were I to write about them, it would be to inveigh against the idea of elected judges in the first place.

      We don’t hear about judicial races unless someone has screwed up mightily, or that they’ve made a plainly politicized decision. It’s not taboo, exactly … but I would argue that more attention results in a more politicized bench, not less so, and that’s a bigger danger.

      And, about that real journalist crack … stay classy.

  7. George Chidi says:

    One last thing. I’m now having reservations about declaring Mr. Pyles “not competitive.”

    Turnout in DeKalb for the last mid-term general election runoff was 7.13 percent. I don’t think things will be much different this time around. Turnout in the special election was about 55 percent, on 35,725 votes. The runoff might be expected to produce between 7000 and 8000 votes, total.

    There’s a not-inconsiderable anti-Jester faction at work in north DeKalb. Would they be willing to endure two years of Pyles in office before the next general election, simply to make a point? Perhaps. If supporters for Butler, and Denese, and even Owens decide to stage a protest vote, they could collectively throw 2000 or so votes at Pyles.

    Democrats who vote every time, in every race, regardless of what’s on the ballot could conceivably produce another 2000 votes, leaving Pyles with a slim lead without him even getting out of bed.

    Jester actually has work to do to win.

    • SallyForth says:

      George, I saw this dude on the 6 o’clock news last night and I think you’re right about Jester actually having a race on her hands. He comes across as a grandfatherly good ol’ boy, and your speculation may happen.

  8. Richard says:

    No Teabaggers?

    Welcome to DeKalb County and set your clock back 50 years? Hilarious. If you did that you would be in a school system that had one school (Avondale), now closed, which produced in 1964 a senior class which won State Championships in football and baseball, finished second in basketball, had two state wrestling champions, and graduated five (more than Westminster) National Merit Scholar Finalists that year. Be careful (or wistful) what you wish for.

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