DeKalb GOP chooses ex-commissioner Nancy Jester for elections board

Nomination comes after previous choice was rebuffed
December 13, 2016 Decatur - DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester during DeKalb County Commission meeting at DeKalb County Government Administration Building on Tuesday, December 13, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM



December 13, 2016 Decatur - DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester during DeKalb County Commission meeting at DeKalb County Government Administration Building on Tuesday, December 13, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

A familiar face may soon join the DeKalb County elections board.

The DeKalb GOP announced Friday that it had nominated Nancy Jester — the lone Republican on the county commission before her re-election loss in November — to fill one of its two spots on the local elections panel.

Jester’s nomination comes about nine days after the DeKalb GOP’s original choice for the role, Paul Maner, was rejected by Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson.

Jester would replace Baoky Vu, a longtime Republican elections board member who was not reappointed for another term because he pushed back on false claims of widespread voter fraud in last fall’s election.

“With the continued ‘kicking-the-can-down-the-road’ attitude and many of us being fed up with the status quo, we concluded that a new representative was needed to complement the experience of Anthony Lewis,” DeKalb GOP chair Marci McCarthy wrote on Facebook, referencing her party’s other representative on the five-member elections board.

“Nancy Jester is an experienced professional who has dedicated significant time to DeKalb government accountability efforts.”

Prior to her re-election loss, Jester had represented the north DeKalb area on the county commission since 2014. She is also a former member of DeKalb’s school board.

As a commissioner, Jester was never one to bite her tongue or shy away from confrontation. But her appointment is unlikely to garner the vehement opposition that Maner’s did.

Maner is a brash arch-conservative who unsuccessfully challenged then-state Sen. Fran Millar in a 2016 GOP primary. He found himself in an unflattering spotlight last January after falsely claiming on social media that the son of Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath was killed in a “drug deal gone bad.”

McBath’s teenage son, Jordan, was shot and killed outside a Florida gas station in 2012, after a stranger confronted him and a group of friends over the volume of their music.

News outlet ProjectQ Atlanta recently uncovered anti-LGBTQ Facebook posts allegedly made by Maner as well.

Judge Jackson — who approves elections board appointments made by local parties — asked the GOP last week to find “another more suitable candidate” after receiving “an extraordinary number of phone calls and emails” about Maner’s selection, Clerk of Superior Court Debra DeBerry told the AJC at the time.

“While I don’t agree with (Jester’s) politics,” DeKalb Democrats chairman John Jackson said Friday, “she’s significantly better than Paul Maner.”

The local Democrats are sticking with their current elections board representatives, Dele Lowman-Smith and Susan Motter, after their current terms expire at the end of the month.

Jester and Lewis appear set to round out the GOP contingent.

The leaves the fifth seat — the lone position not appointed by a local political party — as the only remaining question.

Judge Jackson received 19 applications for the position but has not yet announced her choice. The decision could come as soon as Friday.

Elections board chairman Sam Tillman currently occupies the ostensibly nonpartisan seat, but it’s unclear if he applied to serve another term. He may not be chosen even if he did.

Tillman was one of the DeKalb Democrats’ appointees to the elections board for more than two decades before the party chose not to reappoint him in 2019. He quickly secured the board’s at-large seat, however — because he was the only person to apply for it. He was then elected chairman, thanks to the support of Republican board members.

Since then, Tillman has frequently clashed with fellow board members and other DeKalb officials, who have at times questioned his judgment and accused him of exercising outsized influence over the day-to-day operations of the elections office.

DeKalb County is one of Georgia’s deepest Democratic strongholds. About 83% of DeKalb voters chose Joe Biden last November, and roughly the same percentage went for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in January’s U.S. Senate runoffs.