GOP nomination to DeKalb elections board raises eyebrows

DeKalb Republicans have selected the man they hope will be their newest representative on the county elections board — and it already has some folks on the other side of the aisle up in arms.

DeKalb GOP chair Marci McCarthy confirmed Friday that her party was submitting the name of Paul Maner to Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson, who ultimately approves appointments to the county’s five-member elections board.

The terms of all current board members expire on June 30.

Maner, a financial advisor from north DeKalb, is an arch-conservative who unsuccessfully challenged then-state Sen. Fran Millar in a 2016 GOP primary. Never shy to attack establishment Republicans as “RINOs” — or “Republicans In Name Only” — 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.

If Maner’s appointment is approved, he would replace Baoky Vu, a longtime elections board member who was censured by his Republican counterparts earlier this year for pushing back on baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in last year’s election.

McCarthy, who became chair of the DeKalb GOP earlier this year, said Vu “was not really aligned with Republican values.”

“I will not lie. [Maner] has a reputation for being a porcupine,” McCarthy said. “But I don’t need a best friend. I need a qualified person that can do the job.”

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.

In an email sent to several prominent local Democrats late Thursday, DeKalb Dems chairman John Jackson called Maner a “white nationalist, misogynist and homophobe” who is “infamous for his hateful antics and supporting overturning the election.”

The party chair encouraged officials and activists to lobby Judge Jackson to reject Maner’s nomination.

“Allowing Maner to be on the board means many actions that WILL embarrass DeKalb County and put the literal fate of democracy in Georgia in jeopardy,” John Jackson wrote in his email.

Vu, who had served on the elections board for 12 years, participated in his final meeting Thursday night. He thanked county elections staffers and his colleagues on the board — and used a twist on an old proverb to deliver a thinly veiled shot at members of his own party.

“Time flies,” Vu said, “when it seems like democracy’s under assault.”

The other Republican currently on DeKalb’s elections board, Anthony Lewis, appears set to serve another term. Local Democrats plan to stick with their current pair of representatives, Dele Lowman-Smith and Susan Motter, as well.

But Vu’s departure may not be the only one.

Judge Jackson’s office said 19 applications were received for the lone seat on the elections board that’s not filled by a political party. The seat is currently occupied by Samuel Tillman, the board’s controversial chairman.

Tillman was one of the DeKalb Democrats’ two appointees to the elections board for more than 20 years before the party chose not to reappoint him in 2019. But Tillman subsequently secured the board’s at-large seat — because he was reportedly the only person to submit an application for the opening.

Since then, Tillman has frequently clashed with fellow board members and other DeKalb officials. He drew plenty of fire during last year’s tumultuous election cycle, accused by some colleagues of exercising undue influence on day-to-day operations at the elections office and was otherwise criticized for hesitating to accept help from outside entities.

Jackson, the DeKalb Dems chair, called for Tillman to resign just three weeks before last fall’s high-stakes presidential election.

Tillman has not responded to questions about his future and it is unclear whether he applied for another term on the elections board. He did not discuss the matter during Thursday night’s board meeting.

A spokeswoman for Judge Jackson’s office said candidates for the at-large seat would be interviewed next week but declined to release names of those who applied.

The appointment will be announced June 30, the spokeswoman said.