Judge upholds eligibility of Democratic PSC candidate Shelia Edwards

Credit: File Photo

Credit: File Photo

A senior judge’s ruling filed Wednesday said that the winner of the Democratic primary for a Public Service Commission seat qualifies as a candidate even though she does not live in the district, because of an exception to the residency requirement.

Shelia Edwards won the Democratic primary in May for the District 3 Public Service Commission (PSC) seat. But she lives in Cobb County, not in District 3, which includes DeKalb, Clayton and Fulton counties.

The decision by David Emerson, Senior Judge of Superior Courts, upholds an administrative law judge’s decision in May that Edwards is not required to be a resident of PSC District 3 because she is running to fill a vacancy.

Chuck Eaton, a Republican elected in 2018 to a six-year term on the Public Service Commission (PSC), vacated the seat last year when Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him as a Fulton County Superior Court judge. Kemp then appointed Fitz Johnson, also a Republican, to replace Eaton in the PSC District 3 seat until the next general election.

Johnson did not live in PSC District 3 before he was appointed, but Georgia statute exempted him from the residency requirement because he was filling a vacancy. He is now the Republican incumbent for the District 3 seat.

Edwards won the May Democratic primary and avoided a runoff for the District 3 seat. She more than doubled the vote total of second place finisher and energy activist Chandra Farley. Small business owner Missy Moore finished a distant third.

After Edwards won the primary, her two Democratic rivals filed legal challenges. Emerson ruled in Farley’s case after a Tuesday hearing. The judge wrote that “it appears to the court that the General Assembly made an express exception to this (residency} requirement,” according to the ruling.

“I’m elated,” Edwards said Wednesday after the ruling was issued. “I never attempted to deceive anybody. I always said I lived in Cobb County.” Edwards said if she is elected, she has “every intention of... moving to Atlanta or DeKalb.”

Farley’s attorney, Bryan Sells, said a decision hasn’t yet been made on whether to file an appeal. “We’re disappointed with the judge’s ruling,” he said. “We haven’t decided on next steps.”