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According to the emergency petition Sterling filed, Lewis moved into his home Dec. 27, 2018. The city charter requires a candidate to live in East Point for one year “immediately preceding his or her election as a council member in the city.”
Sterling said his client was always honest that he would have been short of that timeframe if the endpoint was Election Day. McCullough said she didn’t know about the December move until a resident complained.
“We just have to trust what they put in their affidavit,” McCullough said of candidates, adding that clerks by law are not allowed verify what’s included in a candidate affidavit.
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Georgia law gives communities two weeks after qualification to challenge the residency of candidates. After the two-week mark, Sterling said, a complaint came in about the time discrepancy. Though the complaint was late, McCullough has the power to challenge a candidate’s qualification whenever she wants.
The Secretary of State’s office was included on the resident's complaint email in mid-October. McCullough said the state told her that if the resident was correct that Lewis had residency issues, then she would be to blame.
“In the event that this person was right and I never looked at it, then it could fall back on myself,” she said.
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On Oct. 22, according to the petition, McCullough let Lewis know she planned on challenging his qualification. Two days later, she disqualified him. Early voting had begun at the library a week earlier.
Between legal fees and running the campaign, Sterling said, his client — the head of two local charter schools — has spent at least $10,000 of his own money.
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Lewis was facing one opponent on the ballot, Lance Robertson, and one qualified write-in candidate, Mike Herring. “I’m sorry that it happened,” Robertson said, adding that he sent Lewis a card saying as much.
“If Mr. Lewis is in my ward, I’m here to service him as his city council member,” Robertson said Monday. “I’d like for him to vote for me tomorrow.”
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