Day before polls open, East Point council candidate disqualified

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A Fulton Superior Court judge re-affirmed less than 24 hours before polls were set to open on Election Day that an East Point City Council candidate was not qualified to run.

City Clerk Keshia McCullough approved Davion Lewis as eligible to run for a Ward A seat, but after receiving a citizen complaint about how long the candidate has lived in the city, McCullough decided at an Oct. 24 hearing to disqualify Lewis, said his attorney Michael Sterling.

Sterling said he unsuccessfully argued Monday in Superior Court for the judge to overturn the city clerk’s disqualification. He said Lewis will not fight his disqualification any further.

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Lewis’s name will still appear on the ballot, said Fulton’s director of registration and elections Richard Barron, but they will post a notice in local precincts explaining the situation. The tally of votes Lewis receives will not be released.

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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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