Judge reinstates disqualified Cobb Democratic sheriff candidates

Two candidates disqualified from running for Cobb County sheriff have been reinstated and had sharp words for the opponent trying to derail their campaigns.

Gregory Gilstrap and Craig Owens, two of of three Democrats vying to challenge incumbent Sheriff Neil Warren in November, will appear on the 2020 Democratic primary ballot. Their candidacies were challenged by fellow Democratic contender Jimmy Herndon, a former sergeant with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office.

Herndon also tried to disqualify Sheriff Warren on the basis he didn’t notarize his original qualifying documents. He dropped that challenge after seeing the original qualifying documents had been properly notarized.

The Cobb Board of Elections unanimously voted March 26 to disqualify Gilstrap and Owens. The candidates appealed the decisions to Cobb County Superior Court and Senior Judge Tambra Colston overruled the elections board in both cases.

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The board disqualified Gilstrap because the person he named as his chief deputy, Douglas Murray, did not meet the required qualifications. Colston ruled Friday that the board could not use local legislation to set requirements for the office of sheriff because the position is a constitutional office. Gilstrap faced the same challenge when he ran for the position in 2004, and the court used the same interpretation to rule in his favor at the time.

Gilstrap said Herndon’s actions were done in an effort to damage his character.

“It just showed that he would do anything to win this election,” he said of Herndon.

Gilstrap also filed an amended affidavit naming a new chief deputy “to correct the deficiencies” the Board found in its March hearing, the Elections Office said. The amended document lists the new chief deputy as Khalfani B. Yabuku, a retired commander with the Atlanta Police Department who owns Marietta-based Triple “F” Training, a company that provides self-defense training to clients.

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The board disqualified Owens because he did not provide an affidavit to the elections superintendent by the end of the third day after the qualifying period to prove that he graduated from high school. Colston overturned that decision Monday.

Owens, who has both bachelor and master’s degrees, said voters deserve a choice in the election that’s “about restoring trust and integrity to the Cobb Sheriff’s Office.”

“The petty actions that led us to this moment make clear the difference between me and my opponents,” Owens said.

Herndon said in Gilstrap’s case, the law used to initially disqualify his opponent “should be removed from the books.” However, he continued to double down on what he refers to Gilstrap’s lack of experience in running the Sheriff’s Office.

“Cobb voters deserve better than a candidate with zero experience and one that fails to perform due diligence when selecting a chief,” he added. “Gilstrap has no platform, no vision and no idea of how to lead our Sheriffs Office.”

Herndon also accused Owens of omitting eight places of employment required to be listed on his affidavit and lying about his military service, adding that anyone who does these things “is not a man that should serve as our next sheriff.”

In turn, Owens accused Herndon of “relying on untruths” to win the Democratic primary.

“Desperate candidates try to rely on desperate measures,” Owens said.

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