Leonard Gomez, a Republican state House candidate, was accused of not living in the district he is running to represent. Screenshot.

Kemp’s office says Georgia GOP House candidate can stay on ballot

A Republican challenging Georgia’s House Democratic leader in next month’s election will remain on the ballot, the Secretary of State’s Office determined.

Leonard Gomez submitted a sworn affidavit saying he lives in the district, said Ryan Germany, the general counsel with the Secretary of State’s Office. Gomez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Through longstanding policy, our office does not initiate a candidate challenge on our own accord unless the available evidence clearly shows that the candidate should not be on the ballot,” Germany wrote Friday in a letter to state House Minority Leader Bob Trammell. “Based on the available evidence at this point, we decline to initiate a candidate challenge.”

Gomez, who works in information technology, served on the Grantville City Council from 2013 to 2017.

Trammell in September asked Secretary of State Brian Kemp — the Republican nominee for governor — to investigate Gomez’s residency. As secretary of state, Kemp is responsible for oversight of elections and voter registration.

Trammell, a Luthersville Democrat, says Gomez does not live at the address he listed in his declaration of candidacy that was filed in March and has moved out of state House District 132. The district includes all or parts of Grantville, Hogansville, LaGrange, Luthersville and Newnan.

Trammell over the weekend sent Kemp a response asking him to re-examine his challenge, questioning the office’s decision to use what he calls an “I’ll take your word for it standard” in deciding candidacy.

The Luthersville attorney also cited controversy around the state’s “exact match” law, which requires voter registration information to match driver’s licenses, state ID cards or Social Security records.

“How in the world does the ‘I’ll take your word for it standard’ for the constitutional qualifications of a candidate for the General Assembly square with your application of the exact match procedure for voter registration?” Trammell asked in his letter. “Not very well.”

The “exact match” law has drawn criticism from voting rights groups that say it could suppress voting in the upcoming election.

According to the September complaint, Gomez listed an apartment on Main Street in Grantville as his address in the candidate affidavit he filed March 8. Property records show that Gomez’s wife, Kelly, purchased a home in Newnan outside House District 132 last October and sold the house they owned in Grantville on March 22.

In sworn affidavits to the Secretary of State’s Office, Gomez said he lives in the Grantville apartment while his wife said she lives in the house in Newnan.

Trammell said he believes voters will side with him on Election Day.

“Candidly, I have full confidence that the voters in the 132nd District will easily see through Mr. Gomez’s transparent attempt to game the system to manufacture residency to run for political office in a district in which he does not even reside,” he said.

OUR REPORTING

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is covering the issues and candidates up and down the ballot in a busy election year. Look for more at ajc.com/politics as the state heads for the general election on Nov. 6.

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