State invalidates Georgia Senate candidate’s Republican primary run

An administrative court judge ruled Thursday that former state Rep. Jeff Lewis was not eligible to run for a state Senate seat. On Friday, the secretary of state's office disqualified him as a candidate. Courtesy photo.

caption arrowCaption
An administrative court judge ruled Thursday that former state Rep. Jeff Lewis was not eligible to run for a state Senate seat. On Friday, the secretary of state's office disqualified him as a candidate. Courtesy photo.

The secretary of state’s office on Friday invalidated the candidacy of a former state representative who was running for a Rome-based state Senate seat in the May 24 Republican primary.

The move came a day after an administrative court judge recommended disqualifying Jeff Lewis, who previously served in the state House for about 15 years, because the Bartow County Republican failed to file campaign finance documents for a decade.

Administrative Law Judge Charles R. Beaudrot ruled Thursday that Lewis is not eligible for the primary due to a law passed earlier this year that said candidates must be current on any campaign finance filings to be eligible to run for office.

The reports — which candidates have to regularly file — tell the public who has donated to a candidate’s campaign and how they spent the money.

Lewis is challenging state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler of Rome in the Republican primary for Senate District 52. Shortly after Lewis filed paperwork to run for the state Senate, Hufstetler challenged Lewis’ candidacy.

Beaudrot on Thursday found that Lewis was not “eligible to qualify to seek election” under Georgia law.

“He had not filed any campaign reports for the last 10 years and he had $75,0000 in his account at that time and has not done the reports that the law says you have to do,” Hufstetler said. “So I certainly believe you need to follow the law.”

Lewis left the state House after the 2008 legislative session and continued to file campaign finance documents until December 2012, when he had about $75,000 left in the bank, according to court documents. Former lawmakers must account for money in their campaign account in periodic filings until all the money has been spent, given to charity or refunded to donors.

Lewis’ attorney, Lester Tate, argued that the new law was unconstitutional because it puts more qualifications on candidate eligibility than is outlined in the state constitution. The administrative court does not rule on questions of constitutionality, so Tate said Lewis plans to request a review of the law by a state Superior Court.

“We’re trying to get it in front of a judge, and there’s a great chance the law will be ruled unconstitutional and (Lewis) will be placed back on the ballot,” Tate said.

Derek Keeney, who is chairman of the Bartow County Board of Education, is also running in the Republican primary. No Democrat filed to run for the seat.

Since early voting began last week, Lewis’ name will remain on the primary ballot. Precincts in Senate District 52, which includes parts of Bartow, Floyd and Gordon counties, will have signs informing voters that Lewis is no longer eligible as a candidate and votes cast for him won’t be counted.

About the Author

Editors' Picks