Judge reinstates candidacy of Georgia Senate contender

A Fulton County Superior Court judge allowed Jeff Lewis' candidacy to stand in the state Senate District 52 Republican primary after the secretary of state's office last week invalidated his run for office. Courtesy photo.

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A Fulton County Superior Court judge allowed Jeff Lewis' candidacy to stand in the state Senate District 52 Republican primary after the secretary of state's office last week invalidated his run for office. Courtesy photo.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge on Thursday reinstated the candidacy of a Georgia Senate hopeful about a week after the secretary of state’s office invalidated the Bartow County Republican’s run for office.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger disqualified Jeff Lewis, a former state representative, on the recommendation of an administrative court judge. The judge determined that Lewis was ineligible for Tuesday’s 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.

Lewis, who previously served in the state House for about 15 years, had not filed campaign finance documents for a decade before he qualified to run for the Rome-based Senate seat. The reports — which candidates have to file regularly — tell the public who has donated to a candidate’s campaign and how they spent the money.

Lewis filed a lawsuit challenging the new law earlier this week. In a filing, Lewis claimed the law is unconstitutional because it puts more qualifications on candidate eligibility than is outlined in the state constitution, and Fulton County Superior Judge Ural Glanville put on hold the disqualification until he is able to rule on the merits of the challenge.

Glanville reinstated Lewis’ candidacy and instructed Raffensperger’s office to remove signs from Senate District 52 precincts that had been placed informing voters that ballots cast for Lewis would not be counted.

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

Hufstetler said he and his attorney did not oppose Lewis’ request to stay on the ballot until the challenge is settled.

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.