Facts, law governed disqualification decision
This week, the Savannah Morning News published an editorial ("Poor Handel-ing," July 21) criticizing my decision to disqualify Public Service Commission candidate Jim Powell from the July 15 General Primary election.
Relying both on incorrect facts and a clear misunderstanding of the disqualification process, the writer of the editorial leaps to the conclusion that my decision to disqualify Powell was somehow inappropriate. To the contrary, the process I followed in handling the qualification challenge was in accordance with Georgia law, and my decision resulted from my obligation to follow the state's law. Here are the facts.
Georgia law allows any citizen who is eligible to vote in a particular election or the secretary of state the right to file a complaint challenging the qualifications of any candidate to seek and hold that office. The secretary of state receives these complaints, notifies the candidate a complaint has been filed, and requests a hearing before an administrative law judge of the Office of State Administrative Hearings. Following the hearing, the administrative law judge provides his or her initial findings to the secretary of state along with the evidence and hearing transcripts.
The secretary of state then has a statutory obligation to conduct a comprehensive review of the findings, evidence, and hearing transcripts before making a final determination as to whether the candidate is qualified for office as provided by Georgia law. The secretary of state then issues a final decision on the matter.
After conducting a thorough review of the residency challenge, evidence, hearing transcripts and findings of fact, I issued an order disqualifying Jim Powell as a candidate for Public Service Commission, District 4.
The decision was based solely on Georgia law, which requires candidates for the Public Service Commission to reside in their district for at least 12 months prior to the election. Contrary to Mr. Powell's claims, our office notified Mr. Powell and his attorney of record less than 24 hours after my decision was entered.
As secretary of state, I rely on the facts and the law in making all decisions. That's exactly what I did in this situation.