By Justin Boron
The race for county commission chairman has developed into a legal conflict over Democratic nominee Eldrin Bell's billboard signs after the Republican nominee filed for an injunction against what he calls "deceptive and misleading" advertisement.
In a complaint filed with the Clayton Superior Court, Republican Michael Onyemenam claims the billboard signs that read "Eldrin Bell Chairman Clayton County Commission" violate Georgia election code because they do not identify him as a candidate in the upcoming Nov. 2 election.
Onyemenam contends that the message implies that Bell already has won the election since the words "for" or "elect" are absent from the signs.
"It is deceptive and false. The election is ongoing," Onyemenam said. "It is an insult to the citizens and current chairman Crandle Bray."
Frank Bailey, the campaign manager for Eldrin Bell, said he had not consulted a lawyer, but did not think that there was anything illegal about the signs.
Bailey cited 40 years of political experience in which he has seen this form of presentation in political ads become standard practice.
Accusing Onyemenam of opportunism, he said he wasn't taking the complaint too seriously.
"I think it's just a publicity stunt myself," he said.
Onyemenam concedes that he is defending his campaign but said the community's interests are at stake as well.
"It is a protective measure for our campaign and for the laws of this county and state," Onyemenam said.
The dispute will likely be decided by a specially appointed judge because all of the eligible Clayton County judges have recused themselves, said Tiffany Pruitt, a deputy clerk of the Clayton County Superior Court.