By Joel Hall
Just 10 days following the qualifying period for candidates in the November 2010 election, an election challenge has been filed against Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy, who is running for a commission seat outside of the district in which he lives.
The Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration will hear an official challenge today at 4 p.m., during it's regularly-scheduled board meeting at 112 Smith St., in Jonesboro. The challenge, according to an agenda for the meeting, will call into question Murphy's right to run for the District 4 County Commission post against incumbent Commissioner Michael Edmondson.
Murphy, a general construction contractor and former assistant director of the Clayton County Community Development Department, qualified for the District 4 Commission race on Friday, April 30. The city of Lovejoy, however, where Murphy resides and serves as mayor, is entirely in District 3.
District 3 Commissioner Wole Ralph, who was re-elected in 2008, will not have to run again until the year 2012. Murphy said that is too long to wait, and believes state law will back up his efforts.
"We wouldn't attempt to do this, if we didn't feel like it was totally legal to do this," Murphy said. "The Georgia law says that you only have to be a resident in the county for 24 months. It doesn't say you have to be a resident of the district when you are running for it."
Board of Elections and Registration Director Annie Bright said the organization's five-member board would discuss the matter today and likely set a date for a hearing to determine Murphy's eligibility.
"The board has not met regarding the candidate," Bright said. "At the meeting, they will set a hearing date for this challenge, and then the person will be notified."
The agenda for the meeting did not specify who made the candidacy challenge.
Murphy said that "county law can't be more stringent than state law" and that he had rulings from the Secretary of State's Office and the Attorney General's Office to support his bid for commissioner.
The newspaper was unable to obtain a copy of those rulings from Murphy on Monday. According to Article II, Sect 2, of the official Code of Clayton County, "each candidate other than a candidate for chairman shall certify at the time of qualifying that he is a bona fide resident of the commissioner district from which he is offering as candidate" and "a candidate for chairman shall so certify that he is a bona fide resident of Clayton County."
District 4 Commissioner Michael Edmondson said that he did not file the challenge, but was informed by a constituent that a challenge was filed. He said he believes the county code is "explicit" in the requirements of candidacy, and Murphy will not be able to run.
"The ordinances are explicit, and this person does not qualify to run for District 4," Edmondson said. "If he wanted to run for the commission, he should have run for the seat close to his home. After speaking with legal counsel ... I am confident that they will read the law and find him ineligible."
The meeting will take place today in the Commissioner's Board Room of the Clayton County Administration Building, located at 112 Smith St. in Jonesboro.