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Friday hearing set for candidacy challenge

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration will conduct a hearing Friday to determine the legitimacy of Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy's candidacy in the District 4 County Commission race.

During it's regularly scheduled business meeting on Tuesday, the board said the hearing on Murphy's candidacy would take place at 4 p.m., but that the site of the hearing has not been announced to the board.

Board of Elections and Registration Member Patricia Pullar said Friday's hearing will "most likely" take place in the commission chambers of the Clayton County Administration Building. However, the board was not able to confirm the availability of the room on Tuesday afternoon.

"If we don't have it here, we will have it somewhere else," Pullar said.

During Tuesday's meeting, election officials said the county must certify its ballots for the July 20 general primary by the end of this week. "It has to be this week," Bob Bolia, the board's chairman, said of the Murphy hearing. "I think we have to at least hear from him in person. As soon as we make contact with him, we will notify him."

On April 30, Murphy, a resident of Clayton County's Commission District 3, qualified along with three other challengers to run against District 4 Commissioner Michael Edmondson.

Following the qualification, Murphy maintained that state law allows people who have been Clayton residents for 24 consecutive months, to run for any district office, and that the candidate only has to live in the district at the time of his or her swearing in.

Earlier this month, David Clark, a resident of District 4, filed an election challenge against Murphy. During the meeting, Clark expressed concern about residents from outside the district running for office.

"Whenever people run to represent me, I want them to be from my district," Clark said. "The school board, in previous elections, has had candidates, and people elected, who did not live in the district. When candidates don't live in the district, it has created crisis. There may be a discrepancy between state law and county law ... currently, there is no legal opinion."

According to Article II, section 2 of the county code, "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 a candidate."

Murphy's attorney, Steve Frey, was present at Tuesday's meeting. He said he believes state law would trump county code in the case of Murphy's candidacy.

"The state law and constitutional law are abundantly clear that no law by the county can be more stringent than the state law," Frey said. "The county can loosen the rules, but it can't tighten them. Until he is proven ineligible, he is essentially eligible. If it boils down to state versus county, the state prevails."