Chatham County Commission candidate Tony Riley disqualified from race

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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – Chatham County District 2 Commission candidate Tony Riley has been disqualified from the race following a qualification hearing Tuesday.

Riley faced the Board of Elections Tuesday morning during a messy hearing full of arguing.

“We all regret that we are here at this late date it was not this boards wish or desire to be here,” said board member, Marianne Mercer Heimes.

Riley’s qualifications were called into question after a felony charge from 1995 recently came to light when Board of Elections Chair Tom Mahoney received a complaint earlier this month.

Georgia law states that if a person is convicted of a felony involving morale turpitude, 10 years must pass before that person can run for office.

Moral Turpitide is defined as a gross violation of standards of moral conduct, vileness, such that an act involving moral turpitude was intentionally evil, making the act a crime.

“The only case in Georgia law that has applied morale turpitude in an election context found that the crime was not a crime of morale turpitude,” said Will Claiborne, Riley’s attorney.

Claiborne says procedures regarding the complaint, including how Riley was notified, were done improperly.

Election superintendent, Russel Bridges testified to sending notification, but admitted one of the notifications had a typographical error. The notice had a double negative in it implying Riley was in fact qualified to run.

“They messed up every single step of this procedure, ” said Claiborne, “I lost count today of all the times that this elections board fouled up the underlying procedure.”

Mahoney admitted the proceeding wasn’t perfect.

“I think the hearing was messy, I think that a lot of the things that we do are messy, ” said Mahoney, “that doesn’t make it invalid.”

There were two votes to disqualify Riley and two votes to keep him. The two democrats, Antwan Lang and Malinda Hodge voting against disqualifying Riley while Heimes and Debbie Rauers voted in favor. Mahoney broke the tie and ultimately, Riley was disqualified from the race.

Hodge originally asked Rauers to recuse herself due to her involvement in bringing the complaint to light.

“We have disenfranchised ,if we move in the affirmative we have disenfranchised and we have done exactly what people have been accusing us of doing this entire time,” said Lang.

Early votes for Riley will not be counted, and no one can vote for him moving forward. There will be signage placed at polling locations letting Chatham County voters know he is no longer in the running.

Mahoney says signage will be posted at all polls reminding voters that Riley is no longer on the ballot.

Riley says he’s not backing down.

“I will continue to fight I will continue to campaign in this race and I’m looking forward to a victory on November 3rd,” said Riley.

Riley can appeal the decision in Chatham County Superior Court. Claiborne says they were be filing an appeal and a temporary restraining order to halt signage from being posted at the polls.

Riley’s Republican challenger, Gator Rivers, will now run unopposed.

If the decision is overturned by superior court than the burden would fall on taxpayers to fund a special election.

“We’ll have to do this all over again, that’s the problem that you have created today after throwing him off the ballot,” said Claiborne.

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