CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – After being disqualified from the Chatham County District 2 Commission race, Tony Riley is fighting back.
His attorney, Will Claiborne, filed an appeal Tuesday afternoon to get his name back on the ballot.
“We are disenfranchising an entire district of citizens,” said Chatham County Board of Elections member Antwan Lang.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Lang denounced the fact that voters living in District 2 will have no say in who their commissioner will be.
Board of Elections Chair Tom Mahoney says Riley’s disqualification was by the book.
“I think most often the candidate withdraws, but they don’t have to they can go onto a hearing as Mr. Riley has and Mr. Riley has a right to appeal,” said Mahoney.
Claiborne says the BOE did not conduct the hearing fairly, and in turn, taxpayers will pay the price.
“What you see here is really a third rate burglary by the Republican Party that attempts to steal a seat away from Mr. Riley, but will ultimately cost the taxpayers,” said Claiborne.
Republican challenger, Gator Rivers, will now run unopposed. Some say he and others conspired to get Riley kicked off the ballot last minute.
“Everybody in Savannah knew that he had some problems with the law,” said Rivers, “so to accuse me of exposing him to the people of Savannah that already knew what his situation is, I mean, why?”
Election board members vehemently disagreed at Tuesday’s hearing, one even asking the other to recuse herself because of alleged involvement in bringing Riley’s conviction to light.
Mahoney has acknowledged the timing of the complaint seemed strategic.
“My motion to ask her to recuse herself is based on my history with Ms. Rauers,” said board member Malinda Hodge.
Board member Debbie Rauers is a Republican and Hodge is a Democrat but the board itself is nonpartisan.
Rivers says the whole debacle is pitting parties against each other. He says even though he’s listed as a Republican, he’s actually an Independent.
“I am not what you would call a historical Republican,” said Rivers, adding that he identifies with policies from both parties.
Allegations of Rivers’ criminal past have also been brought up, but the one charge against him was dropped by the District Attorney’s office. WSAV News 3 did confirm that information with the D.A.
“It’s not a factor,” said Rivers.
Riley will be in court Thursday morning. If his disqualification is overruled, a judge could order the county to hold a special election.