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Athens Democrats Want to Oust Mayor Nancy Denson From Party Post Over Support for GOP Candidate

Don’t let the blue fool you.

The Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee will vote next week on whether to kick Mayor Nancy Denson off the committee because of her support for a Republican in a state House of Representatives race.

Denson held a fundraiser for Houston Gaines—her former campaign manager, who’s now running for state House as a Republican against Democrat Deborah Gonzalez—at her Forest Heights home Aug. 31. The fundraiser outraged many local Democrats who felt that, as a Democrat, Denson should be supporting Gonzalez.

“Your support of Donald Trump’s party in this upcoming special election is unfortunate,” says a letter from the ACCDC’s executive committee dated Sept. 12.

The executive committee preliminarily voted Sept. 7 to revoke Denson’s membership. They said the fundraiser violated a party bylaw stating that “no member shall publicly support another candidate other than the Democratic nominee in a partisan general election.”

Denson told Flagpole that she has been on the committee for 35 years and is aware of the rule, but she contended that she didn’t violate it because the House race is a special election and technically nonpartisan. (In special elections, there are no primaries, and all candidates are on the same ballot, but candidates do run as Democrats or Republicans.)

However, Denson said that she intends to resign from the ACCDC in 2018, assuming Gaines wins, so that she can continue supporting him.

“As an American, as an Athenian and a Georgian, I want the best candidate,” she said.

The full ACCDC will vote Sept. 28 on whether to oust Denson. She said she won’t be at the meeting due to a prior obligation, but she will send a letter objecting to her removal from the committee.

Denson noted that she has held fundraisers for numerous Democrats over the years, including former Sen. Max Cleland, Secretary of State Cathy Cox and Rep. John Barrow.

“I’ve probably been more active than many of the people who are on the committee now,” she said.

The ACCDC has seven committee posts, as well as alternates, in each of the 10 county commission districts who work to elect Democratic candidates. Denson is a member in District 5.

If Denson is removed from the committee, she will no longer have an official role in the party but can continue to call herself a Democrat, according to former ACCDC chairman Russell Edwards.