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DA Candidate Sues Kemp Over Delayed Election

Deborah Gonzalez web.jpg

Deborah Gonzalez, a candidate for district attorney in Athens, sued Gov. Brian Kemp today seeking to have the election returned to November 2020.

Former district attorney Ken Mauldin resigned in February, making his chief assistant, Brian Patterson, acting DA and triggering a special election in November. At that time, Patterson and Gonzalez were already running for the seat. Mauldin had previously announced he would not seek re-election.

Under a little-known state law passed in 2018, if Kemp appointed a replacement for Mauldin within six months of he election, the election would be pushed back two years. That deadline came and went two weeks ago.

Gonzalez has repeatedly pushed Kemp to appoint an interim DA, but he has not, despite taking applications for the position in February. In the meantime, Patterson remains acting DA.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by Atlanta lawyer Bruce P. Brown on behalf of Gonzalez and four Athens voters against Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. It alleges that voters are being disenfranchised by having their ability to choose a new district attorney this year taken away, and that the 2018 law is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs are asking a judge to require the state to put the race on the November 2020 ballot.

Athens resident John Barrow, who had been planning to run for state Supreme Court this year, filed a similar lawsuit earlier this year and lost, but his lawsuit was filed in state, not federal court.

Barrow and Beth Beskin had planned to run for the seat belonging to Justice Keith Blackwell, who had announced his intention to step down in November. However, state officials would not allow Barrow and Beskin to qualify in March.

The ruling allows Kemp to appoint Blackwell’s successor, who will then stand for re-election in 2022.

Six of the nine Supreme Court justices recused themselves in that case. Barrow blasted the three justices who did not step aside, saying their refusal “tainted” the ruling. He also said the decision would allow judges to nullify elections by resigning in between when an election is held and when their successor takes office.