CUTHBERT, Ga. — State Rep. Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert, said he'll continue campaigning as if he has an opponent after finding out Monday morning the Democrat who was scheduled to face Greene in the November General Election had been disqualified by Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
Kemp ruled that Lake Democrat Richie Smith is ineligible to run for the newly drawn House District 151 after Smith failed to appear at a hearing scheduled to discuss a tax matter.
"I don't know that this is final yet; I believe there's an appeals process and I don't know if my opponent plans to appeal," Greene, a Republican who has served in the state Legislature for 29 years, 27 as a Democrat, said Monday.
"I don't plan to stop taking my message to the people because I think that's what this campaign is all about. In fact, when I got the message (of Kemp's ruling) this morning, I was out on some rural dirt roads in the district, knocking on the doors of people where I was told candidates don't usually campaign. I certainly didn't stop and come home."
Lamar Brand of Blakely filed papers challenging Smith's candidacy over what Brand said were back taxes owed by the candidate. Smith failed to show for a hearing on the matter, so the hearing officer turned the matter over to Kemp. The secretary of state announced Monday that Smith was ineligible to run for office.
There are no records available indicating that Smith has filed campaign financial or disclosure reports as required by law.
Kemp's office said that while Smith and District 139 candidate Anne Taylor, who was ruled ineligible to run because she did not meet residency requirements, have a right to appeal his decision, any votes for the two will not be counted unless either's appeal is successful.
Greene, meanwhile, said he's had to battle extreme heat while trekking over his expanded district, which includes nine counties, including part of Dougherty County.
"My opponent in this race has been the heat," he said. "By 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon, it just beats down on you. But I'm really enjoying getting out and meeting new people in the district as well as reacquainting myself with old friends.
"I'm getting lots of help from the mayors, county commissioners and city council members in the new parts of the district, and that's made it easier for me. I'm really excited with the way I've been received in Dougherty County. I've run into a lot of friends there."