By Ronnie Moore
RINGGOLD, Ga. — After 90 minutes of testimony Wednesday on a lawsuit over Catoosa County GOP infighting about straw poll question on the primary election ballot, Superior Court Judge Jon Bo Wood promised to rule within the next few days.
I’m going to look at this, but my inclination is to deny any relief to plaintiffs, Judge Wood said.
The plaintiffs — acting county Republican Party Chairman Clydeen Tomanio and sergeant-at-arms Paul Levi — want the court to force removal of the nine yes-or-no opinion questions from the July 18 ballot.
I view this as an internal issue to be dealt with in the party, Judge Wood said. County election officials can’t be faulted.
Election officials were named as defendants, along with resigned GOP Chairman Brad Scott and the county party itself. Mr. Scott resigned earlier in June, as did Ann Knight, the first vice president.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Renzo Wiggins said the questions were never debated of voted on by party leaders, and Mrs. Tomanio and Mr. Levi both testified to that fact.
County election official Ann Marie Cain said an official at Kennesaw State University who prepares the ballot forms called on May 2 to say stating the format of the first five questions made a statement and didn’t ask a question.
She said the five questions could be formatted to be five individual questions, Mrs. Cain said. Mr. Scott specified he wanted the format to include five questions.
Those five questions on the ballots ask whether GOP voters would be willing to pay more property tax to support the Colonnade, the Learning Center, the County Recreation Department, current sheriff’s staffing and current district attorney’s staffing.
The issue has caused dissent within the county GOP organization.
State Rep. Ron Forster, R-Ringgold, said he believes the judge should leave the questions on the ballots. County Commission Chairman Bill Clark said after the hearing, How am I, as an elected official, going to learn what the citizens want if I can’t ask them a question?
Mrs. Cain said she had no reason to question that candidates and straw poll question certifications were valid when Mr. Scott submitted them.
But Mrs. Tomanio said the questions never were approved by the party’s 13-member executive committee, and, I was never given the opportunity to vote on these questions appearing on the ballot, she said.
No attorney was present to represent the Republican Party, and Mr. Scott is on vacation in Florida.
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