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Jason Winters

Tim Shiflett, chairman of the Democratic Party in Chattooga County, Ga., had been waiting since spring to tell Chattooga County Sole Commissioner Jason Winters he would never again be allowed to run as a Democrat in the county.

On Nov. 5, with approval from his party's executive board, Shiflett finally got to hand Winters a letter saying just that.

This past spring, photographs became public that showed Winters putting up campaign signs for state Sen. Jeff Mullis, a Republican from Chickamauga in Walker County. In the midterm election, similar photos popped up of Winters posting signs for Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

Shiflett said campaigning for "the opposition" breaks county Democratic Party bylaws, and the executive board for the party voted Winters out for any future elections.

Shiflett said the board will vote at its next meeting whether to expel him from the Democratic Party.

"If you violate the rules where you work to an egregious degree, you're going to get fired," Shiflett said. "[Winters] is the highest-ranking Democratic elected official in this county. When they come and qualify to run with us and sign the papers, they are signifying that they are a Democrat, and Democrats do not do what he did."

Winters said he was surprised when he got the letter, but all he could do initially was laugh.

"It's been kind of a funny thing ... but it's a serious issue," he said. "I think it was an extreme action, and I don't see where that helps to further any agenda."

Winters said he didn't know it was such a faux pas to advocate for a few Republican candidates.

"Whether they're Democrat or Republican, these people have been very good for Chattooga County and have done a lot of things to support us," he said. "I looked at it as we should support the people who support our county. I guess that was too common-sense of an approach."

Shiflett said, the fact is that Winters actively campaigned for Republican candidates.

"This is not about elected officials sitting down together in a room and working together," he said. "Democratic officials don't just [endorse Republicans] without repercussions."

"If we asked [candidates] to act like Democrats, I don't think that's too much to ask," Shiflett added.

As for what Winters is going to do now, he guessed his only two options are to become a Republican or run as an independent.

"If I run in the future ... I'll have to make some decision there," he said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Smith at hsmith@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6731.

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