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Jeff Holcomb
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Zach Hubbs
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Jeremy Jones
RINGGOLD, Ga. — The race to represent Catoosa County in the state legislature has gone from two candidates to one candidate to four candidates back to one candidate.

By the time you read this, though, the race might be back to four candidates.

Or maybe even more.

The Georgia secretary of state's office announced Thursday that Jeff Holcomb, Zach Hubbs and Jeremy Jones have been disqualified from running in the May 24 Republican primary for the House District 3 seat. Why? A missed deadline by the state Republican Party.

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office said the Georgia GOP needed to give the state elections office Holcomb's, Hubbs' and Jones' qualifying paperwork by noon Monday. But even though the candidates gave their party the paperwork by the April 7 deadline, someone from the GOP didn't turn in those documents until about 3:30 p.m. Monday.

In response, the party's executive committee held a vote at 6 p.m. Thursday. They decided to reopen qualifying, allowing any interested candidates to throw their names in the ring for the House District 3 seat today. Holcomb, Hubbs and Jones said they all plan to go to Atlanta and fill out their paperwork. Again.

"I'm very happy they reopened the qualifying for sure," Hubbs said. "The state party did the right thing."

Added Holcomb, when asked if he was driving back to Atlanta today: "I plan to. Still a little [mad]."

And Jones, who heard the news while waiting for a Prince concert in Atlanta: "I'm very disgusted in how this has all played out and hope all of the candidates can now concentrate on meeting the voters, not filing paperwork."

Interested candidates can register to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the Georgia Republican Party headquarters, located at 3110 Maple Drive, Suite 150, in Atlanta. The candidates must pay $400 and present the party with a picture ID. The race is open to interested parties other than just Hubbs, Holcomb and Jones.

Today marks the third chance for candidates to enter the House District 3 race.

The first qualifying period ran from March 7-11. On the first day, state Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, filled out his paperwork to run. Nobody challenged the incumbent until the last day of qualifying, when former Catoosa County Commissioner Dewayne Hill entered.

Days after the qualifying period ended, Weldon announced he was going to withdraw, leaving Hill unopposed. He said he informed Hill of his plan the day that Hill decided to run against him. Hill said he had no idea Weldon was bowing out until a Times Free Press reporter contacted him.

Though both men deny any collusion, members of the Catoosa County Republican Party wondered if Hill and Weldon organized a back room deal, allowing Hill to join the legislature without opposition. During the county's convention on March 19, the majority of the local party asked the state GOP's executive committee to reopen qualifying, allowing for additional challengers.

On March 31, the executive committee obliged, and the party reopened qualifying for April 6-7.

But Thursday, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state said those new candidates were not legally allowed to run. Under Georgia law, the political party has to present the candidates' paperwork to the elections office by noon on the third day after qualifying. That was Monday.

"This is a very unfortunate situation for the candidates," Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement around noon Thursday. "However, I have a duty to uphold the integrity of elections in Georgia."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.

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