Walker County GOP candidate claims local establishment is conspiring against him

Walker County GOP candidate claims local establishment is conspiring against him

May 22nd, 2016 by Tyler Jett in Politics Local

Candidates

U.S. Representative, District 14

Tom Graves (incumbent) (R)

Allan Levene (R)

Mickey Tuck (R)

State Senator, District 53

Jeff Mullis (incumbent) (R)

Lanny Thomas (R)

State Senator, District 54

Charlie Bethel (incumbent) (R)

Conda Lowery-Goodson (R)

State Representative, District 3

Dewayne Hill (R)

Jeff Holcomb (R)

Jeremy Jones (R)

State Representative, District 4

Bruce Broadrick

(incumbent) (R)

Kasey Carpenter (R)

State Representative, District 6

Tom Dickson (incumbent) (R)

Sarah Fields (R)

Jason T. Ridley (R)

Conasauga Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge

Catrina Celeste Creswell

Steve Farrow

Barry Scott Minter

Catoosa County Sheriff

Ben Scott (R)

Gary Sisk (incumbent) (R)

Dade County Commission Chair

Cliff Auman (R)

Wes Hixon (R)

Ted Rumley Sr.

(incumbent) (R)

Dade County Sheriff

Ray Cross (incumbent) (R)

Danny Ellis (R)

Walker County sole commissioner

Mike Peardon (R)

Shannon Whitfield (R)

 

In his attempt to win Republican voters' favor, Mike Peardon has opened a fight with the local party's leaders.

Peardon, who is seeking the Walker County Commissioner nomination in Tuesday's primary election, has accused upper-level party members of trying to set him up to fail. Those leaders, meanwhile, believe Peardon has cooked up a slight without much evidence.

Peardon's beef centers on two issues. First, he believes a member of the party's executive committee has endorsed fellow Republican candidate Shannon Whitfield. Second, he believes the party establishment has actively worked to help Whitfield waltz into office.

Shannon Whitfield

Shannon Whitfield

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"They're carrying out their mission," Peardon said. "That's what they wanted to do. That's what they set out to do: Get Shannon elected. I'm just caught in the crossfires, I guess."

Local party leaders say Peardon is wrong.

Walker County Republican Party Chairman Matt Williamson said he told Peardon earlier this month, "I think you're sabotaging your campaign."

"He doesn't understand the rules," Party First Vice Chairman John Carpenter said of Peardon.

"He's just paranoid," added Mike Cameron, the party's Rossville precinct chairman.

The winner of Tuesday's election will likely face Commissioner Bebe Heiskell in November. Heiskell announced in March that she would run as an independent after 16 years on the Republican ticket.

Peardon said the most obvious problem arose in March. He said he was driving around the county looking for homes with Whitfield signs in the front yards. He sought them out, hoping to walk into the living rooms of these people, charm them and win their votes.

But one day, he walked into such a home and found Carpenter already in the living room. It turned out to be the home of Mike Philpott, a long-time friend of Carpenter's and a former co-worker at the Walker County Sheriff's Office.

When Peardon asked about the Whitfield sign, Philpott told him Carpenter brought it for him.

From there, the stories diverge.

Peardon says Philpott didn't know who Whitfield was. He only had the sign because Carpenter convinced him to put it in the yard.

Carpenter says that's not true: Philpott, a 28-year veteran of the sheriff's office who has since left the department, wanted the sign because he was already supporting Whitfield. He knew Carpenter was active with the local Republicans and asked him to bring the sign.

Philpott backed up Carpenter's version of events, saying he wanted the sign because "I d—- sure don't want Bebe Heiskell's [expletive] in my yard."

Said Carpenter: "I would have taken a Mike Peardon sign [to Philpott], or a Jeff Mullis sign, or a Tom Graves sign. I was just doing it as a friend."

Peardon's response?

"If he wants to lie before God and everybody, he'll have to do it. But I'm telling you what [Philpott] told me."

Since the March incident, in a Trumpian campaign maneuver, Peardon has protested the party while running for its nomination. He skipped the party's debate April 30, announcing on his Facebook page that he didn't want to walk into a biased environment.

Last week, he attended a party meeting, asking to change a rule that allows party members to endorse a candidate so long as they don't use their party ranks. For example, Carpenter could endorse Whitfield if he doesn't identify himself as first vice chairman.

For his part, Carpenter maintains he never endorsed Whitfield.

Executive committee members rebuffed Peardon's pitch. Williamson, the chairman, said the rules come from the Georgia GOP's official bylaws.

Peardon told the Times Free Press the issue arises from a bigger conspiracy among party leaders. Last summer, he said, a group that included Whitfield tried to find a strong candidate to take down Heiskell. They recruited Jim Patton, a Wendy's franchise owner in LaFayette.

Patton agreed to run but later changed his mind. Somehow, the group then appointed Whitfield as their nominee.

Dean Kelly, a former chairman of the Walker County Republican Party who remains active in local politics, said Peardon's version of events isn't accurate.

It's true some people recruited Patton. And it's true Patton agreed to run before having second thoughts. But, Kelly said, this was not an official effort by the Republican Party.

Kelly said the same thing goes for the group that recruited Whitfield, though he conceded that a group was looking to anoint someone to face Heiskell.

"Incumbents have a tremendous advantage in running for office," he said. "They have significant money in their campaign funds. It's hard to compete with a candidate that has that much money in their war chest."

Peardon says even if the recruitment effort wasn't an "official" Republican Party plan, some of the people involved were, in fact, party leaders. He believes the "official" label is merely semantics.

Williamson, meanwhile, said party members should have the right to get behind candidates they are passionate about. And besides, the party welcomes competing people with competing perspectives. They are happy to let any Republicans run in the primary.

"There have been people active in politics in Walker County for a long time who have really wanted to get Bebe out of office," he said.

"They feel like she has done a bad job as commissioner. They have been trying to put pressure on people to not support her anymore. They've tried to be as smart and organized as they can be. Would it surprise me if there are individuals going around to find a candidate? It wouldn't surprise me. Did the party do anything officially? No. Did I do anything? No."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@times freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


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