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Update (7:15 p.m.): Catoosa County Republican Party Chair Denise Burns said that candidates seeking the House District 3 seat can fill out paperwork to qualify again. An official from the state party informed her that the GOP Executive Committee voted around 6 p.m. to re-open the qualifying process.

Interested candidates can fill out the necessary paperwork in Atlanta between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday.

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The Republican Primary for a state representative seat is back to a one-person race.

The Georgia Secretary of State's Office announced this afternoon that three of the four candidates running for the House District 3 seat in the May 24 Primary have been disqualified.

Why? Because the Georgia Republican Party failed to provide the eleciton's office with the proper paperwork on time. This leaves only Dewayne Hill, a former Catoosa County Commissioner, in the race. 

Hill originally was scheduled to run against Tom Weldon, the incumbent in the District 3 seat. Both men qualified by the March 11 deadline. Days later, however, Weldon announced he was withdrawing from re-eleciton, saying he wanted to spend more time at his law firm and with his family.

Some Catoosa County Republicans felt Weldon and Hill had organized a back-room deal, believing that more candidates would run if they knew the incumbent was out of the race. This was fueled by conflicting statements to the Times Free Press. Hill said he had no idea that Weldon would withdraw. Weldon said he gave Hill the news immediately after Hill qualified for the race.

On March 19, the Catoosa County Republican Convention voted to ask the state GOP to re-open qualifying for the seat. On March 31, the state party's executive committee voted to comply with Catoosa County's request.

The party re-opened qualifying for the seat April 6-7. Jeff Holcomb, Zach Hubbs and Jeremy Jones filled out their paperwork to run and began their campaigns. But today, the secretary of state's office said the three men cannot run. Though the state party received their paperwork last week, they did not provide the state's elections office with that information on time.

Under Georgia law, a secretary of state spokeswoman said, the Republican Party needed to turn in the information by noon Monday. They did not do so until 3:24 p.m.

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

Hubbs was skeptical about why the paperwork was not turned in on time. On the same night that they voted to re-open the House District 3 seat, the Georgia Republicans' executive committee also voted to re-open the House District 52 seat.

Qualifying for that spot was also held on April 6-7. But the new candidate for that seat is still listed as a qualified competitor in the May 24 Primary.

"I think that the whole reason why we started this process and three other candidates qualified is because we want a fair and honest election," Hubbs said. "This process and what's going on here doesn't add up."

Jones, meanwhile, said he realized something was wrong when he checked the secretary of state's website this morning. He wanted to make sure they listed his contact information on the page. That's when he saw his name was no longer there.

"The Secretary of State's Office told me to call the state party," he said. "I didn't. I was going to lose my temper."

This is a developing story. For more information, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.

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