A candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives District 142 seat that covers Bibb County has filed a complaint that questions whether one of his opponents meets residency requirements.
Former Macon City Councilman Gerald Harvey said Friday that he filed the complaint after receiving calls from people saying they wondered if another candidate in the race -- Frank Austin -- has met the 12-month residency requirement to run for the seat. Austin, however, said he takes umbrage with the complaint and that the focus of the race should be on how each candidate can help the district.
Harvey, Austin and former state Sen. Miriam Paris all qualified last week for the District 142 seat that is being left vacant by Nikki Randall, who is not seeking another term.
The three Democrats will face off in the May 24 election. No Republican qualified in the race.
Harvey said he filed the complaint this week with the Secretary of State's Office, which confirmed a filing from Harvey.
Austin contends he meets the eligibility requirements. He said he has owned a house in Macon since 2007 and moved from Jones County into the home in 2014.
Austin said that while serving as coordinator of the Macon-Bibb County Shalom Zones -- areas where revitalization efforts are led by churches, community leaders, and local government -- he has worked with others to hold more than 40 community cleanups, conduct more than 80 community meetings and take part in other initiatives to improve communities.
"I'm offended because (the complaint) challenges the hard work in this district," Austin said. "I'm not going to let anybody take away from what we've accomplished in these neighborhoods."
Harvey, who served on the City Council from 1979 until 1987, said his complaint is not a personal attack on Austin. Instead, he said he wants to make sure the state looks into the matter since others brought it to his attention. Harvey said in a news release that he "welcomes the competition" if Austin is found to have met all the requirements.
"I have the utmost respect for anybody willing to put their name on a ballot to open themselves up to that scrutiny," Harvey told The Telegraph on Friday. "I'm certainly not discouraging someone from running."
After a complaint about a candidate's qualifications for office is filed, the Secretary of State's Office holds a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, said Candice Broce, press secretary for the Secretary of State's Office.
During the qualification period, each candidate must submit an affidavit that their information is correct.
"There's no conclusive factor for determining residency, but you just do a balancing test with them," Broce said.
Some of the evidence that can support proving a house is the primary place a person lives is whether a significant portion of mail is sent there, or whether the candidate has filed a homestead exemption on the property, she said.
"It gives you a lot of leeway," Broce said. "There needs to be enough (evidence) that it's their domicile rather than a residence they own."
To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter@stan_telegraph.