HOMER — It took about eight hours of legal arguments and presentation of evidence, but a judge has ordered a new Georgia House District 28 Primary.
In the May 22 Republican Primary, incumbent Rep. Dan Gasaway was defeated by challenger Chris Erwin by a 67-vote margin. After hearing from his wife’s co-worker the day after the primary that his name didn’t appear on her ballot, Gasaway began checking and learned there were others who experienced the same situation, so he challenged the election.
In the time that followed, Gasaway asserted and Habersham County officials have conceded that there was a sufficient number of district assignment errors to cast into doubt the results of the primary.
On Tuesday, Gasaway’s attorney and Erwin’s attorney argued and presented evidence before Senior Judge David Sweat in Banks County Superior Court.
“It is the Court’s view that the results of the primary election must be set aside and a new election held,” Sweat said in announcing his ruling. “The Court’s view is that it’s going to be necessary to conduct a new election.”
Sweat said based on the evidence the outcome of the primary election is in question.
After ruling that a new election is required, Sweat said he understands the financial concerns to counties of holding a new election outside a regular election date.
“I’m real sensitive to the expense to the taxpayers of having to crank up and have to staff the polls at all the precincts across three or more counties – at the precincts that were implicated,” Sweat said.
Sweat said while the preference would be to hold the new House District 28 Primary on Nov. 6, the day of the General Election, attorneys pointed out that because it is a primary the balloting and poll workers would have to be separate from the General Election.
Sweat adjourned court until 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to allow attorneys to consult with their clients before determining when and how a new House District 28 Primary should be held.
Following the ruling, Gasaway shared his thoughts.
“We’ve worked on this for a very long time,” Gasaway said. “We knew on the fifth day of July that this is what should have been done, and it’s taken us this long to get here. When you know on the fifth day of July and it’s taken you an additional three months to get here, it’s very tiring, but that’s part of the process.”
Gasaway said he was pleased that his attorneys were able to prove the burden required to obtain Tuesday’s ruling.
“My lawyers have done some excellent work,” Gasaway said. “We had the facts on our side.”
Erwin said he would spend Tuesday night determining his next step, and whether to appeal Sweat’s ruling.
“Obviously what we got is a court ruling, and we need to sit and look through it and make a decision on the way we go,” Erwin said. “We felt we won the race. We thought we proved the fact that the numbers weren’t up to 67, and we still stand by that. So now we’ll sit down, and we’ll do a little overnight talking and thinking about it and make a decision from there — whether we appeal. We need to look to see what evidence we can produce for that to strengthen our case and what we might have missed and then go from there.”
House District 28 includes parts of Habersham, Banks and Stephens counties.