Friday May 24th, 2024 8:00AM

State Senate candidates Clark, Echols dispute over Clark's Flowery Branch property

By Caleb Hutchins Assistant News Director

The two Republican candidates for State Senate District 49 are at odds after one was seen on camera entering the other's property in Flowery Branch.

Drew Echols said one of his friends from Atlanta rented Josh Clark's property on Old Federal Road in Flowery Branch on Wednesday, May 1 and invited Echols to the house. Echols said he went to confirm his suspicions that Clark does not live at the property as he claims.

"I went down there to see for myself. I've always been told to trust but verify, and voters need to know that this gentleman does not live in that house." Echols said. "I went in the house. I looked in the refrigerator, I looked in the drawers. The refrigerator is empty. The drawers are empty...I left after maybe 15, 20 minutes."

Clark disputed that claim, saying he and his family have lived in the home since 2019, but rent the property on Airbnb on select weekends. He said Echols visiting the home violated Airbnb's policies and he questioned the ethics of his opponent going through the property.

"We did not agree to Drew Echols being in the home. I mean, that's just weird, your opponent coming into your home for 20 minutes," Clark said. "If he wanted to come over, if he had just called me...we want to be hospitable, but doing it the way he did it? No, that's not ok."

Airbnb's website indicates that every guest visiting a rented property may not need to be specifically listed in all cases, but renters may be notified by email if the property owner wants all guests to be identified.

An article on Josh Clark's campaign website initially indicated that Clark was considering contacting authorities regarding the incident, but Clark backed off of those comments.

"There's still an internal discussion about that, but at this point, my wife and I don't want there to be lost energy over this," Clark said. "At this point, we've decided to just keep on moving forward with our campaign strategy."

Echols issued a release Wednesday morning, accusing Clark of illegally receiving two different homestead exemptions in 2023 for both the Flowery Branch property and a home on the Gwinnett County side of Buford. 

"I think the voters in Hall County need to vote for someone who lives here and doesn't take advantage of the system with two homestead exemptions," Echols said. "It's voter fraud is what it is. He says he lives there, that's where his voter registration is. It's an Airbnb."

Clark said he also owns another home in the Flowery Branch area that he and his family stay in while the Old Federal Road property is being rented. He called the claims about his residency by Echols "ridiculous."

"It's really, utterly ridiculous. Our son graduated from West Hall (High School), our daughter is graduating from Lanier Christian Academy...we go to Christ Place Church, I work out in Oakwood," Clark said. "Everybody knows who we are, they know we're a key fixture in South Hall. It's really childish and it's disappointing."

Early voting is already underway for the May 21 primary elections. There is no Democrat candidate for the State Senate District 49 seat, meaning the winner of that primary between Echols and Clark will, effectively, win the seat.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News, Election 2024
  • Associated Tags: Flowery Branch, hall county, Georgia politics, Election 2024
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