Muscogee County School Board candidate's qualifying document is challenged

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 14, 2014 

John F. Thomas, an accountant working as an IRS revenue agent in Columbus, announced Wednesday at the Burger King on Wynnton Road, his candidacy for the District 2 seat on the Muscogee County School Board.

PHOTO BY MARK RICE — mrice@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

A challenge was filed Friday against a Muscogee County School Board candidate, alleging he improperly filled out a document and requesting he be disqualified.

Paul Voorhees, owner of the Ranger Joe's military supply store, filed the challenge against John F. Thomas, an IRS agent running against District 2 incumbent John Wells, a businessman with interests in property management and construction, and two other challengers: Kar-Tunes Car Stereo owner John "Bart" Steed and training and development coordinator Victor Morales.

The challenge lists two places where Thomas didn't state on his Notice of Candidacy and Affidavit which seat on the board he is seeking:

• In the blank that says "Circuit, District or Post if applicable," Thomas wrote "school board."

• In the blank that says "Election," Thomas wrote "school board" and added above "non-partisan."

In his challenge letter, addressed to Muscogee County Board of Elections director Nancy Boren, Voorhees acknowledges Thomas does identify his precinct as District 2, but "this does not have anything to do with what office he is seeking," Voorhees wrote. "Since the school board has at-large seats and other named districts … there is no way to tell which race Mr. Thomas is attempting to qualify for."

Thomas said he hasn't seen the challenger letter, but he insists he isn't worried.

"I don't think this is a disqualifying type of error," he said. "I think I still will be able to stand for election."

That's up to the elections board, which must conduct a hearing when a legitimate challenge is filed, Boren said. Voorhees filed his challenge on the last day possible, five business days after the final qualifying day.

No hearing date has been scheduled. The elections board's deadline to finalize the ballot is April 5, Boren said. The non-partisan election day is May 20. Early voting starts April 28.

The elections board has five members: Margaret Jenkins (chairwoman), U.D. Roberts (vice chairman), Linda Parker, Diane Scrimpshire and Eleanor White.

Voorhees wasn't reached for comment Friday, so his motivation for filing the challenge isn't clear, but he gave the invocation at Wells' re-election campaign announcement.

When told about Voorhees' connection to Wells, Thomas said, "That doesn't surprise me. It just seems like a desperate way to eliminate some competition prior to the election."

Wells, however, denied he was involved with filing the challenge.

"I don't have anything to do with it," he said. "I don't care one way or the other. If it's valid, it's valid; if it's not, it's not."

Asked whether he knew Voorhees was going to file the challenge, Wells said, "Somebody told me he was going to do it, but I didn't see the complaint."

Asked whether he encouraged Voorhees or tried to stop him, Wells said, "It's not up to me. He's a citizen, so he can do that."

Asked whether Thomas should be disqualified, Wells said, "It's not my deal, so I'm not concerned about it."

Thomas laughed as he noted a clerk had verified his paperwork was proper when he submitted it at the elections office. He emphasized he will continue to run for the seat unless he is ordered otherwise.

"I'm still garnering a lot of support," he said. "I still feel good leading up to the election. My campaign is about the performance of the board, not whether a form has been filled out correctly."

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

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