Gresham's candidacy receives challenge

COVINGTON - A neighbor of Board of Education District 2 Republican candidate Horace Don Gresham is challenging his eligibility to run for office.

Nikkia Lovejoy filed a written challenge to Gresham's candidacy with the Board of Elections on Wednesday morning.

The challenge is based on Gresham's 1988 conviction for sodomy with a child under the age of 14 in DeKalb County and a charge of public indecency brought against him in 1999 in Newton County. The public indecency charge was dropped after Gresham completed a diversion program.

"Mr. Gresham should not even be considered for a seat on the board due to not only his previous conviction but also because he has yet to fulfill the 10-year waiting period required of him before running for public office," Lovejoy stated. "Therefore, he should be denied candidacy. It is of my opinion that he should never be allowed to run for a seat on the Board of Education; not in 2010 or any other time, for that matter. Can we really trust decisions about our children's future to be made by a person who has the propensity to hurt our children? I believe the answer is simple: No!"

State election law requires that a period of 10 years have elapsed between completion of the

sentence for a conviction of a felony involving "moral turpitude" and qualification to seek elective office.

According to the court documents, Gresham was convicted in May 1988. His sentence included one year in prison and 11 years on probation, meaning he would not be eligible to seek office until 2010.

Gresham told the Citizen his probation had been suspended after two years and he was therefore eligible to run.

However, a spokesman with the Georgia Department of Corrections said Gresham served his full sentence, with his probation ending May 15, 2000.

Gresham said Tuesday he had no plans to withdraw from the race. He requested via e-mail Wednesday that the Citizen no longer contact him.

State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, said he plans to introduce legislation during the next General Assembly that would permanently bar anyone convicted of a crime of moral turpitude from running for a Board of Education seat.

"It's just inconceivable that we could have a pedophile serving in a position that puts him in direct contact with our school children," Douglas said.

According to state law, registered voters residing in District 2 may challenge Gresham's candidacy.

A challenge must be submitted in writing within two weeks of the close of qualifying, which was May 2. The challenger must state why he or she believes the candidate is not qualified to seek office.

Following the filing of a challenge, the elections superintendent must notify the candidate and set an evidentiary hearing. If the election superintendent finds the challenge is valid, he may strike the candidate's name from the ballot.

Board of Elections Director Donna Morrison said any challenges filed this week will be discussed at the Board of Elections regular meeting at 2 p.m. Monday at the Board of Elections Office in the Newton County Administrative Building at 1113 Usher St.

Crystal Tatum can be reached crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.