Gresham's hearing set
Board to meet Wednesday to decide candidate's eligibility

COVINGTON - The Board of Elections will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday to hear evidence on whether Board of Education District 2 candidate Horace Don Gresham is eligible to run for office.

At its regular meeting Monday afternoon, Board of Elections Chairman Hugh Steele said the board has received two valid challenges to Gresham's candidacy and said an evidentiary hearing should be held as soon as possible, since the deadline to print ballots for the July 15 primary is looming.

Gresham will be notified and given the opportunity to appear at the hearing, Steele said.

Gresham was not present at Monday's meeting, but the two women challenging his candidacy were, along with Dennis Horion, a local advocate for sexual abuse victims.

Horion asked the board to require all candidates for elective office to voluntarily submit to a criminal background check, with the results to be on file for public viewing at the Board of Elections office.

Steele said the board would not require that.

"No other candidates have had their eligibility questioned," he said.

Annette Harmon and Gresham's neighbor, Nikkia Lovejoy, are both challenging his eligibility.

According to state law, 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 or she may strike the candidate's name from the ballot.

Gresham was convicted of sodomy with a boy under 14 years of age in 1988 in DeKalb County.

Georgia Election law states that at least 10 years must have elapsed from the date of completion of a sentence for conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude and qualification to run for elective office.

According to 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.

On April 28, Gresham signed a declaration of candidacy and affidavit swearing that he is qualified to run for office and that he has never been convicted and sentenced for a felony involving moral turpitude or that at least 10 years had elapsed from date of completion of a sentence for such a crime without a subsequent conviction, according to records on file with the Newton County Board of Elections Office. All candidates are required to sign the form to qualify for office.

Gresham said his probation was suspended after two years, and he was therefore eligible to run, but a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Corrections said Gresham served his entire 12-year sentence.

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