Catoosa GOP Challenges Illegal Qualifying of RINOs, BOE votes 4-1 for RINOs

Catoosa GOP Challenges Illegal Qualifying of RINOs, BOE votes 4-1 for RINOs

Ringgold, GA — On Tuesday the Catoosa Board of Elections held a hearing to consider the illegal qualifying of four candidates who attempted to force their way onto the Republican ballot by circumventing the local GOP.

A whopping 53 Catoosa County voters filed official voter challenges to the qualifying of these four candidates and this hearing was called to consider the controversy and give those 53 voters an opportunity to speak before the board.

GRA President Nathaniel Darnell reports live at the Catoosa County Board of Elections Hearing
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More than 25 patriots gathered outside the courthouse before the meeting, waving signs in favor of the GOP and the accountability rule that ultimately led to the denial of the Republican brand to four commission candidates: Steven Henry, Larry Black, Jeff Long, and Vanita Hullender.

“The only reason that we are here today is because the law has not been followed,” said Catoosa GOP member Adrianne Kittle at the hearing. “I am angry that I have to be here today all because there are four individuals who want to steal the Republican brand and strong arm their way onto the Republican primary ballot. … Each candidate voluntarily participated in the process and interview … and they did not pass because their actions while in office are the antithesis of a Republican Representative!”

More than a dozen citizens spoke to the board in protest of Judge Don W. Thompson’s order to circumvent the party and have the elections superintendent qualify the candidates as Republicans in spite of the party.

Many aspects of this Board of Elections meeting were unusual and seemed to be conducted to stack the deck against those challenging the four candidates. The public hearing was conducted more like a judicial courtroom proceeding than a standard Board of Elections hearing, where usually citizens are allowed to hold signs in the seats and record what transpires. But this Board of Elections hearing was held in the county courthouse where phones and recording devices were prohibited, which violated state law O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(c) which states “Visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.”

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Those making public comments were compelled to be “sworn in” like in a trial. “I was on the elections board for 18 months,” said Debbie Gwaltney. “During my time as a board member, not once did we ever put someone under oath to testify before the board in a public hearing. I’m flabbergasted!”

Furthermore, attorneys for the RINO candidates were allowed to bring in “witnesses” who had not filed formal complaints or voter challenges with the Board.

The attorneys for the RINO candidates even attempted to cross-examine each of the voters after their public comments! They squabbled over definitions and posed numerous leading questions to put words in the citizens’ mouths. After seeing numerous “cross examinations” of their fellow patriots, speakers began refusing to answer questions.


Another unjust aspect of the hearing was that the four attorneys for the candidates were allowed to each give “closing arguments” like in a court hearing. All four attorneys gave their own closing arguments, but not one person was allowed an equal opportunity to give closing arguments for the Catoosa GOP before the Board moved to executive session and the vote. It was as if they treated it as a judicial hearing when it benefitted the RINOs and then treated it like a normal, casual board meeting when it came to the Catoosa GOP members. All of these things just infuriated the patriots more and more.

NWGRA Member Jim Coles from Catoosa made several helpful analogies to drive home the importance of freedom of association. “Would you force the Republican Jewish Coalition to accept a Neo-Nazi member? Would you force the NAACP to accept a KKK member?” asked Coles.

Coles also took issue with the process followed by the judge and the elections superintendent. “If it was legal to bypass the GOP and qualify the candidates directly with the elections superintendent, why did they threaten jail time and impose massive fines of the GOP leaders for every hour they refused to qualify the candidates? Why didn’t they just go around the party on the first day?”

This just looks like home-cookin’!” remarked Charlie Lamar.

The 8th Amendment prohibits certain types of punishment: excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishments. These GOP members are facing $20,000 each, and that is excessive fines,” said Coles.

Click to watch the video about how this case started & how you can help!

The Catoosa Board of Elections is made up of two appointees from the Democrat Party, two appointees from the Republican Party, and one independent who is appointed by the Probate Judge, and serves as the Chairman. The only “No” vote to allowing these four candidates on the ballot from the five-member board was Jennifer Motter, a recent appointee of the Republican Party.

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Christine Lawson, citizen attorney from Catoosa County

The qualification… was done in contravention of both Georgia law and the rules of the Catoosa County GOP,” said Catoosa attorney and GOP member Christine Lawson.

Lawson argued that the candidates “have well known voting and commentary histories, which are at odds with the message of the Catoosa County GOP. Neither the Catoosa, County GOP, nor I as one of its members, can be forced to host or accommodate Mr. Henry’s or Mr. Black’s messages and positions nor lend the Catoosa County GOP brand to Mr. Henry or Mr. Black candidacies. The actions of the elections supervisor who qualified Mr. Henry and Mr. Black as Republicans have violated the first amendment right of freedom of speech of the Catoosa County GOP and its members by forcing them unwillingly to host those individuals’ messages. Anyone who saw the names of Mr. Henry and Mr. Black on the Republican primary ballot, or the general election ballot could be misled into believing that Mr. Henry and/or Mr. Black represent the views of the Catoosa county, GOP and its members, when nothing could be further from the truth, so – those are first amendment violations that have occurred.”

The Catoosa GOP and their attorneys are not dismayed by this setback.

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Attorney David Oles

We all owe a large debt of gratitude to them [Catoosa GOP leaders], and I’m proud to stand with them,” said Attorney David Oles in an interview with the local news media.

Christine Lawson highlighted the laws that were broken in the Judge’s order to circumvent the GOP and qualify the candidates. “The next problem is that the actions of the election supervisor, did not comply with O.C.G.A.21–2–153(d) that section states… it should be unlawful for any person to add or remove any candidates from either of the lists provided for in paragraph one of the subsection, following the posting of such lists, unless such candidates have died, withdrawn, or been disqualified.”

Within two hours after the close of qualifications, Joanna Hildreth posted a list of the candidates who were qualified by the Catoosa County GOP. The election supervisor was not permitted to add to that list.”

Catoosa GOP Secretary Sherre Bales highlighted in her comments the incumbent candidates’ refusal to support a pro-life proclamation following the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

The four rejected candidates and their attorneys made the case that it is wrong and undemocratic for 16 people (the Catoosa GOP Committee) to make a decision for thousands of Catoosa County citizens. However, that is the essence of a Republic. The five members of the County Commission regularly make decisions for the 70,000 citizens of Catoosa County.

Similarly, the Georgia legislature makes decisions for 10 Million Georgians. These are trusted, duly elected representatives of the people acting with authority and responsibility on the behalf of the people. The Catoosa GOP leaders were likewise duly elected by the Republicans in their county and entrusted with the responsibility to represent the thousands of Republicans and act on their behalf. If these candidates dislike republicanism and favor pure democracy, that is another indication that they should consider changing parties.

Former State Senator Jeff Mullis, who recently led the crony, corporate welfare dispensary in the region called the “Joint Development Authority,” and who was replaced in 2022 by Senator Colton Moore, was brought up by the candidate’s attorneys on the wannabe witness stand in this faux judicial hearing. Mullis stated that he served in the state legislature for 22 years and never once had to go through a vetting interview with the state GOP.


Some would try and liken this case to the ballot obstacles and persecution of Donald Trump. But in Trump’s case, it is the government that is preventing his ballot access because of alleged crimes, here no one is being prevented from running for office, only being blocked from using the label of one political party. In this case the government is forcing an association on a group of people who clearly don’t want to associate with someone.

The candidates were made aware of the new Accountability Rule for a whole month before qualifying week. If they had concerns that the new rules of the local GOP contradicted the state party rules they had ample time to appeal it within the GOP, but they did not.

Three of the four candidates are incumbents and therefore have automatic ballot access and could run as an Independent candidates with their name printed on the ballot without needing to gather any signatures.

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Denise Burns, the 14th District GA GOP Chairwoman, testified to the process followed by the GAGOP Executive Committee that allows them to determine which presidential candidates will be placed on the presidential preference primary. The GAGOP Executive Committee exercised their freedom of association earlier this year when they rejected a candidate for President.

Steven Henry, the former commission chair, hired Atlanta-based attorney Bryan Tyson, who also represents Brad Raffensperger in another case, to represent him. Tyson attempted to argue that the GAGOP denying ballot access to a presidential candidate is totally different from the case in Catoosa because the presidential preference primary is all about determining who delegates will support at the RNC Convention, therefore, he argued that the state GOP is not an example of freedom of association.

This is a distracting and irrelevant point, since both the local primary, and the presidential primary lead to the nomination of the party’s candidate for a specific office. The processes are different between a local Republican primary and a primary and convention to nominate the presidential candidate, but the essence is the same. Republican Party members are narrowing the field of candidates and picking their nominee. The constitution doesn’t allow the government to control who runs for office through the political parties, not at the state level and not at the county level. The party rules and procedures control the party, not the government. The party gets to determine what it means to be a Republican, not the Government.

Quality control is an important function of any business, and similarly the Republican Party has an interest in ensuring their candidates meet at least a bare minimum standard of adherence to their platform. It is absurd to think that the government, a judge, or the Board of Elections can tell the Republican Party who and who does not meet the definition of Republican and with whom Republicans must associate.

The Catoosa GOP now has the option to appeal the decision to Superior Court, and the Catoosa electors now have standing to sue the Catoosa Board of Elections for their decision to interfere with their constitutionally-protected “freedom of association.” They are committed to continue the fight.

To donate to support the Catoosa GOP in this case, check out their GiveSendGo page here:


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