Fayette Elections Board member defends support for Newt

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, flanked by his family, spoke at a campaign rally Friday at Falcon Field in Peachtree City. A crowd of about 300 supporters welcomed Gingrich to Fayette County, which he represented when he was a congressman from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. A side drama: Fayette County Board of Elections official Marilyn Watts draws fire for her support of Gingrich. Photo/John Munford.

Fayette County Elections Board Member Marilyn Watts says her support of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is perfectly legal, despite assertions to the contrary by Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown.

Brown is upset that Watts has participated in the Newt Gingrich presidential campaign, but she points out that Georgia law allows her to do so on her personal time.

“You just don’t bring it to the office or the polling place,” Watts said Tuesday.

Brown has asked the Fayette County Republican Party to seek Watts’ resignation from the board, citing a need for board of elections members “who are not actively campaigning for candidates.”

The code section on the matter, 21-2-214(c) states that elections board members shall avoid participating in political activity for a candidate, political party or question “while conducting the duties of such person’s office.”

The law specifically prohibits political activity “including but not limited to” distributing campaign literature, engaging in communication that advocates or criticizes a candidate, officeholder or political party, and also wearing badges, buttons or clothing with partisan messages.

Watts said she has kept a pledge she made prior to taking office that she would relinquish any leading role she had in campaigns that she was associated with. As such, she resigned from leading Gingrich’s campaign efforts in Fayette County, but it’s possible her name remains on several contact lists kept by the Gingrich campaign despite her resignation at the end of January.

Georgia law, however, does not prevent her from such participation, Watts added.

Watts said although she agreed to relinquish her leadership role on Gingrich’s campaign, “that doesn’t mean I’m going to be in a nunnery.”

Recent elections board members from both the Republican and Democrat parties have been politically active while they held those posts, Watts added.

Brown was specifically critical of posts on Watts’ personal Facebook page where she advocated on behalf of Gingrich.

She also noted that the board of elections is a separate entity from Fayette County government, and the only power the commission has over the board is the appointment of one of its three members.

The reason for having the elections board separate is so it can be free of political influence from local elected officials, Watts noted.

As for a response from the Fayette County Republican Party, Chairman Lane Watts, who is also Marilyn Watts’ son, noted in an email to Brown that since there was no violation of the Georgia election code, “there will be no special called meeting nor will there be a resignation forthcoming.”

Marilyn Watts previously served as the county’s appointee to the board, but she was replaced last year by commissioners over the objections of Brown, who argued her years of experience would serve the county well. Last month it was announced that she was appointed to be the Republican party representative on the board.

The third seat on the board of elections is filled by appointment of the Fayette County Democrat Party.

CombatCorrespondent
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PHOTOS-Newt Gingrich Visits Peachtree City

A few photos of Newt's visit to Peachtree City last week:

http://www.kombatkamera.com/Journalism/Local-News/News-Stuff/7952631_Mx8m4g#!i=1716117734&k=rK6Z3mM

Mike

JeffC
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Free Marilyn Watts!

Let Marilyn support who she wants to support. Steve Brown should be rejoicing that one of his fellow Republicans has examined the abysmally flawed, pitiful selection of candidates available to them and has found one that she can support instead of cringing in despair. And we’re not talking about supporting one of these candidates with eyes averted while holding one’s nose as the vast majority of Republicans are doing. Marilyn is actually publicly supporting Newt, undaunted by the fact that people will be pointing at her in public and snickering.

That she picked the misogynist moon dust candidate who almost certainly cannot win is interesting but hardly reason to toss her from her job considering the alternatives. Maybe she doesn't want to live in a Santorum theocracy where women must apply to the Republican Party apparatchik for permission to use birth control while the forces of good battle Satan in Santorum's mind as his hand hovers over the launch button. Maybe she doesn't like Mitt's vulture capitalism or he's just not her cup of tea. Who can possibly know what contortions the Republicans must be going through reconciling themselves to the fact that this is the field they came up with to throw the election away with in the face of the weakest Democratic candidate and weakest economy in memory.

She has to pick one. Let Marilyn be Marilyn!

yada yada yada
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Brown

I really question that Brown is a Republican. He is a democrat.

naturegrl
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Is this the same Watts that

Is this the same Watts that the county commission replaced with another person last year? Wonder why the county commission let her go?

Ninja Guy
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NatureGal, Watts Was Let

go because commissioner Hearn wanted his cousin appointed to the board--simple as that.

There was a big dust up a while back and much blogging about it. Here is a link to one of the major articles.

http://thecitizen.com/articles/05-31-2011/invoking-his-faith-commissione...

naturegrl
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so a son appointing his

so a son appointing his mother to a position is ok, but a county commissioner appointing a distant cousin isn't ok......HMMMMMMMM.
Both are paid for by tax dollars..........
No wonder the Republicans can't make up their mind on who is their candidate for President.

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naturegrl & appointment

Her Son didn't appoint her--the Fayette Co Republican Party did. The fact that he is President of the local party if interesting but not relevant. Got it? It is a PARTY appointment, NOT a personal one!

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naturegrl & appointment

Her Son didn't appoint her--the Fayette Co Republican Party did. The fact that he is President of the local party if interesting but not relevant. Got it? It is a PARTY appointment, NOT a personal one!

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AtHomeGym - Marilyn Watts (history)

Marilyn Watts is also a past Chair of the Fayette County GOP. She left office in 1988. She also chaired the Fayette Republican women's club for many, many years. If memory serves me, Lane Watts was not the party chair when Marilyn Watts was originally appointed to the Elections board.

She did an excellent job in that position and was WELL educated by attending about every class that was offered by the state for the position.

Ninja Guy
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AHG and Relevancy

Sounds kind of relevant and smacks of nepotism in both cases to me!

AtHomeGym
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Ninja & Relevancy

I hate to insert logic in here but consider this: The Repub rep on the Board was leaving (Studdard) so Repubs had to replace him. Why not choose experience when it's available? The fact that there was a Mother/Son connection was coincidental, not intentional. Sounds like smart logic to me, from which the citizenry will benefit NOT the individual or the party.
Hey, it provided Commissioner Brown his habitual "Rant of the Week"!

yada yada yada
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Watts

There is no question that Watts is the most qualified Board member on Elections. It was a smart move on the part of the GOP. The other two members are new and do not have any experience. Do we want 3 inexperienced people running our elections? Especially with a major election year of 2012?