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Commissioner Edwards condemns move to disqualify Dem. Patty Durand from Public Service Commission race

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In a last-minute decision, a Fulton County judge ruled to keep Democrat Patty Durand in the race for Public Service Commission District 2. The ruling, made just hours before the polls closed on election day, came after a move on Monday by Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to disqualify Durand.

Raffensberger claims Durand doesn’t meet residency requirements for District 2, which changed with redistricting in March. Durand changed residency to the newly drawn district earlier this year but won't have resided within those boundaries for a whole year by the general election in November.

Athens-Clarke County District 7 Commissioner Russell Edwards appeared on the Democratic ballot yesterday beside Durand, though he suspended his campaign last month in support of Durand’s campaign.

“I think this is just another example in a long list of examples that we've seen in Georgia of Republicans twisting the law to accomplish their political gains,” Edwards says. “And it's unfortunate that it appears democracy takes a hit every time they engage in this type of shenanigans.”

Edwards was drawn out of his district along with those in Athens-Clarke County's Districts 3 and 5 following redistricting by state GOP lawmakers. He draws parallels between his situation and Durand’s, which he says have resulted in an “enormous amount of confusion” among voters.

“There's something about Georgia Republicans attacking women's access to be on the ballot,” Edwards continues, pointing to a similar case two years ago.

In 2020, Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez and four local voters sued Raffensberger and Governor Brian Kemp for canceling the special election for a new DA, a gubernatorial power protected by HB 907 until it was repealed by the Georgia Supreme Court in the Gonzalez v. Kemp case. Prior to the lawsuit, Kemp canceled the race after failing to appoint an interim district attorney following former DA Ken Mauldin's retirement that February. His decision delayed the special election until 2022, and Gonzalez and others claimed this move disenfranchised voters.

Gonzalez won the case in a unanimous decision and was elected in December 2020 after a runoff.

The judge’s decision on Durand's case yesterday isn’t final — she may still be disqualified, though any votes in her favor during the primary have been certified as part of the ruling. Public Service Commission members are voted statewide and oversee utility services.