After an hour of his Hall County Board of Elections hearing, Jeff Sosebee requested to be taken off the Republican ballot for the county’s sheriff’s race in the May 24 primary.
“I’m requesting that you go ahead and disqualify me so everybody here will feel comfortable,” Sosebee said.
Sosebee admitted to improperly having his fingerprints taken during the qualifying period. The sole challenger to Sheriff Gerald Couch in the GOP primary said he knew his opponents would continue to come after him.
The board voted unanimously Friday to withhold his name from the ballot and refund Sosebee’s qualifying fee.
Carl Liggett, a retired businessman, brought the challenge to the board of elections and was represented by attorney Graham McKinnon.
“Even voters have to comply with the rules,” McKinnon said.
Couch now faces no opposition in the May primary or the November election.
Sosebee’s supporters asked questions of the board’s processes and spoke in support of the candidate, advocating for a second chance.
Sosebee said he was “pushed to run for sheriff by people who needed a sheriff.”
“I failed the citizens,” he said. “I failed the deputies that were wanting me to run for sheriff.”
During the week of qualifying, Sosebee said he presented his paperwork to a member of the Hall County Republican Party. That person then called Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee (no relation) and her office to check if there would be any issues with his packet.
There was no return call from Charlotte Sosebee, who said at the hearing she didn’t recall getting a message.
Charlotte Sosebee said she doesn’t receive the qualifying packets until after qualifying ends.
“All I do is take the list and make sure that every person’s name is the way it should appear on the ballot and submit it to my ballot builder,” Charlotte Sosebee said. “I did notice that there were fingerprints in one file and one not in the other.”
Sosebee’s fingerprinting was done at the Gainesville Police Department, but the law states that it must be done “at the direction of the Probate Judge.”
Hall County Republican Party Chair Debra Pilgrim said the group fulfilled its due diligence to see if Sosebee’s paperwork was in order.
“It’s unfortunate that this has happened. It would have been good to have him in the race, and maybe he’ll try again next time,” Pilgrim said. “But it does show the importance of really paying attention to your paperwork.”
Judge Patty Laine testified at the hearing that Sosebee did not come by her office and she had not processed his criminal history.
Regarding how the challenge arose, McKinnon said his client had heard from other people that Sosebee did not go to Laine’s office.
Liggett did not return a call for comment Friday afternoon.
The board went into executive session and returned to vote, when it unanimously decided to withhold Sosebee’s name from the ballot.
Sosebee said he would not challenge the board’s decision.
“A man can only take so much, so if we were to win this, the attorneys would come after us again for something else,” he said.