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Democratic state House candidate disqualified
District 29 challenger Palacios ruled ineligible over length of citizenship
Maria Palacios 2018.jpg
Maria Palacios

Maria Palacios, a Democratic candidate for Georgia House District 29 representing Gainesville, has been disqualified from running because she has not been a citizen of the state for at least two years.

The ruling from the Secretary of State’s Office on Friday, May 18, comes after a complaint from a local resident and qualified voter of District 29.

Palacios referred a call for comment to legal representatives at the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

Legal Director Sean J. Young said his organization is still reviewing the ruling and had 10 days to appeal on Palacios’ behalf.

The ACLU submitted a final memorandum on May 7, according to Young, asking that the complaint be dismissed, arguing that “it is not necessary to be a U.S. citizen on order to be a ‘citizen of this state.’”

Palacios has resided in Hall County for years, but only became a citizen in 2017. Last fall, she ran unsuccessfully against George Wangemann for the Gainesville City Council Ward 4 seat.

But the ruling against her cited a Georgia statute that reads: “At the time of their election, the members of the House of Representatives shall be citizens of the United States, shall be at least 21 years of age, shall have been citizens of this state for at least two years, and shall have been legal residents of the territory embraced within the district from which elected for at least one year.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp also cited a 1984 opinion from the Georgia Attorney General in ruling against Palacios.

Matt Dubnik
State Rep. Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville
The complaint was brought by Ryan Sawyer, co-founder and managing partner of Subtract Energy, LLC, in Gainesville. He could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.

Incumbent Rep. Matt Dubnik said he “was made aware that there was a challenge” to Palacios’ candidacy, but that it wasn’t done on his behalf.  

“At this point, I’m here to serve the people of the 29th district,” Dubnik, who began his first term in January 2017, said. “I’m looking forward to running a race against anyone who’s qualified. I want to continue to serve.”

Independent Nancy Stead, meanwhile, has qualified to run against Dubnik.

Georgia primaries are set for May 22, and the general election will take place Nov. 6.