A Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that Maria Palacios of Gainesville cannot be a candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives because she does not meet the citizenship requirements.
Palacios is seeking to represent District 29 in the state House. She was born in Mexico but moved to the United States when she was 2 months old, and her family moved to Gainesville in 1994. She became a U.S. citizen in 2017.
In Georgia, people elected to the House of Representatives must be Georgia citizens for at least two years at the time of their election. Palacios was disqualified from the race in May after Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office ruled she could not be a candidate because she had not been a Georgia citizen long enough.
Judge Craig Schwall agreed with that argument July 18, saying he had researched precedent and believed in order to be a citizen, and not just a resident, of Georgia, someone would have to be a U.S. citizen as well.
“I’ve read the file, and I’ve read the law, and I just don’t see how there’s any way that your claim can stand,” he said to Palacios’ attorney.
Palacios’ legal representation, American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia legal director Sean J. Young, said Palacios has been a Georgia citizen for years. The statute dictating qualifications for running for state office in Georgia requires candidates be both citizens of the United States and citizens of the state. Young said the separate clause requiring members of the House to be U.S. citizens would be unnecessary if U.S. citizenship was required for state citizenship.
Young said he plans to appeal the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court, with the goal of having Palacios cleared to run for office by Labor Day so she can be on the ballot in November.
“It’s definitely sad because I would love the opportunity to represent my community,” Palacios said after the hearing.
Palacios said even if she is unable to be elected to the House, she plans to stay involved in the community.
Kim Copeland, chairman of the Hall County Democratic Party, said before the hearing that “this case is about a woman who has done everything right.”
“She’s a mother, a PTA president and a U.S. citizen. She is the American dream. …. The Hall County Democrats and the Democratic Party of Georgia absolutely support Maria in this fight,” Copeland said.
Palacios said before the hearing that in a fair election, voters should be allowed as many options as possible, and she felt she could represent the district well.
“I especially feel that I am very representative of this district that I’ve raised my kids and established a permanent home in and love and serve in numerous ways,” she said.
Republican Rep. Matt Dubnik represents the district now. In November, he faces Nancy Stead, a retired doctor who is running as an independent.