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Democratic sheriff nomination again lingers in a Grey area

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Putative Democratic sheriff nominee Davon Grey’s place on the ballot in November is again in doubt.

In a recent letter to Grey and local Democratic Party officials, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis cited attorney general’s opinions that suggest Grey’s failure to comply with of the state’s campaign disclosure laws disqualify him from certification as a candidate.

Davis’ letter gave party officials 10 days to rectify the matter before he would seek a declaratory judgment in Mobile County Circuit Court early next week.

Grey, presently the magistrate supervisor for the city of Prichard, said Wednesday he had not yet seen the July 21 letter.

Grey was briefly booted from the ballot in late June after party leaders upheld a contest of his runaway win in the party primary. The Mobile County Democratic executive committee then voted to fill the vacancy with Grey himself.

“We have not had a properly filed contest with us,” said Zac McCrary, communications director for the Alabama Democratic Party. “It’s the kind of thing the court should clear up. The attorney general’s is just one opinion. We would like to see the courts clear it up. Whatever the court interprets, we will certainly do that.”

Alabama's Fair Campaign Practices Act requires candidates who raise more than $1,000 to file financial disclosure forms 45 days before a primary or an election and between five to 10 days before a primary, general election or runoff.

Grey's 45-day report showed contributions totaling more than $5,000.

"...a certificate of election or nomination shall not be issued to any person who shall fail to file any statement or report required by this chapter," the law reads.
 
A 2004 Alabama attorney general's opinion on a similar issue supported the law, stating that if a candidate in a primary election failed to file a required report before the primary election, "that candidate is disqualified, and a certificate of nomination should not be issued to that candidate."

Should Grey be eliminated as a candidate, local party chairman Bob Beckerle presumably would again call a meeting of the local executive committee to fill the sheriff's slot on the Democratic side of the November ballot.

Grey romped to victory in a five-man Democratic primary June 6, winning without a runoff. He claimed about 11,200 votes, or more than 57 percent. The runner-up, bail bondsman Clint Ulmer, received 3,500 votes, or slightly less than 18 percent.

Ulmer then contested the outcome with local party officials.

The Mobile County Democratic executive committee upheld Ulmer’s complaint and declared the sheriff's slot vacant. They voted to fill the resulting vacancy with Grey, some hailing the outcome as the triumph of the people's will over technicalities.

Ironically, Ulmer himself was tardy in filing his campaign’s financial disclosure, though he managed to get it filed before the election.

The general election is scheduled for Nov. 7. The Democratic nominee will face first-time candidate Sam Cochran who won the GOP nomination impressively within weeks after retiring as chief of police for the city of Mobile.

Republican incumbent juvenile Judge Pamela Millsaps was also late in filing her 10-5 day pre-election disclosure. But her report was received by election officials on the Monday prior to the Tuesday primary.

Precedent has shown that a filing that is late -- in the manner of Millsaps' and Ulmer's boo-boo's -- but still prior to the election, is regarded as a less grave offense, a misdemeanor subject to a possible fine, not a matter serious enough to disqualify the candidate.

Grey filed his 10-5 day pre-election disclosure on June 12, almost a week after the election.