By Joe Johnson
There will not be a Democratic primary this year to choose the next district attorney for Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.
As a result of current Western Judicial Circuit DA Ken Mauldin’s recent decision to resign at the end of this month -- 10 months before his term was set to end -- Mauldin said that Gov. Brian Kemp has until May 3 – six months prior to the November general election to appoint his replacement who, if they sought to be elected in their own right, would run against Democrats Brian Patterson and Deborah Gonzalez in a Nov. 3 special election.
Brian Patterson, the judicial circuit's chief deputy assistant DA and Athens attorney and former state representative Deborah Gonzalez had planned to face off in a May 19 Democratic primary.
According to Mauldin, the Republican governor can appoint anyone who applies to be his successor.
If Kemp appoints Mauldin’s replacement after May 3, the appointee would remain in office based on the results of the next general election in 2022.
“This has been the law as long as I remember,” Mauldin said Friday morning.
Athens-Clarke County Director of Elections and Voter Registration Charlotte Sosebee said Friday that she was waiting for guidance from the offices of the county attorney and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Raffensperger’s office did not return calls seeking comment.
Earlier this week, Mauldin announced that he had sent a letter to Kemp informing him that he would be resigning at the end of the month.
The letter read, in part: “I write this letter to inform you that effective February 29, 2020 I will step down as District Attorney of this circuit. As you may know, my current term of office as District Attorney expires December 31, 2020.
“I am providing notification of my decision now so that there is a sufficient period of time for my successor in office to be appointed in time for there to be an election tKemp appoints Mauldin's relacenhis year. I urge you to do so promptly.”
Mauldin has been practicing law for almost 40 years, 30 years of which as an elected official. Prior to being elected district attorney in 2000, Mauldin served as solicitor general for Athens-Clarke County.
He said he was resigning so that he can spend time with his family and decide on the next chapter of his life and career.
“My decision was based on what I felt was best for me and my family. to make te appointment promptly so that there will be an election this year and trust his good judgment. So far, I believe that he has had a good record in appointments,"Mauldin said.
In a YouTube video released lsate Friday afternoon, Gonzalez said that if Kemp appoints Mauldin's replacent afdter May 3, it would amount to "the ultimate form of voter suppression."
In a YouTube video released late Friday afternoon, Gonzalez said that if Kemp appoints Mauldin's replacent after May 3, it would amount to "the ultimate form of voter suppression,."
She said, "In a clear attempt to shut down democracy and block criminal justice reform, a process is now underway that could cancel the election for district attorney for Georgia's Western Judicial Circuit and delay it for up to two years.
"Thanks to an obscure law passed in 2018, the choice whether to suppress the votes of over 150,000 people in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties is now in Gov. Brian Kemp's hands," said Gonzalez, who has been campaigning on a platform of criminal justice reform.
She noted that the 2018 law was passed when a "progressive woman of color" was running for district attorney in Douglas County and challenging the establishment.
"We cannot allow this law, designed to perpetuate a race-based good-old boy networkin Douglas County to steal an election from people in another Georgia district," Gonzalez said.
Patterson could not be reached for comment.