September 21, 2006
After some big questions and challenges about Ronnie Few's residency, the Richmond County Board of Elections says he is qualified to run for mayor.
But it wasn't a unanimous decision, with the board chairman voting to disqualify him.
Many people may be shocked by this decision tonight, but Ronnie Few says he isn't. He told News 12 he knows better than anyone where he's lived for the past six years, and says he wasn't going to let what he calls a mistake boot him from the ballot.
Now he's able to breathe a sigh of relief, and his supporters gathered for a victory cookout.
On a 3 to 1 vote, the Board of Elections ruled that though Few signed a homestead exemption in Columbia County in 2003, it won't cost him a shot at the top job in Richmond County.
"You will be on the ballot, Mr. Few, as a candidate," said board chair Linda Beazley.
"I never thought for one time they would go against the fact that I didn't live there because I live in Augusta," Few said.
But the decision didn't come before hours of sworn, heated testimony, at one point jerking at Few's emotions.
"You are a fire chief," he said. "This goes straight to your credibility."
Attorney Joe Neal, Sr. represented the challengers, Woody Merry and Melanie Roy. He aggressively grilled Few, asking why it wasn't until July of this year that he changed the address on his driver's license to Richmond County, and the big question, why Few applied for homestead exemption in Columbia County if he wasn't living there.
"It was a misunderstanding," Few testified. "I never would have signed that to say that I moved. I thought that I could sign it and get credit for any place that I owned in the state of Georgia."
But when one of Few's supporters made a comment suggesting Neal was affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, marshals got involved.
"I'm not a Ku Klux Klanner," Neal said, pointing at her. "You say that again, you got a problem with me outside."
But all the drama aside, the board majority believed Few truly made a mistake and intended his residence to be in Richmond County. Evidence supporting this decision includes the facts that for the last five elections he has voted there, and that he was selling his home in Columbia County.
Both Merry and Roy say there may be an appeal on the way. They have ten days to file one.
Few still could face trouble with the Columbia County Tax Commissioners office.
Some board members alluded to this, saying since the homestead exemption was filed in Columbia County, it's something Columbia County should handle.