Democrat House District 30 nominee, Jared Vaughn, recently commented on the controversy surrounding Republican nominee B. Craig Lipscomb. GOP opponent Robert McKay is asking a Gadsden court to remove Lipscomb from the ballot and appoint him as the GOP.
Vaughn told the Alabama Political Reporter in a statement, “I’ll start by saying that I just don’t see the difference between this situation and this one,” where Lana Gaskin Bellew was removed from the Republican primary runoff ballot for the Etowah County Commission in 2014 for not filing her Statement of Economic Interests form.
Lipscomb filed a 2016 statement when he qualified but missed the April 30 deadline for his 2017. Lipscomb did file on August 1, after he had defeated former Ashville Mayor Robert McKay in the Republican primary runoff.
Vaughn in addition to being the Democratic nominee for HD30 is also an attorney.
“They are mistaken that he had the additional time because he was not an “official” and the form he had on file was for the prior year,” Vaughn stated. “From my understanding of a great deal of late night reading of applicable code sections and Attorney General’s opinions, it would be different if he were an incumbent. He would potentially be afforded some additional time once he received notice of the deficiency if that were the case. This is not the case for non-incumbents as the ethics laws of this state recognize that when you are merely a candidate rather than an official, that the process lends itself to a greater deal of having been abused historically. In recognizing such we passed laws that gave the people the ability to determine what a candidate’s potential conflicts of interest might be. In law school one of the first things you are taught is the difference between may and shall. It’s very clear that in 36-25-15 that it states as follows:
(a) Candidates at every level of government shall file a completed statement of economic interests for the previous calendar year with the State Ethics Commission simultaneously with the date such candidate files his or her qualifying papers with the appropriate election official or in the case of an independent candidate, the date the person complies with the requirements of Section 17-9-3 . Nothing in this section shall be deemed to require a second filing of the person’s statement of economic interests if a current statement of economic interests is on file with the commission.
(b) Each election official who receives a declaration of candidacy or petition to appear on the ballot for election from a candidate shall, within five days of the receipt, notify the commission of the name of the candidate, as defined in this chapter, and the date on which the person became a candidate. The commission shall, within five business days of receipt of such notification, notify the election official whether the candidate has complied with the provisions of this section.
(c) Other provisions of the law notwithstanding, if a candidate does not submit a statement of economic interests or when applicable, an amended statement of economic interests in accordance with the requirements of this chapter, the name of the person shall not appear on the ballot and the candidate shall be deemed not qualified as a candidate in that election. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the commission may, for good cause shown, allow the candidate an additional five days to file such statement of economic interests. If a candidate is deemed not qualified, the appropriate election official shall remove the name of the candidate from the ballot.”
“The appropriate election officials have decided that SHALL means except if you’re a Republican and the people of House District 30 deserve better,” Vaughn added. “I’m not sure what they contend has changed since Ms. Bellew was removed from the ballot in 2014.”
McKay has asked the court to replace Lipscomb with himself.
“I further don’t believe that if Mr. Lipscomb is removed from the ballot that the Republican Party is under any obligation to fill the position with Mr. McKay,” Vaugh stated.
“The only thing I’m certain of in regard to the filling of the vacancy on the ballot is that they must do it prior to a certain number of days before the election on November 6th and that they are not allowed to fill the vacancy with Mr. Lipscomb,” Vaughn continued. “There’s good reason they can’t too. If they could do such, then they could proceed to have all of their candidates fail to file the required ethics filings, thus denying the people the ability to transparently know what any candidate’s economic interests are and consequently eliminating the entire purpose of the law in the first place. It would be different if he merely failed to file a copy with the Ethics Commission, which they aren’t attempting to say is the case here. If he had, like Pamela Cousins did, then maybe there is some possible argument to be made that he had complied with the spirit of the law and merely made an inadvertent mistake in an otherwise honest attempt to qualify as a candidate. That’s not the case here and they don’t maintain it to be either. Lipscomb failed to disclose his economic interests as required in 36-25-15 and did not remedy such prior to April 30th of this year and as such his name SHALL NOT appear on the ballot and he SHALL be deemed not qualified as a candidate in the election. If a candidate is deemed not qualified, the appropriate election official SHALL remove the name of the candidate from the ballot. Allowing the application of ethics laws to be politicized is a dangerous precedent to set and I’m hopeful that the outcome of the lawsuit filed against Lipscomb and the appropriate election officials makes that clear and preserves the legitimate intention of the ethics laws at issue.”
Etowah County Judge William Rhea will hear an emergency hearing on McKay’s suit in his courtroom on Wednesday at 10:00 am.
House District 30 is composed of parts of St. Clair and Etowah County.