GOP candidate McLeod's Democrat vote questioned

McLeod

Wright McLeod, an Augusta Republican seeking to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow, says he voted in Georgia’s 2008 Democratic presidential primary to oppose Barack Obama.

McLeod said Monday that he cast his ballot for Bill Richardson, but Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico, didn’t receive any votes in the Richmond County precinct where McLeod was registered to vote.

The registration was confirmed by the Richmond County Board of Elections, and vote totals for the precinct are from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

New 12th District boundaries, which prompted Barrow to move from Savannah to Augusta, favor Republicans, so national GOP groups think they can win the seat.

Richardson received just 0.2 percent of the vote in Georgia, probably because he had quit the presidential race more than three weeks earlier.

The candidates who drew votes at McLeod’s precinct were Obama, who won the primary, then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards. Obama beat Clinton – his nearest rival – by a margin of more than 2-to-1.

On the same day, McLeod instead could have voted in the GOP primary – a tight three-way race won by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The records complicate the Augusta lawyer’s attempt to counter revelations that he voted in five Democratic primaries since 1998 and gave $7,100 to a statewide Democratic candidate.

In addition, he faces a Federal Election Commission complaint by rival candidate and Augusta businessman Rick Allen that he violated campaign law.

As of late Tuesday, McLeod hadn’t responded to a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment. Spokeswoman Holly Croft failed to respond to three phone calls and an e-mail.

Allen’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise, accused McLeod of “defending his vote in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary with a fib.”

The voting and campaign donations issues surfaced Monday and were aired at a Vidalia candidates forum where all four GOP candidates participated.

Official records show McLeod voted in the Democrats’ general and runoff primaries in 2002, their general primary in 2004, their 2008 presidential primary and their 2010 general primary.

They also show he contributed $7,100 to Rob Teilhet, an unsuccessful candidate for the 2010 Democratic nomination for attorney general. McLeod’s wife, Sheri, gave Teilhet $3,600.

On Monday, Croft attributed McLeod’s voting record to Democratic dominance of Richmond County.

Most local offices have been held by Democrats, and the only way to have a voice in local matters has been to vote in Democratic primaries, she said.

Croft said McLeod voted in the presidential primary, which included no local contests, to back a “lesser liberal” – Richardson. McLeod said much the same at the Vidalia forum.

Croft said the McLeods contributed to Teilhet because they were close friends in law school.

According to a news account, McLeod said he couldn’t have graduated without Teilhet’s
help.

Another candidate, state Rep. Lee Anderson, of Grovetown, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The fourth candidate, Dublin lawyer Maria Sheffield, declined to comment directly.

“I think Mr. McLeod will continue to explain himself ... on this issue,” Sheffield said. “I’m going to focus on beating John Barrow, and on veterans and Obamacare and regulations that are hurting farmers and small businesses.”

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