Name on campaign ad could cause issues for Overstreet

Judge accidentally included on public list of endorsements
Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet's name was included in a campaign ad for Ron Cross.

The Committee to Re-Elect Ron Cross put Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet in an ethical danger zone this month.

In ads that ran in The Columbia County News-Times on July 11, 14 and 18, a list of names under the heading "Join us in re-electing Ron Cross on July 20!" includes Overstreet's.

The state's judicial rules specifically prohibit any judge from publicly endorsing a candidate for public office.

"I gave him some money, but I didn't give him permission to use my name," Overstreet said Friday. While he privately supports Cross, he didn't intend for it to become public.

Overstreet, who lives in Richmond County, said he doesn't receive the News-Times, and didn't know his name had been included in the list of supporters until Tuesday. Overstreet said he also didn't realize the ad would be repeated in Sunday's edition.

Superior Court Judge J. David Roper, who lives in Columbia County, didn't take any chances when he saw his name included in the ad on July 11. He immediately e-mailed Cross. Roper's name did not appear in the next two ads.

"While Edna (Roper's wife) is happy to add her name to your list of supporters, judges are not permitted to publicly endorse candidates," Roper explained in the e-mail to Cross. His wife sent Cross's campaign a contribution, Roper said.

Overstreet said he gave Cross's campaign money. He assumed whoever put the ad together pulled names from the list of contributors.

The judicial ethics rules allow judges to make campaign donations.

By the time he learned of the ad, Overstreet said there wasn't anything to do -- it couldn't be taken back. If the Judicial Qualifications Commission takes exception, Overstreet said, he assumes he will hear from the judicial disciplinary group.

Cross, who beat out challenger Brett McGuire in Tuesday's primary election, said he didn't put the ad together but thought the names came from a list of contributors.

If there is a problem, Cross said, he takes responsibility and apologizes.

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