Originally created 06/19/00

Candidate to contest decision



Woodrow Fryer doesn't know yet how he's going to do it, but he still plans to be on the ballot when voters choose the next sheriff of Richmond County in November.

On Tuesday, Mr. Fryer, a Democrat, was disqualified from the race after a Richmond County Superior Court ruling said he didn't follow a state election law requiring candidates to file fingerprints under the direction of the probate court judge on or before the final day of qualifying.

"We're definitely not going to take this lying down," Mr. Fryer said Saturday.

The fingerprints are used to search local, state and national databases for a criminal record.

The challenge to Mr. Fryer's candidacy was made by Augusta attorney William McCracken to the Richmond County Board of Elections in May.

At the initial challenge hearing, Mr. Fryer argued that he already had prints on file with the probate court from a February 1999 gun license renewal.

The board accepted the explanation and unanimously voted against Mr. McCracken's challenge.

Mr. McCracken, the former head of the Richmond County Democratic Party, appealed the ruling and won the second round with Judge Albert M. Pickett's decision Tuesday.

The judge said the fingerprints Mr. Fryer had on file did not meet the requirements of the state qualifying law.

"If the candidate were allowed to do so, the probate judge would be required to search for a full set of prints by checking with all departments and agencies which could possibly have the candidate's fingerprints on file," the decision said. "Where would the probate judge's responsibilities end? How far back in time must he search?"

Mr. Fryer said his disqualification was an orchestrated political move by Mr. McCracken and others who did not want him in the race.

"It isn't about anything but political fallout," Mr. Fryer said. "Nobody can get the young voters to the polls but me, and that's what they are terrified about. .ƒ.ƒ. We know where (Mr. McCracken) stands and know who he backs and everything else. This town isn't stupid. I'm getting calls from people, black and white, and they see what's going on."

Mr. McCracken has said repeatedly that his challenge was not for someone else's political gain and that he wanted a candidate for the top law enforcement position in the county to follow the law.

Mr. Fryer said he will appeal Judge Pickett's decision and also find other alternatives to continue his candidacy, possibly as a write-in candidate.

His disqualification from the race leaves two Democrats, Elmer Singley and Ronald Strength, on the ballot for the July 18 primary.

Leon Garvin will be the only Republican sheriff candidate in his party's primary.

Reach Mark Mathis at (706) 823-3227.