Originally created 09/19/06

Residency challenge withdrawn

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver was armed to the teeth Monday with letters, tax records and a 1999 voter's registration card to defend a challenge to his residency. Before he could take aim, though, his challenger had withdrawn and departed the field.

Diane Moss, 52, of Hephzibah, had claimed he wasn't eligible to be mayor because he had lived in North Augusta last year. Mr. Copenhaver was seconds away from beginning a news conference in front of his west Augusta home to refute the allegation when he received word the challenge had been withdrawn.

Ms. Moss dropped her challenge in a handwritten note to Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey.

The note said she had been intimidated and threatened by the "Mystery Mayor" and felt harassed by people calling and coming to her house.

"I have small children and my family has been put at risk," she wrote.

Mayoral candidates must have lived in the state for at least two years, and in Richmond County at least one year before the date of the election.

Last week, Mr. Copenhaver said that he had never lived in Aiken County. He provided Richmond County tax bills for the past eight years and records of the purchase of his home on Conifer Place in 1999. On Monday, he also distributed copies of letters from his insurance agent and accountant verifying his residency for the past eight years.

His across-the-street neighbor Katie Hutchens called the challenge ridiculous.

"He's here every single day," she said. "They run, early and at night. We see them run. He works in the yard religiously. You can ask all the neighbors. We vouch for him."

Mr. Copenhaver had said he would try to recoup the city's legal costs after it was determined that the challenge was without merit.

On Monday, he said everyone has a right to challenge but should have the evidence to back it up.

"There's nothing wrong with filing a challenge, but I would say in one where you have no evidence, that's a needless expense of taxpayers' money," he said.

Asked whether he felt Ms. Moss's challenge was harassment, Mr. Copenhaver said he didn't know what to call it except "sad."

"I'm just going to move on," he said. "My focus is on winning the election in November."

No one answered the telephone at Ms. Moss' home Monday afternoon.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.


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