Gov. Brian Kemp has set a Feb. 20 deadline–a week from today–for applications for the position of district attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit consisting of Clarke and Oconee counties.
Brian Patterson, currently chief assistant district attorney, has said he will apply for the appointment.
Deborah Gonzalez, former House District 117 representative, has said she will not submit her application.
Prior to the announcement last week by incumbent District Attorney Ken Mauldin that he will resign effective Feb. 29, Patterson and Gonzalez were competing for the Democratic Party nomination for district attorney in the March 19 primary. Mauldin is a Democrat.
That primary will not be held because Mauldin is not filling out his term.
If Kemp, a Republican, makes his appointment by May 3, Patterson and Gonzalez–and any other candidates–could meet in a special election on Nov. 3.
If Kemp makes the appointment after May 3, the person selected will be able to hold that office until 2022 without an election.
Kemp has not said when he will make the appointment.
In a letter dated Feb. 7 and addressed to the Members of the Bar of the Western Judicial Circuit, Kemp wrote that he is “accepting nominations for District Attorney to succeed the Honorable Kenneth W. Mauldin in accordance with Article VI, Section VIII, Paragraph I(a) of the Georgia Constitution.”
“The deadline for receipt of completed applications in this office is Thursday, February 20, 2020,” the notice states.
“We look forward to hearing from all interested applicants who qualify for the position in accordance with O.C.G.A § 15-18-3,” the notice continues.
That article of Georgia Code states that to be eligible to fill the position of District Attorney the person must have been a resident citizen of Georgia three years, permanently reside in the circuit, be at least 25 years old, be licensed to practice law in the superior courts for at least three years, and, if previously disbarred, been reinstated.
Joe Gray, a manager in Kemp’s office, told me yesterday that Gov. Kemp has not said when he will make the appointment.
Gonzalez, an Athens attorney, announced on her Facebook page yesterday, that “I will not be applying as I am fighting for the people to have an election and have their voices heard as to who they want as their elected official.”
Gonzalez said that Gov. Kemp “has done this kind of application call with other seats he appoints” such as for the replacement of Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham, who is retiring on March 1, and for a replacement of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired on Dec. 31.
“The due date has people musing whether this means he will make an appointment before the May 3rd deadline,” Gonzalez wrote. “We do not know what the Governor is thinking in terms of that.
“We can only hope that he wouldn't request these applications so early and then NOT appoint until after May 3rd,” the Facebook post states.
“I am continuing my campaign and look forward to running as the people's choice against whoever does get appointed by the Governor IF a special election is called,” Gonzalez wrote.
Patterson told me in a text message this morning “I intend to apply.”
Patterson, who has been a prosecutor under Mauldin for 17 years and has been chief assistant district attorney since 2007, told me that Mauldin’s Feb. 5 announcement that he was stepping down on Feb. 29 was a surprise to him.
Mauldin had previously indicated he would fill out his term, and both Patterson and Gonzalez indicated they would seek the Democratic Party nomination in March.
Patterson, who lives at 1021 Spring Valley Way off New High Shoals Road, is scheduled to speak at the Oconee County Democratic Party meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, 55 Nancy Drive in Watkinsville.
Gonzalez spoke at the Oconee County Democratic Party meeting in January.