The chair of the Oconee County Republican Party gave indirect endorsements of the party’s nominees for Post 2 and Post 3 on the Oconee County Board of Education in an email message she sent to party members on Wednesday afternoon.
Without mentioning incumbent Republican Amy Parrish, seeking re-election to Post 2, or Republican Ryan Hammock, seeking election to open Post 3, Kathy Hurley wrote that it is important to vote for Republicans, even if they are not “the first choice.”
“The only hope for our country, our state and especially our county is to vote Republican!” she wrote.
Hurley spent much of the email attacking Ryan Repetske, seeking Post 2 as an Independent, and Melissa Eagling, seeking Post 3 as an Independent, though she also did not mention either of them by name.
Hurley suggested the Independents had not made themselves available to the voters, though both Repetske and Eagling joined Parrish and Hammock in a candidate forum organized by Hurley last month.
Hurley’s letter, which also appears on the party’s Facebook page, said early voting was “breaking records.” Despite this she said, “We cannot be complacent.”
Jennifer Stone, assistant director of elections and registration, reported on Wednesday that 2,601 of Oconee County’s 32,806 registered voters had cast a ballot by the end of the first three days of early voting.
At 7.9 percent of the electorate voting, that is lower than the percentage after three day of early voting for November of 2020 (11.0 percent) but just higher than in three days leading up to the vote in November of 2018 (7.2 percent).
The Board of Education races are the only places on the ballot for Oconee County offices where voters will see opposition to the Republican candidates.
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Oconee County Republican Party
Top Of Facebook Page
Oconee County Commissioners Chuck Horton and Amrey Harden, both Republicans, are running unopposed for Post 2 and Post 3 on the Board of Commissioners. No Democrat has filed for any county race.
In Hurley’s seven-paragraph long letter, she devotes one whole paragraph to the two Independents and much of another to the two Independents.
The second paragraph of the letter states that “Throughout the process there have been excellent candidates who, for reasons known only to the Almighty, were not selected by the majority to be the nominee.”
“A litany of reasons surround those failed candidacies–too little money, too many opponents, cross-over voting, not enough endorsements–but one thing is clear–they failed to win; and most took their losses with grace,” she wrote.
Julie Mauck stepped down from the Oconee County Republican Party executive committee to run for Post 3 on the Board of Education in the May Republican Party primary.
Hammock and Elliott Rogers also qualified to run in the Republican Primary, which Mauck won with nearly 42 percent of the vote.
Since Mauck did not get more than 50 percent of the vote, she and Hammock met in a runoff.
Hammock won that runoff, with 58 percent of the vote to Mauck’s 42 percent.
Turning To Independents
In the next paragraph of her letter, which is on the party's Facebook page, Hurley referenced Repetske and Eagling, without naming them.
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Oconee County Republican Party
Facebook Page Showing Hurley Letter
“And lets not forget those running as independents who haven’t truly been vetted at all--what do you really know about them?” Hurley asked.
“Have you ever met them? Have you heard them speak in person? Did you attend any candidate forum? Have they reached out to you in any meaningful way?” she wrote.
“Do you remember that their petition signatures were delivered to the Board of Election by the head of the Oconee Democrats?” Hurley’s letter continues. “Do you also remember they both stated they had no idea he would be delivering them?”
“If your answer to these questions is no, then how do you know enough about them to vote for them?” Hurley wrote.
In the second to last paragraph of the letter, Hurley asked: “Is every single Republican candidate on that ballot my first choice?”
“No, they aren’t,” Hurley continued. “Will I vote for them? Yes, I will.”
“Because at the end of the day, with the values of the two parties being as polarized as they are and the self-identifying independent candidates trying to slide in with their claims of transparency, although they aren’t transparent at all, the only hope for our country, our state and especially our county is to vote Republican!” Hurley wrote.
Hurley invited all four of the candidates to what was labeled a debate held at the Oconee County Civic Center on Sept. 26. About 50 people, including supporters of the Independent candidates, attended.
Hurley prohibited at least two people who tried to video record the session from doing so, and she has included no pictures from the session or summary of it on the party Facebook page.
I obtained audio recordings of the debate and made the best recording available for listening or downloading, along with a summary of the exchanges of the candidates, but Hurley has not included a link to either the summary or the audio on the party Facebook page.
Only Hammock among the four candidates has filed a record of campaign finances.
In his statement for Sept. 30, Hammock listed $8,765 in total campaign contributions and $7,048 in total expenditures. In his three campaign finance reports, he has listed $6,187 in spending for signs and banners.
Parrish, Eagling, and Repetske have filed affidavits stating that they does not intend to exceed $2,500 in contributions and/or expenditures in their campaigns. Because of the affidavit, they are exempt from filing campaign finance reports.
In her letter to those on the email list of the Oconee County Republican Party, Hurley said that what followed was an “Op-Ed” that “was written by our chairman for publication in a local newspaper.”
“Unfortunately, the paper declined to publish it without the removal of references to the Independent Candidates and the Democrat Party which would have eviscerated the message,” she wrote.
“We have elected to share it with our membership, our email list and through social media,” the letter states. “Please assist us by sharing with your like-minded friends by email or social media or both.”
Hurley signed the letter as “Katherine C Hurley, Chairman, Oconee County Republican Party.”
I asked Michael Prochaska, editor of The Oconee Enterprise, if he had rejected the submission from Hurley.
Prochaska responded in an email exchange on Wednesday saying that he had.
“Historically, outside opinion pieces about local candidates--whether written by the candidates themselves or from supporters/opponents--are reserved for paid advertising,” he wrote.
“If she had chosen to buy ad space in The Oconee Enterprise and the two Independent candidates wanted to respond, I would have also told them they'd need to pay for an ad,” he said.
Stone, Assistant Director of Elections and Registration, reported at the end of the day on Wednesday that 912 persons had cast a ballot in person that day, up from 866 on Tuesday and 823 on Monday.
In addition, the county has now issued 1,172 absentee ballots and received 180 in return.
The county has rejected eight absentee ballots.
Stone wrote that rejected ballots were “Missing dates of birth on the ballot oath, incorrect DL#’s, and invalid signature. Most are missing dates of birth.”
DL is for Driver’s License.
Early voting continues through Nov. 4 at the Oconee County Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road. Voting takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the two Saturdays.