Candidates feud over poll watching

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 6, 2009

While most of the candidates for city elections were able toco-exist fairly peacefully through Tuesday’s elections proceedings,the length of the day and stress of the campaign showed on at leastone candidate Tuesday afternoon at the Lincoln County BrookhavenGovernment Complex.

Democratic mayoral candidate the Rev. Jerry Wilson blasted WardThree alderman candidate Brian Moore on the back patio of thegovernment complex just before the closing of the polls. Moore wasone of two candidates challenging Wilson’s wife Mary in the WardThree alderman race.

Wilson claimed Moore’s actions in poll watching on his ownbehalf were illegal. The confrontation occurred as Moore stoodtalking to a group that included Brookhaven Police Chief PapHenderson.

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Wilson took exception with the fact that Moore had served as hisown poll watcher, sitting on a bench outside the city boardroomwhere the Ward Three voting took place throughout the day. Mooresaid in addition to checking with the city clerk’s office on thelegality of his position, he also made certain not to answer anyquestions voters had about the ballots or interfere – even when hesaw his supporters given unclear answers or no answer at all frompoll workers.

“I asked what I could do before I even got started,” Moore said.”I didn’t answer any questions. I referred them all to poll workersor pointed to the sample ballot on the wall.”

Wilson, who stood at the corner of First and Cherokee streetsthroughout the day on Tuesday talking to prospective voters, saidthat he had been there campaigning for his wife.

“I saw you in there, sitting by the polls, and I know that waswrong… You’ve been in there and we’ve been out there in that hotsun all day,” he said. “I want a fair race … and for some oddreason you were able to do what you wanted to do.”

Wilson, who had been outside all day in a cast boot after takingseveral days off for a broken foot, said his leg had begun toswell, understandably contributing to his irritation.

Wilson told Moore he and his wife could have been inside in theair conditioning too. But legal or not, they didn’t feel it wasfair.

“We didn’t want to do anything in our campaign that would goagainst what we believe in, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ,” hesaid.

Moore told Wilson that he, too, did not want to displease theLord, and that he had asked City Clerk Mike Jinks under whatcircumstances he could watch the polls for himself. He said Jinkshad told him it was legal as long as he didn’t campaign while hewas there.

Jinks confirmed that Moore’s actions, which took place just downthe hall from his office, were within the law.

“The Secretary of State’s office told me he could be a pollwatcher as long as he did not disrupt the voting process, which hedid not,” Jinks said.

But Wilson felt Moore’s claim that he was within his boundslegally was inaccurate.

“I’ve been at this for 26 years, and for some odd reason theyallow you to be there,” Wilson said. “I don’t know why thatis.”

Wilson was somewhat apologetic after the discussion, tellingMoore he wasn’t mad, but that he just wanted the election to befair. And Tuesday morning he explained that he had felt he neededto set the record straight when he saw Moore.

“I just have to be conscious of everything,” he said Tuesdaymorning. “I didn’t mean nothing by it. I’m going to need his helpdown the line, whether he votes for me or not.”

Moore said Tuesday morning that he had been shocked at theconversation, but that he could almost see why Wilson had beenupset, especially after a long day standing on a broken foot.

“I thought I understood our election process, but I didn’tunderstand the nuances of it. I have a much better understandingnow of how the process works,” he said. “I was not campaigning,though. It was my first election, and I just wanted to be there tosee how the process works, so when he did that it caught me bysurprise.”