- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Hughesville resident Steve Mattingly has been disqualified as the Republican candidate for Charles County commissioner in District 3 after it was discovered that a snafu at the local board of elections led to his address being listed in the wrong commissioner district.
According to a letter sent Monday from elections supervisor Tracy Dickerson to Mattingly, “this office had you erroneously listed as a resident of County Commissioner District Three when in fact your residence is actually in Commissioner District One.”
Though all five county commissioners are elected at large, there are four commissioner districts, with the only requirement being that each district’s respective commissioner live within its boundaries. The board president must only reside within the county.
Because Hughesville lies in District 1, “you do not meet the residency requirement to run for County Commissioner from District Three,” Dickerson wrote in the letter to Mattingly. “On behalf of the Board of Election Supervisors, we apologize for not noticing this discrepancy at an earlier date.”
Mattingly said he was aware that he lives in District 1 in February when he went to file as a candidate, but that a clerk at the elections board told him his address was listed in District 3. After arguing for a bit — and checking his voter registration card, which also said District 3 — Mattingly gave in and filed in District 3.
The elections board did not realize its error until it was recently tipped off by a resident.
“I was insistent to a point that I did not live in [District] 3 and that I lived in [District] 1, but the board of elections was insistent and would only file me in District 1,” Mattingly said. “It’s completely the board of elections’ fault. Why wouldn’t they listen to me when I told them repeatedly, and then when somebody else comes in and tells them, they listen? I think that smells fishy also.”
Dickerson could not be reached for comment at the board of elections office.
The Charles County Republican Central Committee has until 40 days prior to the Nov. 4 general election to nominate a candidate to replace Mattingly. The committee has a list of 15 people it is in the process of contacting, “and some of them are very exciting prospects,” Chairman Collins Bailey said.
“We’re looking for a potential candidate to see who can step up to the plate on extremely short notice. It was just an unfortunate error, but you play the hand you’re dealt, not the one you wish you got,” Bailey said. “I think it’s disheartening for Steve. I think he had excellent qualifications, and I think he was looking forward to continuing the race, so I feel empathy for him, but in terms of finding someone to represent the county, it’s just another project. I don’t really see it as a setback.”
Democratic nominee Amanda Stewart said she is “looking forward to moving on to Nov. 4 and running against a qualified Republican opponent.”
As the only Republican who filed in the District 3, Mattingly faced no opposition in the June 24 primary and was set to move on to the general election as the GOP’s nominee. As such, he held a fundraiser and already had paid for some campaign signs prior to the news of his disqualification.
“It’s extremely embarrassing to me, personally as well as professionally,” Mattingly said. “How do I face the people who have given me money? How do I pay them back?”
In addition to canceling his candidacy, the board’s error also threatens to “disenfranchise” local Republicans by depriving his eventual replacement in District 3 precious time needed to campaign in an overwhelmingly Democratic county, Mattingly said.
Mattingly said he plans to hire an attorney and pursue a “thorough audit” of the elections board. He also wants a public apology from the board and for Dickerson to either be reprimanded or removed as elections director.
“It’s serious. It’s very serious,” he said.
In addition to Mattingly’s disqualification, the District 3 race recently added another challenger in local activist Cornell Posey, who filed Aug. 6 as a Democratic write-in candidate.