VALDOSTA – The Lowndes County Board of Elections voted Tuesday to officially disqualify Nick “Big Nick” Harden as a candidate in the Valdosta Board of Education election.
Harden had filed to run as a write-in candidate for the District 9 at-large school board seat. The election board had OK'd his candidacy several weeks ago and Harden had been campaigning as a write-in candidate.
On Monday, Oct. 18, Harden received a phone call from Deb Cox, Lowndes County election supervisor, that he was not qualified as a write-in candidate based on the date his qualifying packet was submitted to the board of elections.
Harden received the qualification paperwork Sept. 14 and returned the signed and notarized packet Sept. 17, Harden said.
“When I spoke with Deb on the 14th of September she told me not worry about it. We were able to verify the use of my nickname ‘Big Nick’ for write-in and I proceeded to invest in my campaign,” Harden said.
Before a crowd of residents that not only filled the room but stretched through the doorway, attorney Karla Walker, Harden’s representative, argued that Harden’s qualification was not questioned until 30 days after he was an official candidate.
According to the board of elections, there was not an official challenge of Harden’s candidacy.
“Mr. Harden’s paperwork was initially accepted by my secretary and I trusted that everything was correct,” Cox said. “It was not until later that I was able to second check and I questioned whether the date was correct so I sent an email to the state Oct. 18th.”
The state board of elections confirmed that Harden submitted his paperwork after the deadline of Aug. 27 disqualifying him as a write-in candidate.
“This is one of the reasons why the public does not trust the voting process,” Harden said in an earlier interview. “I want to encourage supporters to continue to vote for me, because we are going to fight this.”
Following the decision of the board of elections, Harden and his team plan to file an appeal in Superior Court, he said.