Disqualified: CBS46 investigation exposed felon trying to run for office

Georgia Republican Party says Chester Doles is not eligible to run for office, because he has not had his rights restored as he claimed.
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 5:30 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Qualifying to run for public office in Georgia requires candidates to sign a declaration of candidacy and affidavit. That piece of paper has been the focus of an ongoing CBS46 investigation that has now exposed two convicted felons who attempted to run for office in the state.

61-year-old Chester Doles is a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. He also spent time in federal prison for gun charges and before that, beating a black man in Maryland.

Doles filed his affidavit on March 8 to qualify to run for Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners District 3. CBS46 received the signed document from the county when they confirmed that he qualified.

But, after CBS46 started asking questions of local and state elections officials, Doles was disqualified. The Georgia Republican Party confirmed they started looking into it after we brought it to their attention.

So why was he disqualified? According to Georgia code, written out on the declaration of candidacy and affidavit, felons can hold elected office in Georgia if they get their civil rights restored and if at least 10 years have passed from the time they completed their last prison sentence.

It has been over 10 years since Doles was released from prison, but according to the Georgia Republican Party, his rights “were not restored in time for the qualifying deadline,” which was March 8. In the beginning of February, Doles told CBS46 investigator Rachel Polansky that they had, but wouldn’t provide any documentation.

“You were requesting a judge restore all your rights including running for office. Has that happened?” Rachel questioned Doles in February.

“That matter’s been resolved. It’s been cleared. I’m good to go,” Doles responded.

A month later, after he was disqualified, his answer changed.

“You had told me when we first talked that your rights had been restored by a judge. So that wasn’t the case?” Polansky asked.

“Well, I was asking. And it was not in the judge’s authority. He said it’s not that he doesn’t want to do it. He just lacks the authority. So that was the start and I’ve also filed with other departments and I’m gonna leave it right there,” Doles claimed.

Polansky questioned him further on why he signed the affidavit knowing he did not have his rights restored.

“You can read the code. It seems like a gray area. There are parts that support me and there are parts against me. There is no intention to deliberately deceive anyone,” Doles said.

By signing the affidavit, you agree that “any false statements knowingly made by me in this Declaration of Candidacy and Affidavit will subject me to criminal penalties.” Polansky asked Doles if he’s worried about that now that they’ve found he isn’t in fact eligible under Georgia code.

“I hope that’s not the case. I’ve been straight forward with all of this,” Doles said.

He went on to explain that this is bigger than his attempt to run for government office.

“To make me walk around for the rest of my life with a scarlet letter and act like a second class citizen is just wrong. This case is more than me being on the ballot. It’s also looking at how convicted felons are treated after a certain period of time,” Doles said.

He says he isn’t giving up yet on his political dreams. According to him, the next step is going to court.

“They have violated my civil rights. We’re gonna ask for damages. My attorney is reviewing the case right now,” Doles claimed. “They’ve caused me major damages. I have thousands of dollars in campaign signs, billboards, radio commercials.”

If Doles does take this to court, does he have a case? Polansky found a Georgia court filing from just last year – when a Chatham County Superior Court Georgia judge upheld a city official’s decision to disqualify a mayoral candidate in Port Wentworth because of a past felony conviction. If that’s any indication, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Doles.

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