A former convicted KKK leader who tried running for public office in North Georgia on the ticket of the Republican Party has been disqualified. According to CBS46, 61-year-old Chester Doles was initially given the green light to run for Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners District 3 after he signed a declaration of candidacy and affidavit.
But the convicted felon was later disqualified by the Georgia Republican Party after the news outlet questioned his eligibility. Doles, who claims he’s a changed man, was sentenced to federal prison on gun charges. He was also previously locked up for beating a Black man.
Georgia’s code stipulates that felons can run for elected office in the state at least 10 years after their last incarceration. Their civil rights should also be restored in order to qualify. And though Doles was released from prison over 10 years ago, the Georgia Republican Party said his rights “were not restored in time for the qualifying deadline.” That was on March 8.
In February, Doles told the news outlet that he had managed to get his civil rights restored though he did not provide any proof. But he changed that claim a month later. “You had told me when we first talked that your rights had been restored by a judge. So that wasn’t the case?” CBS46 investigator Rachel Polansky asked Doles.
“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 said.
Asked why he signed the affidavit despite being aware his rights hadn’t been restored, Doles replied saying, “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.”
The affidavit states that any candidate who knowingly makes any false statements will be subject to “criminal penalties.” Doles, however, said he hopes he doesn’t face any penalties as he’s “been straight forward with all of this.”
“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, adding that he intends to challenge his disqualification in court.
“They have violated my civil rights. We’re gonna ask for damages. My attorney is reviewing the case right now,” he said. “They’ve caused me major damages. I have thousands of dollars in campaign signs, billboards, radio commercials.”
Prior to his disqualification, Doles likened himself to other civil rights activists when he was questioned about his criminal past.
“If you look at Hosea Williams, he was on the City Council, he was arrested 168 times. Congressman John Lewis, he was arrested 68 times, so that’s not a reason to disqualify someone,” Doles said. “Don’t matter if you’re out there for the civil rights movement, than I’m a white civil rights activist then.”
Candidates who want to stand for public office in Georgia are not subject to background checks. Dr. Tammy Greer, a political science professor at Clark Atlanta University, also told CBS46 that the country’s divisive political atmosphere has encouraged people with questionable backgrounds to venture into politics.
“The atmosphere is helping such candidates to reach such a level that they would not have reached before,” Dr. Greer said.
“There are minimum qualifications to become a candidate in this country. Yet if you want to be a teacher, you have to have certification. To be an attorney, you have to go through a process. But when it comes to running for elected office, to say ‘I have zero experience, please elect me,’ because I am the best person to handle millions of dollars in a budget, to oversee policy that takes care of hundreds of thousands of people, I find it odd that we don’t request more for those seeking political office.”