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Dist. 5 candidate residency in question
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There may be a qualification issue for Tim Fleming, Republican candidate for District 5, stemming from a homestead exemption filed on a house he owns that is outside of the district.

Fleming has a homestead exemption for 35 Mandy Lane, a property located well within the boundaries of District 4, according to the Newton County Road Map of November 2007.

On his declaration of candidacy, which he filled out in April when he qualified to run for office, Fleming listed his residency as being 1194 Floyd Street. According to the Public Access Property Portal, that property is owned by Esther Fleming, his father and the current commissioner for District 3.

Newton County Elections Supervisor Donna Morrison said she did not know that Fleming had a homestead exemption for a property located outside of District 5, when asked about the matter.

"At this point a challenge hasn't been raised [to Fleming's candidacy]," Morrison said. "When and if that happens, the board [of Elections] will deal with it according to the law."

Fleming said the exemption for the Mandy Lane home, located in the Orchard Park subdivision, was first claimed in January. He and his wife moved to the house on Floyd Street in March he said.

"My wife and I have always wanted to live in town," Fleming said. "My father and I bought [the Floyd Street home] together."

Fleming said the Newton County charter only requires candidates to live in the commission district they are running for, for at least six months prior to the general election. In which case, Fleming will have met the residency requirements this month.

However, the issue at hand seems to lay with the homestead exemption, which is can only be claimed on a property that is the owner's primary residence.

Last September, Gigi Shinall a candidate for the Porterdale City Council was deemed ineligible to run for office when the Porterdale Elections Superintendent ruled that a homestead exemption for a house she owned outside of city limits, precluded her from running for office, despite the fact that she had lived in an apartment at the Porterdale Mill Lofts for a year.

According to a press release from Karen Handel, Georgia secretary of state, Georgia law states that the "specific address in the county or municipality in which a person has declared a homestead exemption, if a homestead exemption has been claimed, shall be deemed the person's residence address."

Homestead exemptions are viewed by the state as the "the legal residence and domicile of the applicant for all purposes whatever," according to the release from Handel.

Tommy Knight, chief appraiser for the Newton County Tax Assessor's Office said there was a 2008 homestead exemption registered for Fleming for the Mandy Lane Home and that his property tax bill went out with the exemption on it.

Fleming said he claimed the exemption in January because that was the only time of the year the exemption could be claimed. He said he would shift the exemption to his Floyd Street home in January 2009. The Mandy Lane home has been on the market for several months now he said.

Fleming said the homestead exemption was "really a moot issue."

"This is politics as usual in Newton County," Fleming said. "I'm not going to let this derail the campaign. I'm gonna run a clean race."

Randy Vinson, Fleming's Democratic opponent for District 5, listed 450 Jenkins Road as his address in his declaration of candidacy. His home is located inside District 5, according to the Newton County Road Map of November 2007. He also has a homestead exemption for the property, according to Knight.