Family information is being drudged up in the District 109 state representative race between Republican incumbent Steve Davis and his party challenger Dale Rutledge.
The race had already included accusations of ethics violations on both sides, but family history took center stage recently, when recorded phone messages, allegedly from two of Rutledge's sisters, were sent out to local households.
One sister badmouthed her brother, while the other responded with an endorsement of Rutledge.
A local resident recently sent The News transcripts of the two messages.
The first phone message was apparently sent out from Rutledge's older sister Joyce Rutledge, and she asked voters not to vote for her brother.
"Good evening. Dale Rutledge, state house candidate, is not the person he says he is. I should know - I am his older sister, Joyce Lawanda Rutledge. Dale tore apart our family for his personal gain by dishonoring and bearing false witness against his own mother and me in a court of law. It saddens me to come forward, but the truth needs to be known. Dale does not deserve this position. We don't trust him - why should you? Please vote again for Steve Davis who has achieved much as state representative. And please pray for Dale."
According to media reports and political blogs, Davis paid for the first message.
In a second phone message which followed shortly after, Rhonda Rutledge Coots, apologized for the first phone call recorded by her sister and said she supported her brother. Coots also went into detail about why her sister recorded the advertisement.
"I am the sister of Dale Rutledge. This afternoon my sister Lawanda Rutledge, called voters with a malicious statement about my brother Dale in a robo call that was funded by my brother's opponent Steve Davis.
Three years ago, I was appointed by the court as guardian of my mother. My mother suffers from Alzheimer's and can no longer take care of herself. My sister wrongly convinced my mother to transfer $200,000 dollars into my sister's account. My brother Dale, with the support of all the rest of the family, rightly petitioned the court to have the funds returned to my mother as the victim, and the court agreed.
It is embarrassing to my family that this issue has been sent into your homes, and I apologize, but I could not allow it to stand without a response of truth.
Finally, let me say that Steve Davis knows the rest of the story about my mother's Alzheimer's and the court order, but funded this call anyway. Senator Rick Jeffares told him in advance the full story and that my sister is just being vengeful because she is now under court order.
It is reprehensible that Mr. Davis would consider this type of advertisement. Mr. Davis, you are truly a coward.
Again, my name is Rhonda Rutledge Coots, and my family supports Dale with all our hearts. He will be a great representative for all of us. Goodbye."
The News contacted Rutledge about the phone blasts Saturday morning. He said he was in the middle of a phone bank, which is used to call registered voters, and would return the call, but did not call back before press time.
The News spoke with Davis by phone. He said Rutledge has run a negative campaign since day one by attacking his family. He said he endorsed the message, but Rutledge's sister came to him.
"You have not seen anything from my campaign at all that has been negative," Davis said. "Mr. Rutledge has refused every single debate and forum. I want to talk about issues and he wants to talk about my family. It was attack from his own sister, not me."
Davis also sent The News a list of his endorsements by email. He said the list shows that more people support him over Rutledge.
Rutledge, 48, is a Republican from McDonough who grew up and worked on a family farm in Henry County.
In a previous interview with The News, Rutledge said Rep. Davis' past actions in office are one of the main reasons he is seeking election.
"I am running for the State House 109 seat because the incumbent for eight years has a very clear pattern of behavior of putting his own financial and political interests ahead of the taxpayers he represents," Rutledge said.
Davis, a real estate agent, previously told The News that his experience and committee seats makes him better able to serve voters.
"I believe I'm sitting in a place that would be in the best interest of all the voters to keep," he said. "There's still a lot of work to do. I believe this is not the time to try and retrain someone and give up the experience and leadership."
The candidates will face off in the primary election on Tuesday, and the seat's fate will be decided then, because no Democrats are running for the seat.