Democrat Josh McLaurin’s campaign for Sandy Springs’ House District 51 seat is legally invalid, according to a complaint filed with the state today by a former Sandy Springs City Council member.

McLaurin is ineligible to run under state and district residency requirements, says the complaint from Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who recently left the City Council. Sterling once announced a race for the District 51 seat himself, but changed his mind before McLaurin entered the race. Sterling is supporting his party’s candidate, Alex Kaufman, in the race.

Josh McLaurin.

McLaurin said he is eligible to run and denied the complaint’s allegations.

“For the last two decades, the Fulton GOP hasn’t had to do any work to hold onto House District 51,” McLaurin said in an email. “Now that the voters have a real choice, it doesn’t surprise me that the GOP would try to find a shortcut. I attended elementary school in Sandy Springs, graduated from the same high school as my opponent, and easily meet the constitutional requirements to represent the district. I look forward to discussing the more substantive issues facing Georgia: rising health insurance premiums, quality education, and excessive commute times.”

The complaint was announced by the Fulton County Republican Party, of which Sterling is a member.

“Mr. McLaurin simply does not meet the constitutional standard to represent the citizens of his district,” said Fulton County Republican Party Chairman Trey Kelly in a press release. “…This is an example of a young man looking to run for office somewhere and decided HD 51 is as good of a place as any.”

Asked why he filed the complaint, Sterling said in a brief phone interview, “I’m all about the rule of law.”

Kaufman and McLaurin seek to replace retiring state Rep. Wendell Willard, a Republican, in the House district covering the Sandy Springs panhandle and parts of Johns Creek and Roswell.

Gabriel Sterling

Sterling’s complaint is a petition to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office asking for McLaurin to be removed from the November ballot. McLaurin moved from New York to Georgia in recent years, and has moved within the state since then. Those moves mean McLaurin does not meet the two-year state residency requirement nor the one-year district residency requirement to run for the office, the complaint alleges.

In late 2016, McLaurin announced a run for the 6th Congressional District seat eventually won by Karen Handel, but he did not actually enter the race. At the time, he was living in Roswell. He currently lives in Sandy Springs and announced his House District 51 campaign last fall.

Sterling’s complaint was written and delivered by the Robbins Firm, an Atlanta law firm specializing in litigation and regulatory law.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.