Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has upheld Sandy Springs Democrat Josh McLaurin’s eligibility to run for a local state House seat, rejecting a legal challenge to his residency in a ruling issued just days before the May 22 primary election. The complaint filer, former Sandy Springs City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling, could appeal to Fulton County Superior Court, but did not have immediate comment.

McLaurin, who aims to challenge Roswell Republican Alex Kaufman for the House District 51 seat, praised Kemp’s decision.

Joshua McLaurin.

“I’m grateful to Secretary Kemp for his final decision, which ensures that voters in House District 51 will have a choice this year,” McLaurin said in an email. “A lot of people have lost faith in politics recently, but I haven’t. Democracy can still work for us, and the first step is having a real choice.”

State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), an attorney who represented McLaurin in the case, says he believes an appeal is unlikely and that it’s “time to move on.”

“It’s absolutely a fact that Josh satisfies all requirements to be on the ballot and everyone who has reviewed it has agreed,” Holcomb said.

Sterling filed the challenge to McLaurin’s residency in March based on a brief period in 2015 and 2016 when the future candidate lived in New York City for a law firm job and his moves within the state since then. Sterling is a well-known Republican political consultant and his complaint was publicized by the Fulton County Republican Party, whose chairman, Trey Kelly, could not be reached for immediate comment on Kemp’s ruling.

On April 30, administrative law judge Kimberly Schroer ruled that McLaurin is a resident of the district and eligible to run. But Kemp — a Republican who is running for his party’s gubernatorial nomination May 22 — got to review the case and make an independent final decision. In a decision issued late on May 18, Kemp said the “preponderance of the evidence” shows that McLaurin intended to be and was a Georgia citizen for at least two years prior to the House election — the legal residency requirement.

Holcomb said Kemp and the judge were right.

“The administrative law judge made the right decision. Secretary Kemp made the right decision, and it’s time to move on,” Holcomb said.

Sterling’s attorney, Vincent Russo — who once served as Kemp’s chief legal counsel — could not be reached for immediate comment.

McLaurin is a Georgia native who in late 2016 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. McLaurin and Kaufman seek to replace longtime incumbent Rep. Wendell Willard, who is retiring.

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