A former Georgia legislator who twice successfully contested his loss in a state Republican primary has asked a judge to award him legal fees associated with that second challenge.
Atlanta attorney Jake Evans filed a motion Monday seeking to recover $90,975 in fees and expenses on behalf of Habersham County resident Dan Gasaway, who has been battling since last spring for a fourth term in the Georgia House of Representatives against challenger Chris Erwin.
Evans is a senior litigation associate at the Atlanta offices of Holland & Knight.
Gasaway is seeking reimbursement for the cost of successfully contesting the election from Erwin and the Habersham County Board of Elections, who are named as respondents in Gasaway’s successful election contest cases.
Evans said Gasaway did not seek legal fees associated with his first successful contest of the primary last year. The requested fees stem the second contest, which culminated in a verdict in Gasaway’s favor last month, Evans said.
The two Republican candidates are continuing their protracted campaign to represent state House District 28. No Democrat or independent candidate entered the race.
The district includes parts of Habersham, Banks and Stephens counties in northeast Georgia.
Erwin first defeated Gasaway at the polls by 67 votes in May 2018, and by two votes in a do-over election on Dec. 4.
Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat invalidated the May race for voter irregularities that included disenfranchising district voters. Sweat threw out the Dec. 4 race after finding four votes were cast illegally and stripped Erwin of his new legislative office. A third election is set for April 9.
Erwin and the three county election boards included in House District 28 have appealed.
In his fee motion, Evans said the second election contest stemmed from a refusal by Erwin and the Habersham board “to do the right thing in the face of spoon fed facts and law.”
Errors that led Sweat to toss the first primary contest were made by Habersham election personnel. The four votes illegally cast in December were all in Habersham County.
Evans said he implored Erwin and the board at least three times to call for a new election and warned that Gasaway would seek reimbursement for his legal fees if forced to contest the election a second time.
Instead, they “dug their heels in and began cohesively working together to deny Mr. Gasaway and the voters of HD 28 a fair election,” Evans said in the motion.
That refusal to concede “was not based upon law or facts, but was interposed for harassment and unnecessarily expanded the proceeding,” the motion said.
At the second trial, Erwin and the election boards “did nothing to refute the facts surrounding the votes that were found to be illegal.” The county election boards also offered no arguments and tendered no evidence at the hearing, Evans wrote.
Erwin’s attorney, Bryan Tyson of Taylor English Duma, said he and his client “are shocked that Mr. Gasaway would take the position that the facts and legal argument presented in a four-day trial by Mr. Erwin and all three counties was frivolous, especially when the judge agreed that the legal issues presented very difficult questions.”
Tyson said Erwin and all three county election boards will continue to pursue their appeal “while opposing the effort to make taxpayers and Mr. Erwin pay for Mr. Gasaway’s case.”
Habersham County Attorney Donnie Hunt could not be reached for comment.