BY STEVE ROGERS
As expected, a would-be Republican candidate for mayor in Columbus isn’t certified for the ballot. But the almost-sad tale of Garthia Halbert’s efforts to run and related personal issues may not be over.
During its meeting Monday, the Columbus Republican Municipal Executive Committee refused to place Halbert on the May 2 Republican primary ballot for mayor because she has provided no proof she lives at 809 Second Avenue North, the address she listed on qualifying papers. That’s also the address she listed on her voter registration when she filled it out Feb. 6.
But the Packet first reported two weeks ago the address is a vacant house and Riverhill Property Management, which man Halbert originally told The Packet she planned to move there and was told by a Columbus city employee to list that address on her qualifying papers. City workers denied that claim
The Executive Committee’s decision leaves no Republican in the mayor’s race.
The 33-year-old Halbert, a former newspaper reporter who says she now sells vacuum cleaners and cosmetics to support herself, has refused to disclose an address where she claims she lives on the city’s Southside. In an interview with The Packet last week, she said she planned to clear up the issue with city election officials prior to the Friday, March 3, qualifying deadline, but she didn’t.
In video obtained by The Packet through a Freedom of Information request, Halbert told Police Chief Oscar Lewis, “I don’t live in the city,” during a bizarre discussion Feb. 13 in Mayor Robert Smith’s office. She said she lived in another state.
That conversation was part of a string of incidents that landed Halbert in Lowndes County Lunacy Court two weeks ago. As part of that case, she agreed to continue therapy through Community Counseling Service. She told The Packet she’s been under the agency’s care since 2012.
The Republican Executive Committee is notifying Halbert of its decision, but committee chairman Robert Wilbur said the residency issue was pretty clear.
“It seems to me that if you state something as so, that’s it,” Wilbur said. “No other address has been brought forward as a substitute.”
Wilbur and other committee members said Halbert did not contact them or offer any explanation concerning the questionable address. They also said under state law her mental health treatment is not an issue for the committee. Law only addresses residency, voter registration and a criminal background check.
To qualify, a candidate must live at their qualifying address for at least 30 days prior to the election.
Halbert continued to insist she plans to clear up the matter or would sue to have her name on the ballot. Among other things, she said she planned to contact the Secretary of State’s office — the legal authority on elections in the state — to see how she might proceed.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Wilbur said that the committee still had not gotten an address from Halbert and was not reconsidering its decision.
Meanwhile, incumbent council members Charlie Box in Ward 3 and Bill Gavin in Ward 6 were certified to run for re-election as Republicans, as was retired assistant fire chief Mark Ward in Ward 5.