The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted last Tuesday not to reappoint Democratic strategist Pat Pullar to the Board of Elections and Registration, opting instead to name Forest Park resident Arvis Walker to the position.
Walker was nominated by BOC District 1 Commissioner Alieka Anderson. Each commissioner gets to appoint one person to the elections board, whose term runs concurrent with that commissioner’s term.
Walker has not responded to requests for comment from The Clayton Crescent.
Walker, a close ally of Forest Park District 1 Councilwoman Kimberly James, ran unsuccessfully against Joy Tellis Cooper for School Board District 8 in 2021 and has been active with the Forest Park PTSA, Georgia PTA District 7, and on faith-based and other advisory committees to outgoing Superintendent Dr. Morcease Beasley. Walker qualified August 9 but began campaigning the day after Dr. Aleika Anderson qualified to run for the Board of Commissioners District 1 seat vacated when Commissioner Sonna Singleton Gregory died. At first, Anderson had tried to hold onto her School Board seat while running for BOC but learned state election law does not allow that.
At the time of the vote, Pullar was celebrating at Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock’s victory party in downtown Atlanta. Pullar later said Anderson did not notify her that she would not be reappointed and that she had learned of the news after the fact on Twitter.
The change comes at a time when elections officials in Clayton County and elsewhere face unprecedented scrutiny, threats, and harassment in the wake of the 2020 Presidential election. Clayton County’s elections office was thrust onto the international stage when partisan observers, under the supervision of nations GOP officials, came close to disrupting the count and the county’s results tipped the election to Joe Biden. The Clayton Crescent was the only news media agency present for most of the count and was widely recognized for its coverage.
On Friday, when the Elections and Registration Board met to certify the Senate runoff election results, the mood was unusually somber.
“I just wanted to say that it’s been a wonderful ride in my tenure as a board member,” Pullar said. “I think that it’s time for me to go, I believe that the good Lord has another journey for Pat Pullar, I’m gonna miss all of you….People always thought that I was combative but I was more passionate than combative. Because I am passionate about what I do and about how I serve on this board, When I started out on this board, I was the state deputy director for the Democratic Party. After a few years, then I became the chair of the Clayton County Democratic Party. I left that position as chair of the Clayton County Democratic Party because this was more important to me than working at the party.”
Pullar, who has more than 50 years of experience in voting rights activism, has gone to the mat for Georgia voters on numerous occasions, most recently as one of several named plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and State Election Board officials over SB 202.
Clayton County NAACP Branch President C. Synamon Baldwin privately expressed displeasure at Pullar’s ouster.
In the trenches
“When they lowered the age from 21 to 18, I was 18 years old, and that was my first time to vote in 1970,” she told the board. “I’ve been doing this stuff for 50 years or more. Because of my passion for the voters of this county, of this state, of this country, to ensure that we hold transparent and fair elections each and every time we conduct an election, And so that’s where my passion comes from. I think it’s in my DNA, so to speak. And so that’s why I just was so passionate about making sure that we did everything possible to ensure that voters had a fair and transparent election, not to have the wear and tear of their bodies by waiting on long lines.”
Pullar said she went to all five early voting locations during the Senate runoff. “I even implemented a small process at Carl Rhodenizer by telling them, I said, ‘Stop bringing in one person at a time. ‘ I said, ‘Line up the people behind each other at each station and that will move your line faster.’ And that’s what happened at Carl Rhodenizer during this first week, that week of early voting. …think about staging it in that way.”
She added, “I was also thinking about the young people. Getting more young people was poll workers, and maybe have some sort of election ambassadors, young ambassadors, youth ambassadors, so that they would actually come and relieve some of the [older] people during the day as opposed to them being there 12 hours without a break, have the young people come in after school and relieve them. And so that’s one of my ideas moving forward that we should probably think about…bringing in the young people because they’re more technologically savvy than we are and probably faster, and giving them an opportunity to be a part of what they should be a part of at a very early age. And it also gives them an opportunity to see how the system works. And be a part of that process. So they would be encouraged to vote when they turn 18, that they register when they’re 17 and a half. But that’s one of the things going forward that I think we should look at and be that paradigm for the rest of the counties to start including the young people in that process.”
Pullar noted that, “in 2014, I fought for the Sunday in this county to make certain that we would have that Sunday. Fighting for making certain that we stop doing 8 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.], and we extended it to 7 o’clock. You know, those are the things that I felt like we should be consistent with other counties around us, because voters get confused about ‘well, they said 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on TV,’ so they think that every county does that. So that’s all about voter education and making certain that our residents in this county understand how this process works.”
Sheriff’s election likely to be March 21
Walker’s appointment comes as county elections official prepare for a special election, which they say is likely to take place on March 21, for a new sheriff.
Although the election—and thus, the qualifying deadline—had not yet been set as of press time, half a dozen people have filed Declarations of Intent to run for that office and some have started campaigning, including Dwayne Fabian, Terry Evans, Clarence Cox, Carl Cogdell, Thomas Storey, Also appearing in the county’s online candidate list, although they haven’t filed any paperwork yet, are Javier Brown and Hill’s godson and Chief Deputy Levon Allen, who a source says Commissioner Warner recently introduced at a holiday party at the Flint River Community Center as “the next sheriff of Clayton County.” Allen has replaced Hill’s badge logo with a similar one sporting his name and “Deputy Sheriff” title, although he is not the current head of the department, and has resumed posts to the sheriff’s Nixle account.
At Friday’s meeting, Pullar said Judge Pamela Ferguson wanted to remind the Elections and Registration Office of “people making certain that they get their background checks through her office, so if anybody calls, they need to call her office to get the background check before they come to certify for the sheriff’s [race] if the election’s been called.”
Anderson and the Hill-Bickers machine
Critics of Anderson allege she is part of an effort by ousted Sheriff Victor Hill and former CCSO Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers to “take over” the BOC through a 3-2 majority consisting of Anderson, Franklin, and Hambrick. None of the three have responded to numerous requests from The Clayton Crescent over the past several months about that allegation.
Both Hill and Bickers were found guilty of violating the law in separate federal criminal cases. Bickers. a powerful political operative known for hiring down-and-out people to wave signs for the candidates that engage her services, is serving time in a federal prison in Florida for her role in the Atlanta City Hall contract-fixing scandal. Hill, who resigned from office after his conviction on six counts of abusing pretrial detainees under color of law, awaits sentencing in February. The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) has revoked Hill’s law enforcement certification. Bickers was never a sworn law enforcement officer.
Anderson, along with Franklin and Hambrick, is facing her own legal troubles.
Anderson and Franklin are each being sued for slander in Clayton County by Brandon Turner, a Parks and Recreation employee. Turner was falsely accused in a series of e-mails of being a convicted felon when his record had been exonerated. Turner is the son of BOC Chairman Jeff Turner.
Anderson, Franklin, and Gail Hambrick, along with the county, are named in a federal suit by former Clayton County Chief Financial Officer Ramona Bivins. In that case, Bivins alleges Anderson, Franklin, and Hambrick terminated her after she and her husband expressed support for District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis’ reelection. Davis was running against Janice Scott, a candidate backed by the Hill-Bickers machine.
While Friday was Pullar’s last official meeting as a member of the board, she and board member Darlene Johnson will serve on the vote review panel for the state-mandated risk limiting audit on Wednesday and Thursday. Each vote review panel is made up of one Democrat, one Republican, and one Elections and Registration board member. The partisan members are recommended by their county political party. The panel’s job is to review paper ballots that have unclear markings.