On March 19, Evans attorney Mack Taylor filed his Declaration of Intent (DOI) for the special election to fill the vacancy left by Charles Allen, who resigned along with his wife, Tax Commissioner Kay Allen, early last March. Initially, the field of potential candidates who filled out DOIs was limited to retired businessman Brett McGuire, but now two additional people have officially expressed an interest in running
Trip Derryberry, co-owner of Reliable Equipment Rental, filed his DOI on April 3 and insurance agent Bobby Gagnon filed his on April 28.
A Declaration of Intent allows candidates to start raising money.
In spite of the growing field, Taylor’s biggest opposition seems to be coming from local radio host and Metro Spirit columnist Austin Rhodes, who has recently used his radio show to pursue old allegations he’s made against Taylor’s stepfather, Judge Herbert Kernaghan, a juvenile court judge, who died in November of 2006.
“I haven’t heard Austin say anything derogatory about me because of who my stepdad was, and I don’t think he will,” Taylor said recently. “It’s not something that I think about or I worry about, and I don’t think, quite frankly, that the people who are going to be voting in this District 3 race are going to care if Austin is reporting on something that has really no baring on my qualifications for the office.”
Rhodes has accused the late judge of being drunk on the bench, and though he’s never implied Taylor should in any way be held accountable for his stepfather’s alleged behavior, this is an election year and people’s antennas are picking up as many impressions and associations as they are actual facts. Any kind of association with any judge allegedly drunk on the bench is going to carry consequences.
Obviously, no one would argue that Rhodes is responsible for the assumptions made by the electorate, but the fact of the matter is, his one-sided vendetta against a man who has been dead nearly eight years can cause Taylor, a first time politician, some collateral damage at the ballot box, should he decide to officially enter the race by qualifying later this month.
Qualifying for the special election for Tax Commissioner and the District 3 commission seat will open at 9 a.m. June 23 and close at noon on June 25.
For his part, Taylor is choosing not to engage Rhodes, though he admits to being curious about the allegations.
“I know he gets his information from sources,” he said. “I just know that from what I saw working right across the hall from Herbert that what Austin is reporting is something that I never saw first hand.”
Taylor, who didn’t decide to attend law school until he was 29, took an internship at the Solicitor’s Office in Augusta, which at the time was located at 401 Walton Way, right across the hall from Juvenile Court. Sometimes he and Kernaghan would go to lunch, and Taylor insists he never saw him intoxicated.
“Austin has heard what he’s heard and he’s saying what he’s saying,” Taylor said. “Recently, he has stated it as fact, that Herbert was drunk on the bench rather than saying ‘I’ve heard that he was drunk on the bench,’ and I hope he would address that with a little more clarity, because I don’t think Austin’s ever been to juvenile court himself to observe this. At least he’s not reported he has seen it.”
In fact, Taylor goes so far to say he’s never heard any of the people who worked in juvenile court say they observed him drunk on the bench. Beyond that, he’s never heard of any kind of official reprimand.
“And I would think that if there was some supporting evidence, somebody would have done something,” he said. “If you have a judge who’s routinely intoxicated on the bench, I would think the Judicial Qualifications Committee would want him removed. If this was something that was actually occurring, whoever observed this had a responsibility to report him, and to my knowledge it was never reported.”
Rhodes’ motivations for his attacks on Kernaghan remain his own, and it will be interesting to see how they affect the upcoming race. But since controversy makes good radio, you can expect the Kernaghan situation to stay in rotation for awhile.
We all know how Austin loves to spin the classics.