Former Lawton City Council candidate speaks out after being kicked off ballot
LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - The race for Lawton City Council Ward 4 is down one candidate, and the former candidate is speaking out about being kicked off the ballot last week.
Lawton native Derek Lemos filed to run for office in mid June. He moved from Ward 2 to Ward 4 back in January but didn’t change his voter registration address until earlier this month.
Derek Lemos knows the rules are the rules.
“I understood that and I said, ‘Well then, I’ll run next time,’” Lemos said.
Rival candidate for Lawton city Council, Barbara Curry, filed an appeal with the Comanche County Election Board last Wednesday, saying that Lemos had not been a registered voter at his Ward 4 address for six months.
She called him several times before that, urging him to drop out.
He calls it harassment.
“‘If you lied on this, you could have a felony,’ or things like that, so I said ‘Well ma’am, I don’t really know all this.’ I said, ‘It was an honest mistake doing it from the beginning. I lived in Ward 4. I’ve lived here for six months. I didn’t understand that it was six months as a registered voter,’” Lemos said.
According to Lawton City Attorney John Ratliff, the City Charter states that candidates who run for council must be a registered voter at their address in the ward they wish to represent for at least six months.
“It’s not like an ordinance that can be changed normally, so kind of those guiding principles and very important rules. Those are the rules that go into the charter,” Ratliff said.
The Election Board agreed with Curry that Lemos didn’t meet the qualifications and removed him from the ballot.
Lemos understands the rule but feels he was threatened.
“She was just trying to intimidate me to withdraw, but at that point I’m on vacation, and I couldn’t withdraw even if I wanted to because there’s a form that has to be filled out for that,” Lemos said.
In a statement, Curry said she told Lemos, in part, “that he could be known as a man that humbled himself and did the right thing after he discovered the mistake. Or that he could be known as a man that chose to push the envelope to see what he could get away with after he realized he made the mistake. And he said, “He was going to wait it out to see if anyone would contest it.”
Lemos said he plans to run again when the seat is open, but for now, he plans to continue working with a non-profit to make change in the city.
“It’s an important job and I get that, but I don’t think I wagered already how much people can just try to get you off your game or just throw kinks in it right away,” Lemos said.
The Lawton City Council primary election is Aug. 23.
Lemos said despite what happened, he wishes Curry and the other two candidates, George Gill and Eric Sharum, good luck.
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