DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – Even after winning a tightly contested mayoral race, Douglasville’s mayor-elect is accusing his former opponent of using free hot dogs to buy votes.
The Georgia State Board of Election is looking into claims made by Douglasville Mayor-Elect Harvey Persons that his opponent, Rochelle Robinson, attempted to buy votes in exchange for free hot dogs.
On the day of last month’s general election, Persons called the Douglas County Board of Elections after voters raised concerns to him of Robinson and a food vendor being present at a couple of polling places.
Robinson, a former Central Intelligence Agency training officer, told CBS Atlanta that she thought she had clearance three weeks prior to the general election from the health department and city hall in regard to distributing about 2,000 hot dogs that day, traveling to homeless shelters and various other parts of the city. City officials expressed to Robinson that she didn’t need permits to distribute hot dogs. Robinson does admit, however, that she didn’t have anything in writing and was going off the word of city officials. She said that while they were located around the voting precincts, Robinson and the vendor were beyond the 150-foot buffer restriction in place for campaigning.
“I was just waving and as people were leaving the polls, we asked them if they wanted a hot dog,” she said.
As a result of “Hot Dog Gate,” Robinson is now under investigation from the Georgia State Board of Election, according to the agency. Robinson indicated that the issue may not come to a head until next month.
“It will come up for a future meeting of the state’s election board when the investigation is completed,” Board of Election Spokesperson Michael O’Sullivan told CBS Atlanta.
Last month, Robinson actually defeated Persons in the general election when it was a four-person race, besting Persons with 36 percent of the vote compared to his 26 percent. She was bidding to become Douglasville’s first female and first African-American mayor. But the two would be forced into a runoff as Robinson didn’t garner the minimum percentage number to win the general election outright. Persons defeated Robinson by less than 100 votes in Tuesday’s mayoral runoff.
“I really was in shock when they came with these allegations,” she said, adding that Persons was handing out orange juice and Danishes in similar fashion on Election Day. “I’ve been a law-abiding citizen my whole life, so for me to face this is really disheartening.”
Messages left by CBS Atlanta for Persons were not immediately returned.