Political Controversy

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Local Attorney Jerry Gerde is a state committeeman for the Republican Party, and a former Bay County party chairman.

Candis Harbison is a Democrat running for County Commission.

Therefore, you can imagine why a $75 dollar check from Gerde to Harbison's campaign, has raised a few eyebrows, especially since the check was contributed by Lee Gerde, Jerry Gerde's late brother.

"The sad news is my brother's life ran out before my mother's money ran out so there is an account in my brother's name with some of my mother's money left in it," he explains.

Gerde says he never thought the August 14th check would become so controversial.

"When Candis announced her candidacy, I knew my mother would be pleased to have a modest check put for Candis' campaign, so I took some of mother's money intended for my brother and sent that check over to Candis," says Gerde.

Gerde says Harbison befriended his mother when she moved to Panama City. The two remained close friends up until Gerde's mother passed away.

Harbison says, "It was a contribution from the family, but since there was a question about it and I discussed it with the Supervisor of Elections, he said just avoid controversy and give the check back, and that's what I did."

To make matters worse for Gerde, the Republican Party by-law, prohibit members from contributing to Democratic campaigns.

Despite all this, both Gerde and Harbison say this is a non-issue.

"I think that's part of what's wrong with politics today; this acrimony between the parties that has really hampered getting things done on a national level and all the way down," said Harbison.

"I support the Republican Party, but my late mother was a close friend of Candis, and that was mother's money intended for my brother who ran out of life first," says Gerde.

The latest campaign financial statements available on the Internet show that Gerde did not contribute any money to Harbison's Republican Opponent George Gainer.

Gerde says he won't resign from his position with the Republican Party.

The Bay County party's executive committee meets next Monday. There is no word if this issue will come up at that meeting.

Both Democratic and Republican Party by-laws prohibit party officials from contributing to candidates from the opposite party.