Could Unsealing Divorce Records Seal GOPer’s Electoral Fate In Georgia?

October 18, 2010 4:40 a.m.

Sometime before the election, a Georgia judge will decide whether the Republican nominee for Congress in the 8th Congressional District’s 2001 divorce records will remain under seal until after the election. The decision, according to one newspaper editor and one Democratic activist, could be the turning point in Rep. Jim Marshall’s (D) battle for reelection in the Peach State.

Chatter about just what’s in the divorce records of state Rep. Austin Scott, the Republican facing Marshall, first began when Scott was considering running in the Republican primary for Lt. Governor, according to Macon Telegraph columnist Charles Richardson. Allies of the sitting Lt. Governor — also a Republican — “started leaking” info on the divorce while Scott was making his decision, Richardson says. After Scott decided to run for Congress against Marshall — one of two Democrats in Georgia’s Congressional delegation — back in April, a Democratic activist and blogger picked up the cause and filed a motion to get the records unsealed. A judge will decide whether to unseal them on Oct. 26, just days before the election.

So what’s in the records? No one knows for sure. But two separate political operations attempting to track them down — as well as Scott’s recent public freakout at the notion of their release — suggest what’s in them is what opposition researchers like to call “gold.” Marshall’s in a tough race (a Republican poll in late September in showed the incumbent Democrat down eight points to Scott), and some on the ground in Georgia believe that the juicy details of a messy divorce could make all the difference.According to Richardson, what’s sealed in the divorce records is potentially damning for Scott. In a recent radio appearance on WMAC-AM in Georgia, Richardson detailed what he said were rumors swirling of troubling “allegations” regarding “a restraining order” and “domestic violence.”

“If that’s in there, voters ought to know,” Richardson said on air. “If these allegations are correct, they’ll punish Austin Scott.” The columnist and editorial page editor at the Telegraph said the allegations had been swirling around political circles since Scott’s abortive campaign for Lt. Governor began.

For his part, Scott is unwilling to discuss what’s in the sealed records. In a debate with Marshall Thursday night, CQ reported that Scott said “he and his ex wife are ‘at peace with our divorce’ but that they will both ‘respect the ruling of the court.'”

In a previous interview with the Tifton, GA Gazette, Scott alleged that the push to release his records was a dirty trick by Marshall.

“This is an act of desperation by a person who is getting beaten on his voting record,” Scott told the paper. “He’s trying to change the focus of the campaign.”

Marshall denied any involvement in the motion during Thursday’s debate, according to CQ. “I had nothing to do with the filing of the petition. It really gripes me that people accuse me of having had something to do with that,” Marshall said. “Had I wanted to get this done it would have been done a long time ago. It would not have been brought up at the very last minute.”

But in an interview with CQ after the debate, Marshall made it clear he wouldn’t mind seeing the records come to light, and hinted at the dirt that could be found inside.

“I’ve heard consistent allegations of what’s in there and it’s not pretty stuff,” Marshall told CQ. “There are things that go on in marriages that can shed light on the character of the individual.”

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