Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 24, 2012

Sammy is a little male puppy who was given to a kid without finding out whether his parents would allow it, so Sammy is at Walton Animal Control, where he can be adopted today for $40, which includes his vaccinations and deworming, as well as a voucher for reduced-price neutering. The shelter has no idea Sammy’s breed, but he is 5-6 weeks old and weighs about four pounds

Qualifying continues for 2012 Georgia Primary Elections

Qualifying for state offices continues today from 8 AM to 5 PM and tomorrow, May 25th, from 8 AM to Noon. Secretary of State Brian Kemp has most of the information you’ll need as a candidate on his website, where you can also find links to local elections offices for information on qualifying for local office.

Tuesday night, I was at the Common Cause Ethics-palooza in Sandy Springs, and spoke to Debbie Dooley, who holds a leadership position with Tea Party Patriots. She firmly resisted the “Draft Debbie Dooley” suggestions from several folks there, so nobody printed up bumperstickers to sell on the internet. So I was naturally skeptical when I heard Wednesday that she planned to qualify against Don Balfour for State Senate. She had just learned the day before that she’s in his district and had more to say about an Amended Complaint she planned to file with the Senate.

Senator Tommie Williams with Tea Party Patriots Leader Debbie Dooley

That’s the complaint she’s holding there, in the House Chamber, talking with Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams. I have a copy and will post it around 7:15 AM.

Anyway, Debbie said she plans to qualify today for Balfour’s Senate seat. Essentially, she had been talking to several potential candidates and when it appeared no one would qualify, she decided to put her money where her mouth is and sign up for the rodeo herself. I do respect that. Tea party activist Steve Ramey also is expected to qualify.

There were some early problems with connectivity the the Secretary of State’s qualifying website in the Democratic and Republican qualifying areas, but most problems appeared to have been fixed by lunchtime.

Rather than recap all of the matchups that will happen, and some that might not, I’ll refer you to the Secretary of State’s list of qualified candidates, which is updated in pretty close to real time. Aaron Gould Sheinin did a good job of keeping up with qualifying on the AJC website yesterday, and I expect he’ll be doing the same today.

Also at the AJC, Jim Galloway writes about how the casino gambling question made it onto the Republican ballot as a non-binding referendum question.

The very topic stunned the highest-perched Republicans in the land. “The casino question was a shock coming out of the convention — given the prominence of social conservatives in the party infrastructure,” said Brian Robinson, spokesman for Deal. “The governor’s office was as surprised as anyone to hear about it.”

The one exception was state GOP chairman Sue Everhart, who this week took responsibility for the decision. No monied interests had pushed for the question, she said. And the party’s most recent financial disclosure, for the month of April, shows no contributions from the gambling world. (We’ll check again later.)

Everhart said the casino question was prompted by emailed messages from two or three GOP activists who complained of the cash that was leaking away to gaming havens in Mississippi and North Carolina. “They said, if we didn’t do something before long, the Indians were going to do something – and we wouldn’t get any tax revenue out of that,” Everhart said.

To a person, members of the executive committee we spoke with said they were given no advance notice of the casino question – which lost on a first vote by the committee, and won only after it was emphasized that placing the question on the ballot didn’t constitute an endorsement.

I spoke earlier to a member of the GOP leadership who gave a similar explanation, saying, “I asked Sue, and she said she just wanted to know what the voters thought.”

Nearly twenty candidates signed the Common Cause Georgia pledge to sponsor legislation limiting lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100 per lobbyist, per legislator, per day.

Common Cause Georgia, the Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Georgia Conservatives in Action promised to make ethics reform a top issue in the July primaries as well as the November general election. The topic has gained momentum in the past week after Georgia Republicans, at their annual convention this past weekend, agreed to put the matter before voters in a nonbinding referendum during the July 31 primary.

Julianne Thompson, representing both the Tea Party Patriots and Conservatives in Action, said Wednesday that the coalition of groups will use the pledge as a kind of litmus test in a number of races. The coalition will announce those targeted contests once qualifying ends Friday.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said there are opportunities to strengthen the state’s ethics laws, but he remains steadfast that a cap is not the way to do it.

“I’m always open at looking at different ways of improving our law,” Ralston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “Really, the fundamental difference I have with a few of the other people on this issue is I trust the people to give them information, full transparency and open information and let them make a decision.”

Ralston said that’s preferable to “an arbitrary, unworkable line that, frankly, I think is a gimmick.”

Among the signers was Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), according to a Press Release by Common Cause:

“We are very enthusiastic that Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams signed the pledge today to co-sponsor a bill to limit lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100,” said Julianne Thompson of the Georgia Tea Party Patriots

“Senator Williams has shown strong leadership in many areas and we have every confidence that he will take the lead on comprehensive ethics reform in the Georgia State Senate.”

“The Georgia Republican Party sent a strong message to its legislative leaders this past weekend by passing both the ballot initiative and resolution calling for the lobbyist gift cap. We encourage all legislative candidates to sign this pledge.”

A full list of signers is available here.

Senator George Hooks, Democrat of Americus, Georgia

 

Denis O’Hayer has an excellent interview with retiring Dean of the Senate and Senate Historian George Hooks of Americus. Hooks has served in the legislature for more than 30 years and WABE’s website has both the 5-minute broadcast version, and the extended 18-minute director’s cut. If you’re a student of Georgia politics and history, it’s not to be missed.

Elections officials in Fayette County have been dealing with rumors that federal lawsuits over district lines will affect elections, but say that only qualifying will be affected. A federal judge delayed qualifying for the Fayette County Commission because US Justice Department preclearance was pending but has now been issued. Commissioner Herb Frady will not seek reelection.

Candidates for Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education will not qualify this week due to a federal lawsuit prompted by the General Assembly’s failure to adopt new district maps.

Fayette County school board member Janet Smola will not run for reelection. She says her successor should be “[a] believer in public education, not home schooling or private schooling.”

Cherokee County Commissioner Karen Bosch will not seek reelection. Her announcement came after local tea party activists alleged that the owner of a local recycling operation concealed campaign contributions to Bosch’s earlier campaign. The Cherokee County Commission used SPLOST funds to pay $1.8 million in payments that the recycling owner failed to make after the county issued $18 million in bonds to finance the facility. Bosch says her decision to forego reelection was a personal one, not motivated by the allegations.

Plans to trim the role of Fulton County by legislators may lead to federal court.

During a meeting with constituents earlier this month in Alpharetta, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, was quoted by a local weekly paper saying her “goal is to end Fulton County.”

“We can cut Fulton County down to size until we get Milton County,” Jones said, according to Neighbor Newspapers. “My goal is that we reduce the thumbprint … of Fulton County on your lives and your pocketbooks such that in a very few years, Atlanta and south Fulton will not fight us on re-creating Milton County because Fulton County will be insignificant.”

“People are not going to stand by and allow themselves to be manipulated like this,” said state Rep. Roger Bruce, a Democrat from unincorporated south Fulton. “They’re rigging it. There are people who like the county the way it is.”

In November, Fayette County voters will be asked to renew the education SPLOST.

Four candidates qualified yesterday for Chatham County Commission Chair, and Effingham also will have a spirited election with three candidates qualifying on the first day.

The Augusta Chronicle notes that a large number of candidates qualified for local offices yesterday, including five of the six announced candidates for Richmond County Sheriff.

Gwinnett County will have a full ballot as more than 60 candidates qualified yesterday.

The Macon Telegraph covers midstate election qualifying after the first day.

The Judicial Nominating Commission has opened the process for appointing a new judge to Superior Court for the Ocmulgee Circuit, which includes Baldwin, Greene, Hancock, Jasper, Jones, Morgan, Putnam and Wilkinson counties.

Nathan Roberts qualified for Floyd County Commission District One.

Hot races in Hall County will include the election for Sheriff, where the Republicna primary has five candidates qualified so far.

Former Camden County Sheriff Bill Smith, who attracted national attention when a grand jury investigated his use of federal money from drug seizures,

He purchased boats that some people wisecrack are his Camden County navy. Some purchases were more exotic. There was the $90,000 Dodge Viper for the sheriff’s DARE anti-drug program.

“The year we took this out to Las Vegas for the national DARE convention, it was the No. 1 DARE car in the country,” says Lt. William Terrell.

will run in an attempt to take back his old job, which he lost in 2008.

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee had three opponents qualify against him in the Republican Primary. Bill Simon has announced that he will not be a candidate.

Nearly forty percent of Georgia children are overweight and obese, and the government is here to help.

“This affects all of us,” said Gov. Nathan Deal in a press conference Tuesday. “We must work together to improve the health of children in our state. Some suggest that we’re raising the first generation of American kids to have shorter life expectancy than their parents because of problems related to obesity. We can and will do better to promote healthy lifestyles.”

Mohawk Industries will expand its Summerville, Georgia plant, creating 500 new jobs.

“Mohawk is one of Georgia’s flagship Fortune 500 companies, and we are pleased to see its continued investments in our state leading to the creation of meaningful jobs in Summerville and other communities,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a press release. “This expansion is a great indicator of the resilience of the carpet and floorcovering industry. Mohawk has Georgia’s full support for its continued investments in our state.”

Two Metro Atlanta OB-GYN offices have been set afire, and three others burglarized.

[P]hysicians who practice obstetrics and gynecology, however, worry that the incidents — three burglaries and two suspicious fires in all — weren’t a coincidence, but were committed by someone bent on retaliating against them for raising concerns about the so-called “fetal pain” bill that passed in March.

Porsche Cars North America, which is headquartered in Atlanta, announced that it will relocate its motorsport operation from Santa Ana, California to a new Experience Center in Carson, California.

The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who cast the only vote against the license for Plant Vogtle’s new reactors, is retiring.

Last year, all four of his fellow commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — sent a letter to the White House chief of staff complaining about his management style. They told a House committee in December that Dr. Jaczko had withheld information from them, unprofessionally berated the agency’s professional staff and reduced female employees to tears with his comments.

But beyond friction with his fellow commissioners, he often found himself the lone dissenting vote on important issues. Among them were the speed with which American reactors should be reanalyzed and improved to incorporate the lessons learned from Fukushima Daiichi and whether licenses should be granted for new reactors before those changes were in the pipeline.

Green energy and your wallet

Notoriously liberal New York Times published survey results that suggest that Americans are willing to pay more for electricity in exchange for more use of “Green Energy.”

That willingness is fairly modest, to be sure. Analyzing a survey they conducted in 2011, researchers at Harvard and Yale found that the average United States citizen was willing to pay $162 a year more to support a national policy requiring 80 percent “clean” energy by 2035. Nationwide, that would represent a 13 percent increase in electric bills.

The willingness to pay was higher among Democrats than Republicans. More interesting, however, was that support dropped off when the definition of clean energy was expanded to include natural gas or nuclear power.

Republican Georgia Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton, who qualified yesterday for reelection wants to know if Georgia voters agree. Text “CHUCK” to 28748 or visit his website to let him know if you’re willing to pay 10% more for electricity in order to have more alternative energy sources used.

Pam Davidson, who took 47.7% of the GOP Primary vote against Lauren “Bubba” McDonald in 2008, qualified against incumbent Commissioner Stan Wise yesterday. Stan’s campaign notes that after losing the GOP Primary that year, Davidson endorsed the Democratic nominee, who openly supported President Obama’s election. Davidson has worked as a lobbyist for the Green Energy industry and ran in 2008 on a platform of more mandated green energy.

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