Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 12, 2012


Dixie is an 8-10 month old Black Lab mix who is friendly and playful. Apparently she also has inexpensive taste in toys. She is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The final tally in Senate District Six puts Republican Hunter Hill over incumbent Democrat Doug Stoner by a 64-36 margin, up from earlier reports of a closer 52-48. The difference came in provisional ballots from Fulton County and demonstrate the depth of the problems with the Fulton County Board of Elections.

[Secretary of State Brian] Kemp’s office is investigating more than 100 complaints that could have Fulton in front of the State Election Board for months, possibly resulting in fines. At least two county commissioners also have called for audits of the Registration and Elections Department.

Kemp has also said that, as a result of Fulton’s “debacle” on Tuesday, he will seek changes to state law next year that would, in the case of mismanagement, allow him to intervene in a county’s election process.

Remember, Fulton County Board of Elections, the first step is admitting the problem:

The leaders of Fulton County’s elections department have yet to acknowledge what may have been Tuesday’s biggest blunder, that they were still printing voter lists and delivering them to precincts hours after polls opened.

That could have caused of much of voters’ frustration, such as long waits and an inordinate number of paper ballots cast unnecessarily. Such mismanagement may have disenfranchised scores of registered voters, with misinformation causing slow-moving lines and confusion about whether to stick it out at the polls.

In a report to her bosses Saturday, elections Interim Director Sharon Mitchell didn’t broach allegations by the secretary of state’s office that her department was still printing lists at 10 a.m. She declined interview requests after the meeting, and a spokeswoman issued a statement saying the department won’t answer questions until it does “a review and analysis of everything related to the general election.”

“They’re protecting their posteriors,” said Sandy Springs poll manager Sally FitzGerald, who in e-mail Saturday to Mitchell and the state said the Fulton elections main office needs to “look in the mirror” and stop blaming part-time workers for missteps.

At issue is not only the integrity of Fulton’s elections process, but also whether the state’s largest county has an elections department — budgeted at almost $9 million this year — capable of accommodating every voter.

Dahlonega, GA honored our veterans with wreaths at the old Courthouse and flags throughout town.

Some Conservative activists and Tea Partiers think that Mitt Romney’s problem was that he’s too moderate.

In a Washington news conference the day after the election, longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie argued that Romney had no core conservative principles, and flatly stated, “The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Robin Abcarian writes that Viguerie called for the resignation of the entire GOP leadership for its “epic election failure of 2012.” He singled out RNC chair Reince Priebus, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority LeaderMitch McConnell. And that wasn’t all:

“In any logical universe,” Viguerie “establishment Republican consultants such as Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and Romney campaign senior advisors Stuart Stevens and Neil Newhouse would never be hired to run or consult on a national campaign again and no one would give a dime to their ineffective ‘super PACs.’”

Also attending the news conference was Jenny Beth Martin, the national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. Like Viguerie, she wasn’t happy:

“What we got was a weak moderate candidate handpicked by the Beltway elites and country-club establishment wing of the Republican Party. The presidential loss is unequivocally on them,” she said.

Not everyone on the right buys that argument. According to Abcarian’s article, conservative columnist Michael Barone “told an audience at Hillsdale College’s center in Washington that the tea party, while bringing some talented politicians to the fore, also brought some ‘wackos and weirdos and witches.’” Barone singled out Todd Akin, the unsuccessful GOP Senate candidate in Missouri, and Richard Mourdock, who performed the same role in Indiana.

In trying to determine what exactly happened to the Republican Party, focusing on the Tea Party may be missing the bigger point: the changing demographics of the country. Obama won women by 11 points. He took 71 percent of Latinos, 73 percent of Asians, 93 percent of blacks. Sixty percent of voters under 30. Once upon a time, winning the white vote by a 61-39 percentage — as Romney did — would be enough for victory. Those days may be gone. The great strides the Republican Party made in the midterm election of 2010 were not repeated in the national election of 2012.

Apparently SuperPACs aren’t a great investment. Maybe I’ll be able to pick one up inexpensively in the Thanksgiving sales.

the Sunlight Foundation calculated the return on these investments, at least on the contributions that have been disclosed. They found that a lot of the really big, much lauded superPACs kinda “fell flat on their faces,” he says.

Exhibit A might be the American Crossroads organization, with strategist Karl Rove, among others, at the helm. The superPAC backed seven losing candidates and just two winners.

The social welfare advocacy group Crossroads GPS did slightly better: 19 losers and 7 winners. Spending by the two groups totaled about $277 million.

Gwinnett County

The head of a citizen watchdog group has questioned whether that’s a legal use of tax money collected for education. She’s also challenged how it was done — largely out of public view.

The school system has given Partnership Gwinnett, an arm of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, $900,000, or $150,000 a year since 2007. The money helps pay the salaries of two partnership employees who work to recruit new business to the county and who, school system officials contend, bring in a return in property taxes that far outweighs the investment.

State School Superintendent John Barge asked Attorney General Sam Olens to weigh, in based on the watchdog’s complaint and a state auditor’s assessment that the spending might not be legal.

In a letter to Barge’s office, Rick Cost, the school system’s chief financial officer, said the use of school tax money for the chamber’s work is “based on both the Constitution and practical experience.”

His letter specifically cites an amendment to the state Constitution, approved by voters in November 2008, that authorizes groups, including local boards of education “to use tax funds for redevelopment purposes and programs.

He says the money to the chamber “is no different than payments to other companies who provide services, such as financial advisors, investment managers, computer programmers, custodians, groundskeepers, etc..

“We are confident that any objective review of the facts will lead to a … conclusion that the expenditures in question are legal, justified and proper.”

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly often partnered with developer David Jenkins with ten projects in which both had an interest coming before the County government for rezonings; on at least six occasions recused himself from voting on projects in which he and Jenkins both had financial interests.

An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found 10 real estate deals in which both men had a financial stake while Kenerly sat on the commission. The law requires commissioners to disclose their financial interest in certain matters that come before them, and Kenerly did so — and abstained from voting — in most cases, records show. But he voted yes on at least 10 rezoning cases that Jenkins brought before the commission.

The fact that the two men were so closely connected underscores how the lines between business and government have often blurred in Gwinnett. In the earliest days of the county’s boom, real estate developers literally ran the place; later, the county commission often seemed to be little more than a cheering section for the land barons who built the county.

For six of the rezonings, the AJC unearthed letters from Kenerly in the county’s custody, in which Kenerly disclosed that he had a financial interest. The letters weren’t all kept in the same county office — the result of a staff change in the county clerk’s office, county officials said. In four of those cases, Kenerly’s letters were in the county planning department’s rezoning files for the projects. In two others, they were filed with the county clerk’s office.

All six occurred between 2000 and 2004, and Kenerly did not vote on any of them, county records show.

Chief Magistrate Judge George Hutchinson, III was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to the Gwinnett County Superior Court to fill the seat vacated by Judge Billy Ray’s elevation to the Court of Appeals.

County Commissioners will not re-sign a contract to involve outside lobbyists in representing the county government before the legislature, instead lobbying legislators themselves.

Board members voted this week to reject a $118,752 lobbying and governmental affairs contract….

Susan Lee, the county’s legislative liaison, said the lobbyists have proved beneficial in recent years, citing one example of legislation involving pre-paid wireless fees which netted the county $572,000 in fees through June this year.

“We had a healthy return on our investment for these lobbying ventures,” Lee said when presenting the proposed contract to commissioners.

Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, who voted against the change, said the county may regret cutting out the expense of lobbyists, when their work has not only benefitted the county budget in the past but has also saved the government from costly legislation.

“I think this would be very short-sighted,” said Beaudreau, who will leave his post before the next session of the Georgia General Assembly begins in January. “Our presence is not always warmly received.”

County Clerk of Courts Richard Alexander (R) won his reelection campaign over Democrat challenger Brian Whiteside, despite allegations of an affair.

All three incumbents on the Gwinnett County School Board were reelected, including Louise Radloff who switched to the Democratic Party earlier this year.

The Headline of the Day comes from the Gwinnett Daily Post: Snellville residents, council hash out dam issue.

More than three hundred athletes tried out for the new Gwinnett-based Atlanta Steam, a franchise in the Lingerie Football League.

Once assembled, the Steam will clash with the likes of the Green Bay Chill, Seattle Mist and Philadelphia Passion. The league operates 12 teams across the United States, with plans to launch others in Australia and Europe, Mortaza said.

Beyond the minimal clothing, the LFL game differs from that of its male counterparts. The seven-versus-seven playing style is full-contact, but the field is 50 yards, with no field goals or punts. Above the sports bras, players wear sleek shoulder pads and hockey-style helmets, with clear visors where facemasks would be.

Georgia

Ringgold, GA also honors our veterans with wreaths at the old Catoosa County Courthouse and throughout the town.

Republicans interested in our path forward in Georgia should pay attention to Walter Jones of Morris News Service, who has more analysis of Georgia Republicans’ reactions to last Tuesday night.

Coping with the new demographic reality that Republicans can no longer ignore could change what legislation advances in the next session of the General Assembly.

The new reality includes the realization that demographic forces are squeezing out whites. Most observers credit the population sea change with Democrats’ success in the race for the presidency and Congress in a year when economics and an unpopular health law suggested they would do much worse.

In Georgia, Republicans picked up some legislative seats, just barely crossing the two-thirds, supermajority threshold in the Senate but falling one vote shy in the House. Controlling a supermajority in both chambers would mean never having to negotiate with Democrats to pass anything, including constitutional amendments or veto overrides.

“This election was never about any particular numerical goal,” Ralston said.

Ironically, without the need to pick up Democratic votes, it becomes easier for Republicans to pass bills these groups view as antagonistic to them.

Whether or not the Georgia leaders get a full, legislative supermajority, the national party has lost two presidential elections in a row and failed to take the U.S. Senate that was so nearly theirs. That’s a sobering reality that something isn’t working, Ralston said.

Rep. Stacey Abrams, the House Democratic leader from Atlanta, said if given the job of political consultant for the Republicans, she would advise cooling it with legislation designed to thwart people. Stopping activities after people become accustomed to them isn’t going to be popular with those folks.

“Winning in the 21st Century requires a broad coalition and has to be respectful of age, gender and ethnicity,” she said.

Abrams, who makes a living as a tax attorney, says it’s when ideology overcomes dispassionate pragmatism that gets the Grand Old Party into trouble.

“I think by and large, ideology has very little place in politics,” she said.

The majority of voters want to see government solve problems rather than influence behaviors, she argues. Besides, it’s impossible to find an ideology that a majority will support, she said.

“I can’t find two who believe the same thing, much less 9.8 million Georgians,” she said.

“We’re going to have to have some serious discussions about where we’re going to go as a party,” [Ralston] said.

The House GOP caucus assembles Monday at 10 a.m. to elect officers for the next two years, and it’s certain what the No. 1 topic will be now that last week’s election returns have demonstrated that 2008 was the start of a trend fueled by a demographic tsunami that will soon sweep over Georgia.

“We’re either going to keep up with it as a party, or we’re not,” Ralston said. “If the result is that we’re not, then we won’t be in power very long.”

Governor Deal elevated Cobb State Court Judge Robert Leonard II to Cobb County Superior Court and appointed Atlantic Circuit Juvenile Court Judge C. Jean Bolin to McIntosh County State Court.

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus is joining a lawsuit over the Charter School Amendment.

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus will join a lawsuit an Atlanta pastor filed against Gov. Nathan Deal on Oct. 29, which argues that the wording on the Nov. 6 ballot misrepresented the nature of the amendment, according to state Sen. Emanuel Jones, the chairman of the caucus.

“People did not know what they were voting for,” Jones said. “Nowhere does it mention forming a committee approved by the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House to approve charter schools.”

The preamble to the ballot question stated that the amendment “provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.”

Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, will be a boon to the university as it works to impact global issues, Underwood said. Currently, Mercer is operating water purification projects in Africa and is rebuilding a school destroyed by civil war in Liberia.

As for the most recent news that has captivated the globe — Tuesday’s presidential election — Carter said he voted for Obama.

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