Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 28, 2017

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 28, 2017

August 28, 1929 saw Governor Lamartine Hardman sign a Constitutional Amendment authorizing the levy of a state income tax.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream Speech” on the Mall in Washington, DC.

An obscure college professor named Newt Gingrich began his political career on August 28, 1976, as he kicked off his first campaign against Congressman Jack Flynt.

Old Newt Pic

On August 28, 2008, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the accreditation of the Clayton County Public Schools. Later that day, Governor Sonny Perdue removed four members of the Clayton County Board of Education upon the recommendation of an administrative law judge.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today at 10 AM, on the 54th Anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, Gov. Nathan Deal will unveil an 8-foot statue on the Capitol grounds.

Click here to watch the unveiling live at 10 AM.

State Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), who led the fundraising effort for the statute, spoke to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

For three years, State Rep. Calvin Smyre worked on plans for a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to be erected at the Georgia State Capitol.

At 10 a.m. Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal and his wife, Sandra, will unveil the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Statue in commemoration of the 54th Anniversary of King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. Other confirmed participants will include Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Speaker David Ralston and representatives from the King family.

“I’m thrilled and I’m happy to have played a role in getting us to this juncture and I’m looking forward to the unveiling,” Smyre said Sunday in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “King was a man who was known throughout the world. And as a native son, he inspired a nation and world with his message and vision of peace and nonviolence.”

“We have a birthday recognition of Dr. King and his works, his legacy and his life,” he said. “We have a statue in our nation’s capital memorializing Dr. King. So I think it’s more than fitting to have a statue on the capitol grounds of one of the most known native Georgians in the world.”

The historic project began in April of 2014 when Deal signed a bill authorizing placement of a statue honoring King at the state capitol.

In March of 2015, the governor signed an executive order appointing Smyre as the chief liaison for fund-raising efforts to create and erect the statue. Smyre’s duties included serving as the liaison between the state, the King Estate, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council and the Georgia Arts Standards Commission.

“Now, we’ll have two individuals from Georgia with Nobel Peace prizes on the state capitol grounds — President Carter and now Martin Luther King,” he said. “I do think this will be a great day in the history of our state and our nation. The King statue, in my opinion, will inspire and give hope to generations to come.”

On Friday, Gov. Deal made a number of appointments, including DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond to the Stone Mountain Memorial Association Board, reappointing Rep. Smyre to the Capitol Arts Standards Commission, and three appointments to the Board of Community Health.

Alabamians carried the Confederate battle flag to the Columbus memorial to the Confederate dead.

[N]ine young men from Smiths Station, Ala., converged on a Columbus memorial to the Civil War dead Saturday in the 700 block of Broadway.

Keith Porter said the group from Smiths Station was at the monument to support Southern heritage. “We are against racism,” he said.

Residents in the Historic District paid little attention to the men while they waved their flags and climbed atop the monument.

Republican candidates for Governor addressed the issue at the 8th District Georgia Republican Party Fish Fry in Perry on Saturday.

Junior U.S. Senator David Perdue says after hearing from the people, the majority believe local communities should decide on whether or not to keep the statues.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp says we can’t run from our history; we have to learn from it. He believes not keeping our history in front of us is a big mistake.

State Senator Hunter Hill says we don’t need to focus on this issue.

“Liberals are attempting to divide us on that issue. I’m not for taking them down. What I am for is moving Georgia forward,” said Hill.

“I’d say where does it end? If we start blowing up Stone Mountain, start destroying all of these monuments, what’s next? The Washington monument? Jefferson memorial? There’s got to be a point in time where we say ‘look it’s our past, let’s stop focusing so much on the past and look to the future,’” said State Senator Michael Williams.

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle says the statues will not be taken down if he becomes governor.

“It’s there really as a symbol of what was right and what was wrong to where we learn from history in a path that helps us make sure that we don’t repeat the bad mistakes but we are also able to help in the good things that we learned from in the past,” said Cagle.

Democratic State Rep. Vernon Jones (DeKalb) proposes a statewide commission to address monuments.

Georgia would create a new commission to conduct a “bipartisan, systematic and transparent study” of the state’s historic monuments under legislation to be introduced by a DeKalb Democrat spurred by the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va.

State Rep. Vernon Jones said the panel would hold statewide hearings and then make recommendations about monument placement and the possibility of adding new statues. The review could include the more than 100 Confederate monuments scattered across the state.

“Hysteria and knee jerk reactions are not the solution. Sensitive subjects such as this deserve calm, practical and open dialogue,” said Jones, a former DeKalb chief executive. “A house divided cannot stand, and Georgians must show the nation that we can unite for the greater good.”

US Senator David Perdue spoke to the Gainesville Times about his immigration proposal.

In the RAISE Act, immigrants are awarded points for their income, savings, job skills, ability to speak English and other factors. Perdue said the proposal was modeled on the immigration systems of several countries, especially those in Canada and Australia.

Unlike the “Gang of Eight,” the group of senators who tried and failed to hammer out comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, Perdue’s legislation has a narrow scope, he explained to The Times.

“The traditional approach has been: We want to solve this thing in a comprehensive, sweeping, Washington-type solution,” Perdue said. “They always start with amnesty and illegals and never get to the real parts that affect the economy in a big way.”

“One out of 15 people that come into the United States come in without any skills that can (get them) work,” Perdue said. “That leads to the fact that today over half of the immigrant households in America are in the welfare system. Now, that’s not what you want. You don’t want to bring people in and deny them an opportunity to achieve the American dream. You want people who can come in and improve the economy.”

“If a worker comes in and gets a green card, they can bring their immediate family and their extended family, and what we did is we brought it back, like most other countries do, to the immediate family,” Perdue said.

The RAISE Act would end this practice and reduce the number of immigrants in general. If the bill becomes law, legal immigration would be cut in half in the next 10 years.

“The legal immigration side, to put it in perspective, we bring 1.1 million people in a year and give green cards to them. In five years, they become citizens,” Perdue said. “… that 1.1 million is about twice our 100-year historic average.”

Green cards would be limited to about 50,000 each year within the law while prioritizing high-skilled immigrants. Those two factors together are intended to benefit Americans earning the least amount of money.

“The intent of this, in all due candor, is to try to get more skilled workers in here, higher-skilled workers,” Perdue said. “Frankly, if you look at the last 40 years, skilled-worker compensation has risen. Low-skilled or non-skilled compensation has actually declined. We’ve had a growing gap in earning of those two groups.”

It’s a very thorough article, well worth reading in its entirety.

Perdue also gave the keynote address at the GOP Fish Fry.

“In unity there is strength,” Perdue said from the podium. “The Republican party is not united behind our president and we can change that.”

Pointing out that Donald Trump is “nobody’s choir boy,” Georgia’s junior senator likened the president to Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt as “men of destiny at a point of crisis in their countries.”

The senator’s cousin, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who fathered the annual fish fry while he was governor, joined the gathering after taking a “cabinet call” with the president about Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Texas and the nation.

“It was pretty solemn. There’s a lot of water,” Sonny Perdue told The Telegraph in a private interview. “Kind of reminds me of Alberto in 1994. We know how devastating that can be.”

“The battle is not over with the other side getting more aggressive in pushing their socialist agenda,” said Sonny Perdue, who was happy to return to see so many friends in his home county of Houston.

“It’s a warm feeling for me,” Sonny Perdue told The Telegraph.

Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-LaGrange) upped the ante on rural broadband access.

“It is the REA of our time,” he said, comparing broadband to the federal Rural Electrification Act.

The Republican congressman spoke to members of the Three Rivers Regional Commission – comprised of leaders from 10 counties – on Thursday at the A&O Bridges Community Center in Sharpsburg.

The Rural Electrification Act, passed in 1936, was designed to spur the stringing of electrical lines and creation of generating systems so that all Americans would have electricity. It worked.

Now, Ferguson says, the time has come to do the same with broadband. Broadband not only enables individuals to connect with information and entertainment, it also brings economic opportunity.

Ferguson noted Georgians outside the Atlanta area often feel all economic growth goes to Atlanta. “The company is going to go where it wants to go,” Ferguson said, and state economic development leaders generally just want to make sure the company comes to Georgia rather than another state.

He also said, “That economic engine, metro Atlanta, is going to continue to grow.” Then he asked, “How do we harness that power?”

The answer, Ferguson suggested, is expanding rural broadband access.

“Our communities need it. Our state needs it, and our nation needs it,” Ferguson said.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, new Director of the CDC, spoke in Carrollton.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is fighting a national battle against opioid addiction, and its researchers are seeing patterns in the problem and revamping drug monitoring procedures.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC, said in Carrollton on Thursday that people would be amazed at the number of opioids that are available, and cited Macon as an example of what can happen in a Georgia community if the problem is not controlled.

“You may have heard about the fake opioid outbreak in Macon,” she said. “The total result of those opioids has been a dramatic increase in opioid deaths, and that was something that we really didn’t think about. For every one person that had an opioid death, there over 100 that are already addicted and are likely to have a death. And there are 659 who are using some painkiller and may get addicted. So what the CDC has done — and needs to do more of — is to come up with some recommendations.”

“That’s the reason for prescription drug overdose,” said Fitzgerald. “We really have a pattern of giving painkillers, rather than just really being cognizant and aware of it. So that’s one thing that we’ve come up with: some recommendations and working with the private sector about pain medication.”

“The Legislature this past year just put a prescription drug monitoring program in public health in Georgia. Before then, it had been very cumbersome to use,” she said. “The reality was in Georgia, the prescription drug program, as it was sitting, was being used sort of as a ‘find bad people mechanism,’ and only 10 percent of the doctors in Georgia were even signed up to use it. Only 10 percent — and it didn’t have any clinical alerts.

Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton is stepping down and former Gwinnett County Administrator Jock Connell will serve as Interim County Administrator.

Connell previously worked as interim administrator in 2011, when he was brought in after Charley Nix was forced to resign from Hall County’s top job.

Connell spent more than 23 years working for Gwinnett County as the area’s economy and population exploded, growing from a community of less than 300,000 people to more than 1 million today.

Hall County commissioners said Connell has the needed experience to manage their government as the area sees its own population and economic booms.

“We’re one of the fastest-growing communities in the country and live next door to two of the fastest-growing,” said Commissioner Scott Gibbs, who offered the motion to hire Connell.

Commission Chairman Richard Higgins said they needed “somebody who knows the pitfalls” of the rapid growth in Gwinnett.

Norcross City Council member Craig Newton will be the next Mayor of Norcross, having qualified unopposed.

Newton was the only person who qualified to run for mayor this week since the seat’s current occupant, Bucky Johnson, decided to not run for a sixth term. That means he will automatically become Norcross’ new leader.

It will be the second time in his political career that Newton, who was Norcross’ first African-American councilman, will make history. Gwinnett political observers and officials with the Gwinnett Historical Society couldn’t recall any city in the county ever having an African-American mayor before.

“After serving several terms as a city council member, I am both honored and humbled that our citizens have given me the opportunity to serve as the next mayor of Norcross in 2018,” Newton wrote on his Facebook page on Friday. “With your continued support and with God’s guidance, we will continue to make Norcross a great city for all to live, work and play.”

No new candidates signed up on Friday to run for offices in Auburn and Norcross, the only cities in Gwinnett whose candidate qualifying periods went until the end of the week.

In Auburn, that means no election may be needed, unless a special issue that needs a public vote comes up. In Norcross, it means voters will have to chose two new councilmen to accompany their new mayor.

State Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) retains the gavel as Chair of the House Energy & Environment Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference.

Rep. Smith is the first and only woman to chair of this committee and also serves as an ex-officio member of association’s Executive Committee. The association is made up of lawmakers from 15 Southern states.

“I am honored to serve a second term as chair of this important committee,” she said. “I will continue to use this role to highlight Georgia’s diverse energy portfolio and successful stewardship of natural resources, while also providing a platform for the exchange of innovative policy practices among Southern lawmakers.”

Three candidates will seek the State House seat being vacated by Regina Quick, who was appointed to a judgeship.

The candidates for Quick’s seat in the Legislature include Watkinsville lawyer Doug McKillip, who had held the seat before Quick, but was ousted by voters in 2012 when he switched parties from Democratic to Republican after the legislators redrew district lines. That changed the formerly Democratic Party-leaning district into one with more Republican voters.

Houston Gaines of Athens, a graduate of Athens Academy and the University of Georgia, is also running as a Republican. Gaines was president of the UGA Student government Association in 2015-2016 and is the grandson of the late Judge Joseph Gaines of Athens.

His supporters include Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson — Gaines was her campaign manager in her 2014 re-election bid — and Oconee County Commission Chairman John Daniell.

Athens lawyer Deborah Gonzalez is the only Democratic candidate so far. She announced in June, citing jobs, economic opportunity and education as top issues for her campaign.

The three will face off in a special election Nov. 7, conducted without party primaries. If there is no outright winner, the top two vote-getters will face off in a runoff Dec. 5.

District 117 encompasses parts of Clarke, Barrow and Oconee counties, but the largest area is in Jackson County.

2018 Elections

Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) resigned her state house seat, triggering a special election.

Democrat Stacey Abrams resigned her state House seat this week to focus on her run for governor, setting up a likely special election in November to represent her Atlanta-based district.

In her resignation letter to Gov. Nathan Deal, she thanked her constituents, the governor’s administration, House Speaker David Ralston and other members of the Legislature.

“Both in our work together and the lessons from our conflicts, we have demonstrated the importance of our system of government, to often put aside partisanship to work towards a better future and to learn from one another, despite our differences,” she wrote of her colleagues in the General Assembly.

Abrams, who earlier stepped down from her post as the chamber’s Minority Leader, faces state Rep. Stacey Evans in next year’s Democratic primary. It’s unclear if Evans will resign to focus on her campaign.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) previewed a couple of issues in the 2018 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

On Thursday, Cagle brought out the specifics of what he’ll pursue in the Capitol come January. He wants:— A sales tax exemption on equipment used to install fiber optic cable that would apply to Georgia counties lacking broadband capacity. Twenty-three states already have something like it.

— Expedited permitting for the use of public rights-of-way.

— A public-private partnership law that would allow local governments to partner with local firms on Internet expansion projects. The same effort would be intended to encourage private companies to consider broadcasting broadband internet over unused “white space” channels of the television spectrum — a technique currently being explored by Microsoft.

— An expanded Georgia Technology Authority that would be tasked with coordinating the expansion effort. That could include a project being contemplated by the state Department of Transportation, to lay broadband trunk lines along Georgia’s interstates that could be leased by private companies.

But the eye-opener in Cagle’s plans is this: The GTA would be “directed and funded” to monitor speed and reliability of existing broadband in rural counties. Georgia would have an Internet cop.

Earlier this year, on the final day of the 2017 session, House Bill 159, the first re-write of Georgia adoption law in 19 years, stalled in the Senate. At issue was an amendment to offer legal protection to taxpayer-funded child placement agencies that refused to work with same-sex or other couples due to religious convictions.

Cagle expects passage of the adoption measure early in the session.

“I expect the committee to do its job and vet the legislation. I don’t expect the Senate to adopt a bill that they have not vetted,” Cagle said. Senate fingerprints are to be expected, but “ by and large the bill seems to be good,” the lieutenant governor said.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, running for Governor, rolled out a new round of endorsements.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp picked up a trio of endorsements on Friday, landing the support of Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, former Rep. Bob Barr and Athens media personality Barbara Dooley.

The three each called him a hard-working candidate with a conservative track record who is the right fit to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal. Dooley and her husband, former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, will also hold a Sept. 14 fundraiser for Kemp in Athens.

Vance Dean of Adel will challenge Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) in the Republican Primary.

Dean, who sells commercial real estate, made news in telling the crowd he will soon be announcing his primary challenge against Scott.

“I’m just tired of excuses, people telling us one thing and doing another,” Dean said.

Gwinnett County Planning Commissioner Paula Hastings will run for the State House seat being vacated by Buzz Brockway.

Paula Hastings announced this week that she will run as a Republican for Brockway’s House District 102 seat. Brockway has chosen to run for secretary of state next year rather than seek re-election to the state legislature, therefore creating an open seat in the House of Representatives.

“This community has been fortunate to be represented by Buzz Brockway,” Hastings said in her campaign announcement. “Now that he has chosen to run for secretary of state, I am ready to continue my long track record of grassroots leadership and service in the community to ensure that we continue to have the very best representation and a conservative voice at the State Capitol. Our families deserve no less.

“I feel strongly that this district must continue to be represented and protected by someone that has a deep, hands-on connection. I have an unquestioned and unmatched record of serving and protecting this community — of providing a voice for homeowners, parents, schools and taxpayers, all with the goal of ensuring that this remains a world-class community for our kids now and for them to return in the future. I have the record needed to advocate for our district at the State Capitol.”

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul will run for reelection against challenger David Crim.

Qualifying ended at noon Friday, and the office of mayor and the District 4 seat on the City Council will each have two candidates vying to win over the hearts and minds of their prospective constituents.

Incumbent Mayor Rusty Paul, who is seeking a second, four-year term, will be challenged by David Crim.

Two candidates — Le’Dor Milteer and Jody Reichel — have qualified to seek the District 4 seat held by incumbent City Councilman Gabriel Sterling, who is not running for re-election to the post.

Johns Creek candidates for the City Council seat being vacated by Cori Davenport now number four.

Trey Holladay, a local entrepreneur and homeowners association president, officially qualified for City Council Post 3 on the Johns Creek City Council.

Holladay qualified for the seat held by incumbent Cori Davenport, who decided not to seek re-election. He faces a crowded field, as fellow contenders Vicki Horton, John Bradberry and Mark Venco all qualified to run in the race.

Dallas City Council member Chris Carter drew a challenger in the November contest.

Terry David Johnson qualified this week for the Dallas City Council’s Ward One seat. He wil challenge Carter, who qualified to seek a second full term.

Others who qualified for Dallas council seats up for election this year include incumbents Nancy Rakestraw Arnold for her at-large council seat; and Griffin White for his Ward 3 seat. They will be unopposed in the Nov. 7 city election.

Roswell has a full slate of contested elections for Mayor and City Council.

Office of Mayor
Michael Litten
Lori Henry
Donald J. Horton
Sandra Sidhom
Lee Jenkins

City Council Post 4
Marie Willsey
Andrew Leonardi
Meg M. McClanahan

City Council Post 5
Keith Goeke
Matthew C. Tyser

City Council Post 6
Matt Judy
Karen Parrish
Gus Hadorn

Shafer Steamrolls Straw Polls

Four straw polls were held at GOP events this weekend, with Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) taking first place by wide margins in the three that included the Lt. Governor race. Each straw poll of the gubernatorial race yielded a different winner, but Shafer stands undefeated in the meaningless highly predictive straw polls.

The Eighth Congressional District GOP Fish Fry (with over 1,000 attendees) polled the races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor:

Governor
Casey Cagle 37%
Brian Kemp 34%
Hunter Hill 19%
Michael Williams 6%
Marc Urbach 3%
Write In 1%

Lieutenant Governor
David Shafer 62%
Geoff Duncan 20%
Rick Jeffares 15%
Rick Knox 3%
Write In 1%

The Barrow County Republican Party BBQ polled only the race for Governor.

Governor
Brian Kemp 49%
Hunter Hill 29%
Casey Cagle 8%
Michael Williams 6%
Marc Urbach 0%

The Georgia Association of College Republicans Leadership Conference polled the races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State.

Governor
Hunter Hill 54%
Brian Kemp 23%
Casey Cagle 23%
Michael Williams 0%

Lieutenant Governor
David Shafer 54%
Geoff Duncan 38%
Rick Jeffares 8%

Secretary of State
Buzz Brockway 54%
Josh McKoon 38%
David Belle Isle 8%
Brad Raffensperger 0%

Separately, the Georgia Association of College Republicans held an online straw poll, opening up voting to all followers of their Twitter feed.

Governor
Michael Williams 41%
Hunter Hill 33%
Brian Kemp 17%
Casey Cagle 9%

Lieutenant Governor
David Shafer 68%
Geoff Duncan 26%
Rick Jeffares 6%

Secretary of State
Josh McKoon 43%
Buzz Brockway 38%
David Belle Isle 14%
Brad Raffensperger 4%

Nuke Notes

Georgia Power continues to explore the future of two new reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle.

After a tumultuous spring, the Vogtle expansion is at a crossroads. Its main contractor, Westinghouse Electric Company, declared bankruptcy in late March. That led to utility companies in South Carolina abandoning the partially built twin project at the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant near Columbia. SCANA, which has already sunk billions into those reactors, is allowing lawmakers to review the situation but has stood by its decision to walk away.

At Vogtle, Georgia Power agreed to a $3.68 billion payout from Westinghouse to become the main contractor on the project, allowing it to continue for now.

But as construction goes on to the tune of $50 million a month for Georgia Power — a 45.7 percent owner of the expansion — the utility is weighing its next steps. It expects to complete its assessment of how much more time and money it will take to complete Vogtle by the end of the month. It will also come up with a cancellation cost assessment by that time.

For its part, the Georgia Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, wants Vogtle to be completed.

“This vote today sends a message to the company, the company’s partners, ratepayers, and Wall Street that the commission continues to be supportive of this project provided it can be done economically. This information will help us in deciding the appropriateness of whether this project should go forward or not go forward,” said Chairman Stan Wise.

Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott views it similarly. Scott was a state senator when Vogtle units 1 and 2 were constructed. That project also had enormous cost overruns and delays. Both projects were already underway when nuclear power plant disasters occurred elsewhere, at Three Mile Island for the original project and at Fukushima for units 3 and 4. For Scott, it’s a bit of deja vu.

Ultimately the state benefited from Vogtle, he said. He expects it will again, though it may be a benefit for his grandchildren’s generation not his own.

Scott based his optimism in part on the assurance that the new units already are at least 65 percent complete.

“It’s equivalent to if you were building a house and it was 65 to 70 percent complete and you just walk away. What would that benefit?” Scott asked.

Duke Energy Corp. pulled the plug on its construction of a new nuclear plant in South Carolina.

Duke Energy Corp. said it wants to cancel a planned nuclear plant in South Carolina, according to a published report, citing the bankruptcy of a key contractor that has also bedeviled Georgia’s Plant Vogtle project.

In filings to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the Charlotte, N.C., utility requested approval to cancel the project and a rate hike to recover $368 million spent on planning and early construction work, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

The utility said it cannot cancel the project without the agency’s approval.

Duke’s move follows the decision late last month by two utilities, SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper, to pull the plug on a South Carolina nuclear project because of rising costs and the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the supplier of the nuclear reactors.

All three projects were to use Westinghouse’s AP-1000 reactors.

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