Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 23, 2013 – The “Dixie Chicken Edition”

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29761 (male, top), 29762 (male, second), and 29763 (female, third) are white Lab mix puppies who are available for adoption beginning Friday from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

It’s a crisis situation at many animal shelters across the state as new dogs, puppies, cats and kittens are brought it. If you’ve been considering adopting or fostering, today is the day.

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Gwinnett2965529655 is a black, middle-aged Lab mix. Just old enough to start mellowing, but with his best years ahead, if someone will rescue or foster him. He’s available today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

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The six puppies above were found outside, alone, in the freezing cold this week. They are at the Murray County Animal Shelter and need immediate foster or rescue, or they will be euthanized on Friday in the pre-dawn hours.

MurrayThreeBoxerPuppiesThese three boxer-mix puppies are bouncy fun, and are also in need of immediate foster or rescue from Murray County Animal Shelter.

Shane Wilson lost a leg in a motorcycle crash five years ago, and more recently, he lost his service dog, Lucy, when she jumped out of the bed of his pickup truck. Lesson one: dogs don’t belong in pickup truck beds when underway. Some folks found her roadside near a Cracker Barrel and returned her. Lesson two: always keep dog treats handy.

The friends were getting breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Commerce when they saw Lucy. They walked down the exit ramp to get to her.

“We pulled out the treats and she just let me put the leash around her neck,” Davis said.

When Scoggins called him to say that she found Lucy, he was leery because he has had so many false hopes over the past six days.

Wilson told Scoggins to hold a dog treat up and say “Lucy, speak.” She did and Lucy barked. “I heard her bark and I said I’m on the way and I kind of hung up on her,” Wilson said.

“He was so happy, he was hysterical,” Davis said. “He immediately knew and said ‘stay right there, I’m coming’.”

The Exchange Club of Albany will hold its first AKC Southern Heritage Hunt & Show, which is open to all coonhounds and their owners, after a national coonhound event held in Albany for twenty-five years, was moved to Mississippi.

Both the dog show and hunt are “world qualifying,” AKC officials state, with winners cleared to move forward to the World Hunt Championship or 2013 World Show.

While secondary to the main attractions, there will be an aspect to the show, Brown said, that was not included for the UKC events: Malaysian Semara chickens. According to Brown, the birds are small — less than 19 ounces — colorful and they “kind of strut” when they walk.

Here’s your morning music treat.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The Special Election runoff in Senate District 11 in the lower-left hand corner of Georgia is taking a turn for the nasty. Jim Galloway notes that abortion has become an issue in the contest:

Over the long weekend, Georgia Right to Life dipped into the race with an email that included this:

“Dr. Dean Burke has not been endorsed by the Georgia Right to Life PAC or the National Right to Life Committee PAC. The NRLC PAC does not make state endorsements and its state affiliate – GRTL PAC – has only endorsed Mr. Keown. Any claims to the contrary are false.”

Political consultant Mark Rountree, working for Burke, says there’s no substantive difference between the two candidates on the issue of abortion. Local conversation, he says, has focused more on the $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. Burke has pledged support for that limit, Rountree said, while Keown has not.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet, anonymous cowards are suggesting that Burke is an abortionist and appear willing to lie to make the hit stick. It now appears to be the case that in Georgia Republican politics, an OB/GYN will always be labeled an abortionist whether it’s true or not. Just ask Dr. Carla Roberts.

Republican Scot Turner, who came in first with more than 48% of votes cast in the Special Election for House District 21, met political consultant Brian Laurens in a debate, and Turner claims victory.

“I feel confident that the voters in HD 21 saw a clear difference between the two candidates for this race tonight. As candidates, we have a very important obligation to present our values, understanding, and plans to fix what is broken in state government. I provided a message to the voters assembled with the clear choice to reform our ethics laws, implement economically-friendly tax reforms, and return the legislature to the citizens of Georgia with term limits. Those who participated in this public debate responded with overwhelming support, and I’m humbled by those responses.

“The serious issues facing our state and county all revolve around a cornerstone issue: fixing our broken government. On the one hand, my opponent gave his view of government, which maintains the status quo. I gave voters a vision for the future; a future where government serves the people and not special interests.”

Incidentally, today is Scot Turner’s birthday. You can wish him a happy one by donating online to his campaign, as long as you are a Georgia resident or business and not a lobbyist or PAC.

Another way of wishing him a happy birthday, if you live in House District 21, is to go vote early today in the February 5th runoff. As of yesterday morning, only 28 early votes had been cast.

“It’s extremely slow,” [Election Supervisor Janet] Munda added. “It looks like we may hit five percent this time.”

Munda was referring to the projection she originally predicted for the Jan. 8 special election for both the House and the Georgia Senate District 21 seats. The county ended up seeing a 10 percent turnout for that election.

Voters in the run-off will choose between Republican candidates Scot Turner and Brian Laurens, who came in first and second respectively in the January special election for the house seat.

Early voting started last Wednesday and will continue Monday through Friday through Feb. 1.

Voters who reside in the district, which encompasses Holly Springs, portions of BridgeMill, south Canton and parts of southeast Cherokee, can cast ballots between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Albert L. Stone Elections Building at 400 East Main Street in Canton.

No voting will be held on Monday Feb. 4, and voters in the district will cast their ballots at 11 precincts in the district on Feb. 5.

The Bainbridge City Council seat vacated by Dean Burke in order to run for Senate District 11 in the Special Election Runoff on February 5th will remain vacant until November 5th, when it is filled along with two other council seats and the office of Mayor in the Bainbridge general election.

Former State Rep. Sean Jerguson led in campaign contributions in his campaign for Georgia Senate District 21, which opponent Brandon Beach won.

Governor Nathan Deal presented his budget to the Joint Budget Hearing yesterday.

Three percent cuts across the board, and slightly more funding for the state pre-K program, the HOPE scholarship, and juvenile justice reform.

He also continued his push to renew a hospital tax aimed at shoring up the state Medicaid program.

“I think it is critical,” said Deal. “We cannot afford to have a $700 million hole in our Medicaid budget,” said Deal.

Otherwise, the governor’s budget projects 4.8 percent revenue growth in 2014. That’s compared to the 3.9 growth seen this year.

If the revenue projection holds true, Georgia in 2014 would be back to where it was at its 2007 peak, before the recession.

House Appropriations Chair Terry England said the numbers are reason for cautious optimism, but warned the state isn’t out of the woods yet.

“The problem with that is we’re a larger state than we were in 2007 so there’s more people needing more services and resources, so even though you have that growth, the demand is still greater than it was in 2007.”

Accordingly, the 2014 budget includes increased funding for education and healthcare, but most would be used to simply keep up with population growth.

Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill said ultimately the final budget won’t veer too far from the governor’s recommendations.

“In years where you’re spending a lot of new money, there might be more needs and more wants than there are dollars, but we have such a lean budget to begin with, I don’t know what we’d have to fight over.”

Here’s the TL;DR version:

“We have reduced per capita spending of state dollars for our citizens,” [Deal] said. “Using 2012 dollars, we are spending money at a rate of 17 percent less than we did a decade ago. And we now have 9,000 fewer state employees than we did five years ago.”

The Georgia State Fiscal Economist also presented predictions.

Georgia’s economy should see slow but steady growth over the next few years as the job and housing markets continue to improve, the state’s main economist told lawmakers Tuesday.

Heaghney said that tax collections — an indication of the state of the economy — will be up 3.9 percent the rest of fiscal 2013, which ends June 30. The economy will pick up during the second half of the year and revenue should increase 4.9 percent next fiscal year, allowing the state to add about $550 million in spending, he said.

Heaghney told legislators that the state’s job growth is outpacing the national growth rate, and that “housing appears to have turned the corner, both nationally and in Georgia.”

Georgia is seeing an increase in information technology, business services, manufacturing and transportation jobs.

“We’d expect growth to pick up in the middle of 2013 and then accelerate the rest of the year,” he said. “In 2014, we should see much more rapid growth than we’ve seen prior to this year.”

Higher taxes, a sluggish global economy and the federal debt crisis will continue to weigh on the economy, he said, dampening consumer spending and adding uncertainty to the equation.

“This all creates an environment where there is still a lot of economic uncertainty,” Heaghney said. “We try to plan for that, but there are a lot of different ways the economy could move.

Part of the $19.8 billion dollar budget will be $4.3 million for the State Archives.

Supporters are pushing for an additional $1.5 million to expand public access to the state’s important and historical records dating to at least 1733, saying the additional money would reopen the archives from two to five days a week.

Gov. Deal’s budget will also allocate funds to implement criminal justice reforms from the last Session, and possible changes to juvenile justice this year.

He’s asking for $11 million for so-called accountability courts that offer an alternative for drug abusers, the mentally ill and others.

He also wants $4 million for a regional detention center for young offenders and a new youth development campus.

Today’s budget hearings will include the Departments of Correction, Juvenile Justice, Transportation, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Labor and Economic Development. The agenda for the Joint Budget Hearings is available by clicking here. This link should have live video of the Hearings later today.

Retailers in the three regions that approved the T-SPLOST should start collecting the extra penny sales tax.

A local clothing boutique visited Friday by NBC 26 is still ringing up its merchandise the old fashioned way.

“We write up all the tickets by hand and then we add up the totals and the tax with a calculator,” Alex, a sales associate told NBC 26. She said the store is still charging seven percent sales tax.

“I didn’t know about it until you came in,” another associate said. “I didn’t know it was in effect starting January first. So, I haven’t started using it yet.”

We asked the Georgia Department of Revenue how it informed retailers in regions where the T-SPLOST passed.

“In December, we emailed an informational bulletin concerning T-SPLOST, concerning the TSPLOST going into effect to all businesses that e-file as well as other businesses who have signed up for that specific mailing list,” said Jud Seymour, communications director for the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Seymour said if stores missed the instructional email, they could’ve looked up the information online on the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website.

On December 27, 2012, my oath of office was administered by our Probate Judge (Keith Wood), with the final sentence stating, “. . . and that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, so help me God.”

Therefore, I will fully exercise the power of the Office of Sheriff to protect and defend the Constitutional rights of the citizens of Cherokee County. My position is best stated by fellow Sheriff Tim Muller of Linn County, Oregon in his letter to the President. “We are Americans. We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”

Along with Sheriff Muller, other sheriffs throughout the country (including Georgia) and I, will not enforce any laws or regulations that negate the constitutional rights of the citizens of Cherokee County.

Nor shall those laws and regulations be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Cherokee County, Georgia.

Commissioner Allen insinuated that some school board members may have benefited personally from deals with outside companies.“The investigation should examine any companies or firms […] doing any business with the BOE [Board of Education] where funds might have been used to directly or indirectly unlawfully benefit certain members of the BOE,” Allen read from prepared remarks.He declined to offer any evidence that would lead federal prosecutors to investigate such a question.“These allegations,” Allen said without specifying or attributing any allegations directly, “must be investigated immediately by a federal authority, as the facts show a possible misuse of federal funds, not to mention state and local money as well.”

The Marietta Daily Journal profiles Jennifer Rippner of Acworth, a member of the new State Charter School Commission.

Georgia Power’s evacuation plan for people living near Plant Vogtle was reviewed by federal regulators.

A study has found that Plant Vogtle’s emergency evacuation plan for people within 10 miles of the nuclear site is adequate. But the study says traffic control points and better highway infrastructure would improve it.

The updated analysis was filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and was posted on the agency’s website last week.

Depending on the weather, time of day and other factors, Southern Nuclear’s consultants’ models found evacuations could take between 90 and 205 minutes.

At the Cobb County Commission meeting last night, a citizen was led out in handcuffs because he preferred to speak anonymously about backyard chickens.

During the first of two public hearings on a proposal to allow chickens on property under 2 acres in size, speakers on both sides of the issue provided emotional appeals to the board.

Banks Wise, 25, of Mableton, said he had planned to attend the board meeting just to listen to what others had to say about various code proposals, including the one on chickens.

But then he stepped up to the lectern to address the commissioners during the public comment period, and board chairman Tim Lee asked him to recite his name.

Wise declined. Lee asked several more times for him to give his name before the police officers escorted him out of the board room, handcuffed him and took him to a lobby elevator.

“The gentlemen was not following the rules of the commission,” Lee said. “I asked him multiple times. He did not, so the officers removed him.”

Wise said two things prompted him to speak to commissioners. One was a comment by a previous public speaker opposed to a code change for chickens. That speaker, Ron Sifen of Vinings, argued that homeowners had certain expectations with the zoning laws in place when they bought their homes. To allow chickens in their neighborhood was, therefore, wrong.

Wise said he wanted to argue that just because a law is on the books, it doesn’t make it constitutional.

“I’m saying that being able to have a chicken was always right. There was just at some point a very bad law,” Wise said.

Another point that bothered him was that Lee demanded that each speaker give his or her name.

Anonymous political speech is a revered tradition among those of us who love America; perhaps Mr. Lee should take a remedial class in the First Amendment.

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee has also raised the issue that requiring businesses to use the IMAGE immigration verification program may be too unwieldy.

A documentary on urban chicken keepers, called “Mad City Chickens” will be shown in Rome, Georgia, at the Rome Area History Museum at 305 Broad Street on Saturday at 4, 7 and 9 PM.

McHaggee said the film is relevant locally, with the Rome City Commission currently wrestling with the issue of allowing chickens inside the city limits.

“We hope that this film will illustrate some of the issues our city has been discussing,” the couple said in a joint press release. “Furthermore, we hope that this film brings people together for a fun evening of entertainment and camaraderie.”

A supporter of small families owning livestock, McHaggee said she usually gets eggs from Morning Glory Farm in Cedartown and is concerned with the state of some of the breeds of chicken that need space to thrive.

“That’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about this,” she said. “There are some of the American Heritage breeds that are in trouble of becoming extinct.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 13, 2012

This beautiful, blue-eyed, white husky-mix is described as sweet and is available from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth. Without a rescue or adoption, he will be euthanized on Friday in the pre-dawn hours.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The United States Supreme Court will hear a challenge to parts of the Voting Rights Act that affect states that had a history of vote discrimination when the act was passed; this includes Georgia.

The challenge to Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was launched two years ago, and the court added it to its docket just days after an energized minority electorate played a critical role in the reelection of President Obama, the nation’s first African American president.

The justices said they would decide whether Congress exceeded its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized a requirement that states and localities with a history of discrimination, most of them in the South, receive federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws.

Three years ago, the court expressed concern about subjecting some states to stricter standards than others using a formula developed decades ago. But the justices sidestepped the constitutional question and found a narrow way to decide that case.

Georgia State House Republicans re-elected their leadership team yesterday, with Speaker David Ralston, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, Majority Whip Ed Lindsey, Vice Chair Matt Ramsey, and Secretary Allen Peake unopposed and Caucus Chair Donna Sheldon beating back an intramural challenge from Rep. Delvis Dutton.

The Democratic Caucus reelected everyone but Rep. Brian Thomas, who was beaten by Rep. Virgil Fludd.

Later this week, Georgia Senate Republicans will gather at Little Ocmulgee State Park for a group hug caucus meeting. Pro-tip to anyone attending: do not accept any offers of an “after dark swamp tour.” Continue reading

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 27, 2012

This is Riley, a black lab who was featured here last week. I met him and took these photos on Friday when I drove him from his old home in Clayton County, where he would otherwise have ended up at Clayton County Animal Shelter, to Forgotten Paws Pet Rescue, where he’ll receive medical attention he lacked before going to a private home. It cost me about an hour-and-a-half, but saved Riley’s life.

Riley is a big boy, probably weighing in at 80-90 pounds, and he has that large, blocky head that is prized among some lab afficianados, but would probably have gotten him classified as a Pit Bull mix at some shelters, and virtually doomed him to being euthanized.

The bad news is that Riley, who is being neutered today, has heartworms, which puts Forgotten Paws on the hook for about $1000 in treatment and will probably delay his adoption. He is also mostly blind, but when I picked him up, he was getting around like a champ, and you wouldn’t know of his blindness except that he bumped into that guardrail behind him a few times.

In addition to needing a foster or permanent home, Riley could use your donations to offset his medical expenses. To apply to foster or adopt Riley or to donate for his medical care, visit Forgotten Paws’ website.

While we’re talking about Labs, 26724 is a young, lab mix puppy who has a scrape on her head but is healing. She’s currently available from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, and you can call the shelter at 770-339-3200 for more information. Because there are so many puppies in the puppy pod at Gwinnett, her days are severely numbered and she is likely to be euthanized if she isn’t adopted today or tomorrow. Gwinnett also has about seven adult black or chocolate labs if that’s what you’re looking for.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Walter Jones writes that Congress has banned gifts by lobbyists to legislators, as Speaker David Ralston proposes doing for Georgia.

Polls show that only about 15 percent of the public considers Congress to be doing a good job. Dozens of well-publicized scandals over the years reinforce the idea that politicians are often corrupt.

Generally, public support for members of the Georgia General Assembly has been markedly higher than regard for Congress. But voters still called for a gift ban as at least one of the ethics reforms they want.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, had taken the heat for his colleagues. Ralston’s most frequent warning was that the gift-ban proposal amounted to a gimmick that wouldn’t stop the practice but merely drive it underground. He has also warned that ever-increasing ethics provisions simultaneously expand the opportunities for honest officials to trip over technicalities and “gotcha” allegations by political opponents.

The federal rules prohibit accepting gifts of any value from registered lobbyists and up to $50 in value from anyone else, even other members of Congress.

“Saxby and I used to give Vidalia onions from Georgia to all of the senators, and they stopped that,” he said, referring to the state’s senior senator, Saxby Chambliss, who is also a Republican.

Speaking of food, the ban applies to meals, too. The only exception is “anything on a toothpick,” according to the rule of thumb.

So you’re saying that enacting a ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators will clean up Georgia politics the way it’s done for Congress? And you call that an improvement? Tell me more.

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Melanie Crozier is a Georgia delegate to the Republican National Convention, and she’s writing about her experience in Tampa on her blog, GaGirlPolitics. It’s a good read if you’re interested in a delegate-level viewpoint that you might not see elsewhere.

Patch.com has an interview with State Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek), before she headed to Tampa for the RNC as a delegate.

Tea party activists held a unity rally in Tampa to celebrate their role in the primary selection process and ensure that we’re all on the same page heading toward the General Election in November.

Today’s session of the Republican National Convention will be very short, consisting of a motion to adjourn until Tuesday over hurricane concerns. No word yet on whether that will cause a change in time for the speech by Attorney General Sam Olens.

Late this week, Olens still could not disclose precise details on the topic or length of his speech.

“Obviously it will relate to the role of attorneys general and activities we’ve been involved in, and federalism, the role of the federal government compared to the states,” said Olens, who lives in east Cobb.

Translation: The 2010 health care law championed by President Barack Obama that Republicans and other critics call Obamacare.

Olens also chaired the health and education subcommittee for the national party’s platform. The Republican national party took input on its proposed platform via a website.

“We received several thousand proposals,” he said. “It wasn’t even limited to Republicans.

“Some of the bigger differences with this year’s platform compared to ’04 and ’08 relate to the economy. We heard a strong desire that we get our debt and deficit under control. There was a lot of discussion in regard to our fiscal house,” he said.

Sue Everhart, the state party chair, said Olens was selected to speak to a national audience for several reasons.

“He’s a well-respected attorney general,” Everhart said. “He’s been with Mitt Romney since Day 1. He was the Georgia state chairman for Romney, honorary chairman for Romney, and of course he’s gone after Obama against Obamacare and some of those. We’re the sister state, kind of, with Florida, and Florida’s attorney general is going to be speaking.

WTVM in Columbus has some numbers on the Republican National Convention, including:

2,286 - Number of delegates represented, plus 2,125 alternate delegates. This is nearly quadruple the 600 voting delegates represented at the first Republican convention.

15,000 - Number of credentialed journalists in attendance. That’s 6.56 media outlets per delegate.

Georgia delegates who are wondering where Alec Poitevint is, the AJC tells us that if you don’t see him, it’s a sign the Convention is on track.

An invisible Poitevint is good news.

It means that buses are moving 2,286 delegates to the convention hall on time, that air conditioning at hundreds of locales has been properly cranked to “high” so another 50,000 hangers-on can party in comfort, and that 15,000 or so journalists on hand to witness the formal anointing of Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential nominee have been cooed into submission.

A visible Poitevint means trouble is afoot.

The 64-year-old Poitevint, is already the ultimate insider in Georgia’s Republican Party. For the next six days — festivities begin Monday — he will be the ultimate stage manager. Romney is the unquestioned star of the Republican National Convention, but Poitevint and his crew have spent the past 18 months, and $18 million in federal cash, making sure the nominee will have everything he needs for his close-up: lights, stage, audience, cameras and everything in between.

“It’s delegates, it’s message, it’s press, it’s transportation,” Poitevint said in a recent and rare interview — before Tropical Storm Isaac made its debut in the Caribbean. But already, hurricane season and the geography of Tampa Bay had made their way into his calculations.

Also kind of a big deal in Tampa is Eric Tanenblatt, co-chair of the Romney campaign in Georgia.

Tanenblatt’s selection to represent Georgia on the convention’s Credentials Committee is just the latest example of the political influence of Atlanta-based McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, where he heads the national government affairs practice.

“Everyone in our government affairs group has served in government,” Tanenblatt said. “It gives us a unique perspective of understanding from the inside out how government interacts with the world.”

Tanenblatt has been the point man in Georgia for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney going back to the former Massachusetts governor’s first run for the White House in 2008.

Although Tanenblatt’s official role is co-chairman of the Romney campaign’s finance committee, he cut his teeth in politics as a political adviser. After launching his career in 1988 working in the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign, Tanenblatt ran both of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell’s Senate races in 1992 and 1998.

Florida will be on Georgia Republicans’ minds this fall, as Americans for Prosperity announced this weekend an “Adopt A State” program in which Georgia activists will man the phones to turnout votes in Florida for the General Election. I’ll post more details once I get them.

Former President George W. Bush will speak tonight in Columbus, GA at Columbus State University, where he will be introduced by Governor Nathan Deal. Also appearing at the Leadership Forum will be James Carville and Mary Matalin, who speak on Tuesday morning.

On Friday, Governor Deal appointed Senator Bill Hamrick to a seat on the Superior Court for the Coweta Judicial Circuit. Because Hamrick was unopposed in the General Election, his seat will be filled by a nonpartisan Special Election held the same day as the General. Likely candidates include former Speaker Glenn Richardson, State Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Douglas County), who served briefly as House Rules Committee Chairman before being removed, and Libertarian James Camp.

Karen Huppertz wishes politicians would stop calling her. Or at least stop robo-calling her.

we’d been home a good 24 hours before I even looked at the answering machine.

To my utter delight (please note sarcasm here) I discovered 27 political messages on our machine. Granted we had returned home just before the July 31st TSPLOST vote, but seriously? The ratio of calls to actual decisions I needed to make at the polls was grossly disproportionate. On my Gwinnett ballot I only had three decisions to make. Most names on the ballot were incumbent candidates running unopposed.

So I conducted my own tiny survey. Do voters listen to these messages? Or like me, do they either hang up immediately if they happen to answer the phone, or do they delete them within 3.2 seconds as soon as the message is clearly a robocall? Do these calls sway anyone’s vote?

Every single person I asked hates them as much or more than I do.

Politicians, please read our lips. We delete them. We don’t listen to them. We are annoyed by them.

While voters say they hate them, most political professionals believe they still work, and we’ll keep using them until they stop working.

Former Suwanee Mayor Dave Williams, who works as vice president for transportation with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, discusses the aftermath of the T-SPLOST failure.

Charles Gregory, who beat State Rep. Judy Manning in the Republican Primary this year, also works as state director for the Ron Paul campaign.

Manning, who has served in the state house since 1997, said she and her husband, Aymar, were ill after the Fourth of July.

“We just couldn’t get out in that heat and walk. He (Gregory) had some of his Ron Paul folks that walked neighborhoods and didn’t represent me as I would have thought was a fair representation,” she said. “He didn’t exactly tell the truth. I’m not bad-mouthing him. All’s fair in love and war. You can say anything.”

Gregory views things differently.

“To be honest, regarding Judy, we didn’t even bring her up,” Gregory said. “The only time we brought her up was when they said, ‘who are you running against?’ I wasn’t running against Judy. I was running against the system.”

When voters asked why they should vote for him instead of Manning, he told them they simply have a different philosophy of government.

“I believe that government should be protecting the life, liberty and property of individuals, and following the Constitution and that’s it,” Gregory said. “Not managing people’s money or their lives or all these other things that the government tends to get into doing. That’s it.”

Sabrina Smith has filed an ethics complaint alleging that payments by Gwinnett County to the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce eventually were used to lobby for passage of the T-SPLOST. The County and Chamber denied it. I have the documents and will post more about it later this morning.

 Ends & Pieces

Surely one of the most important economic development announcements was the unveiling of the 2013 Porsche Carrera 4 and 4S models by Porsche Cars North America, which is headquartered in Atlanta.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is accepting nominations for its 2013 Preservation awards through September 22d.

Collins Hill High School graduate Maya Moore won a gold medal on the women’s basketball team in London’s 2012 Olympics.

In slightly more than 10 months, the former Collins Hill High School star won her first WNBA title with the Minnesota Lynx, earned the league’s rookie of the year honor, won Spanish and Euroleague titles with Ros Casares and won an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. Women’s Basketball National Team. Those victories came after a University of Connecticut career that saw the four-time All-American win more games than any player in college basketball history.

“It’s been an amazing year,” said Moore, in town Saturday for a nationally televised ESPN game against the Atlanta Dream. “I couldn’t have dreamed how awesome it’s been, having so many great opportunities within the last year. To do some history-making things, breaking records. It’s just been a whirlwind of a year.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 21, 2012 — Primary Runoff Election Day

Timothy is the tan-colored puppy above (the black one is adopted), he is two months old and has spent a month in the Cobb County Animal Shelter, where he lives in cage 332. If you adopt him, he will be vaccinated, chipped, and neutered.

Suri and Kimmi, the black puppies, are his sisters, and are still available from the Cobb County Animal Shelter (the tan girl has been adopted). They are right next door to Timothy in Cage 331 in the puppy are. Adoption also includes vaccinations, micro-chipping, and spaying.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is Primary Runoff Election Day and includes runoffs in nonpartisan elections, such as most judges. You may vote today, even if you didn’t vote in the Primary, although if you voted in a partisan primary in July, you may not vote in the other party’s runoff. Polls are open from 7 AM to 7 PM. You will need to bring your photo ID and the Secretary of State’s office has information on which forms of ID are acceptable. If you do not have your ID when you arrive to vote, you may still cast a provisional ballot, as you may do in case of certain other problems. If you cast a provisional ballot, you will have three days to produce proper ID to election officials to have your ballot counted.

When you vote today, I’d be interested in hearing how it went. Relevant information includes your county and precinct, what time you voted, how crowded it was, your voter number (ask the poll workers), and any impressions you or the poll workers have about the pace of voting. Visit the website and put it in the comments or email me.

Last week, Karl Rove updated his electoral map, moving Georgia from “safe Romney” to “leans Romney” but that may reflect a dearth of publicly-released polling in the state, rather than an actual change in the electorate.

Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals let stand the “show your papers” provision of Georgia’s House Bill 87, an immigration reform bill.

The decision upholds an injunction against Section 7 of the law, which made it illegal to transport or harbor an illegal alien in Georgia. But it reverses an injunction against Section 8 of the law, which authorizes law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of criminal suspects who cannot provide particular documents to prove their status.

The opinion of the panel is available here. The next step is a decision by the litigants whether to appeal to have the case heard by the entire Eleventh Circuit.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said, via press release,

“I am pleased that the the 11th Circuit has reversed the lower court’s injunction and allowed Section 8 of HB 87 to stand. While I disagree with the Court’s decision on Section 7, after over a year of litigation, only one of the 23 sections of HB 87 has been invalidated. We are currently reviewing the 11th Circuit’s ruling to determine whether further appeal would be appropriate at this stage of the case.”

Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee and a leader in the movement to adopt limitations on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. He released yesterday his Minority Report in which he dissents from the negotiated settlement of ethics charges against Senator Don Balfour.

The Minority agreed that Respondent had violated Senate Rules by failing to maintain accurate records and submitting false expense reports; however, dissented from the negotiated sanction.

It is clear to the Minority that both the Christian and Dooley complaint meet the jurisdictional threshold of Title 45 and should have been handled under Title 45. Both complaints alleged that the Respondent used his position as State Senator to file false expense reports which provided for a direct, unique, pecuniary and personal benefit, namely the monies wrongfully disbursed to Respondent. The amended Dooley complaint went a step further, alleging that by failing to authorize the Audit Subcommittee as required by O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 that the Respondent was able to insure that the false expense reports would never be reviewed.

Instead of proceeding under Title 45 with the complaints presented which would have necessitated a public hearing of these matters, the Committee chose to proceed under the other route available which did not require a public hearing. The opinion of the Minority is that this decision was made in error and that the public, including the complainants, were entitled to be present for the proceedings held by the Committee.

In addition to the charges of filing false expense reports in this case, the Respondent also admitted to violation of O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 which provides for the Audit Subcommittee to review the expense reports of all Senators.

In the view of the Minority, this compounds the other offense as by the Respondent’s failure to appoint the Audit Subcommittee he removed the safeguard against false filings, not just in his case but in the case of any Senator that might have done so over the last decade he has been charged with the responsibility of chairing the Senate Rules Committee.

[I]t is the opinion of the Minority that a recommendation should issue for a Censure Resolution to be introduced with a do pass recommendation regarding the conduct of the Respondent, that the Committee recommend to the Committee on Assignments that Respondent be removed as Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and that a fine equivalent to the cost of the proceedings of the Senate Ethics Committee be imposed on Respondent.

The Minority is of the opinion that to fully conclude this matter, that an appropriate authority should investigate these matters and determine finally if any violation of these statutes has taken place. The Minority will transmit this report to the Attorney General with its recommendation that his office conduct such an investigation.

I apologize for such a long pull quote, but here’s the tl;dr version:

1. McKoon believes that a public process was authorized and appropriate here and that the Ethics Committee erred in proceeding in the manner it did;

2. The failure by Balfour to appoint an audit subcommittee kept improper expenditures from being detected;

3. The negotiated penalty was inadequate and Senator Balfour should be Censured by the Senate as a body;

4. The case should be referred for consideration of possible criminal sanctions.

Also failing to do their job is the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Runoff candidates are required to file a campaign contributions disclosure six days before the runoff so that voters know where their funding comes from. The Commission’s website, while accepting such filings from candidates does not appear to be displaying them when they are searched for. Nor does it appear to be properly displaying two-business day reports in some cases. This is unacceptable.

Georgia’s current campaign finance regime is premised on timely disclosure, and the biggest impediment to voters learning how campaigns are financed in a timely manner is the Commission charged with collecting and distributing disclosures.

Ultimately, I believe that this reflects in part a misconception about what the Campaign Finance Commission is. It is no longer primarily an enforcement agency. Its statutory charges makes it primarily an IT agency charged with maintaining a campaign and lobbyist disclosure database. It should be putting most of its resources into IT infrastructure and services, and its most-highly paid staffer should be a database administrator. Its continuing failure to do its job negatively affects public confidence in the Commission and in our elected officials.

Click Here

In Cobb County, the runoff election for Commission Chairman between incumbent Tim Lee and former Chair Bill Byrne may be a battle between old Cobb and new, if the Marietta Daily Journal is correct.

“In some ways it’s a battle of old Cobb versus new Cobb,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint, who specializes in campaigns and elections.

It’s also a battle between old-style campaign tactics and new.

“I know Bill Byrne has friends in Cobb County, and I think he’s depending on people he and his wife know getting out the troops, and where Tim Lee is concerned, I think it’s a matter of using his financial edge to make phone calls, beat the bushes and get his voters to come back out for him again,” [said Swint].

In Gwinnett County, Sheriff Butch Conway has endorsed Tommy Hunter, who is challenging incumbent Mike Beaudreau for Commission District 3 in the GOP runoff.

Conway, who is unopposed for his fifth term, has been involved in county commission races before. He campaigned for challenger Lorraine Green, when the commissioner mounted an unsuccessful challenge to then-Chairman Charles Bannister in 2008.

Conway might be the most popular politician in Gwinnett County, but his endorsement may not be very valuable after today. The Conway-endorsed candidate for one of the open judicial seats will be defeated soundly. Will a Beaudreau win make it 0 for 3?

Republican delegates to the Republican National Convention will be given free copies of  Georgia Tech grad Mark Rogers’s self-published fiction book, “Smeared.”

“SMEARED” is a political fiction story about a man from the days of America’s founding fathers who suddenly appears in modern-day America. The self-published political novel answers the question of what a man from early American history would think, say and do when confronted by today’s politicians and shows the fallout of their interactions.

The Savannah Morning News writes about QR codes linking smartphones to campaign videos. Pure BS. Nobody uses QR codes except marketing firms with gullible clients, and then the real use of the QR codes is to extract money from the client for useless gewgaws. If some marketing expert tries to get you to spend money on QR codes, escort them out immediately.

In 2008, said a recent article in Campaigns and Elections magazine, just 10 percent of the population had a smartphone.

Now, it added, more than half do, and a third of them use their phones to scan such codes to access advertising.

“We’re going to see a lot more of them in politics,” said marketing specialist Rick Monroe, who is helping DeLoach.

Monroe said his candidate’s application is an improvement over Gaster’s.

Gaster’s codes were on his campaign signs, and unless you were within 3 feet, you couldn’t scan them with your smartphone, Monroe said.

In contrast, DeLoach’s mailer went directly to the addressees.

I’m open to hearing differently about my skepticism about QR codes, but unless you have analytics, don’t bother.

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal reminds you that “Stop means stop” when it comes to school buses with their stop signs and lights deployed.

Georgia’s First Lady came to Dougherty County Monday to discuss the importance of the “Stop Means Stop” program. She’s teaming up with several state groups to keep children safe.

Thousands of drivers in Georgia illegally pass school buses every day. In fact, a statewide survey showed bus drivers saw more than 4,000 violators in one day.

“We had had several children killed and more in the last two years and probably three years. We’re afraid that we may get the record for it again, to have the most children killed in school bus accidents,” said Mrs. Deal.

Now the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Department of Education are teaming up to educate drivers with the help from Georgia’s first lady, Sandra Deal.

“When you see a stop arm on a school bus, unless you’re on a highway with a divided median, you have to stop in either direction. That’s the law. It will cost you about $1,000 fine and up to six points on your driver’s license,” said Harris Blackwood, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Listen to Mrs. Deal and pay attention on the roads, please.

Grayson voters will vote in November on whether to allow Sunday sales of packaged beer, wine and liquor. In a particular brand of goofiness, the city, which already allows beer and wine sales, will vote on adding liquor, but if adding Sunday sales of liquor fails, it will also end beer and wine sales on the Sabbath.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to address Republican National Convention

Don’t know how I missed this one yesterday.

RNC Chairman Announces Five Additional Republican Convention Headliners

Tampa, Fla. – Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus today announced five additional headliners who will address the Republican National Convention August 27-30. More convention speakers, including the keynote, will be announced in the coming days. The five speakers announced today are:

• Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Florida’s 37th attorney general and first female attorney general in state history;

• Texas Republican U.S. Senate Nominee Ted Cruz, former Texas solicitor general (first Hispanic and youngest person in that position);

• Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño, first Republican elected governor of Puerto Rico since 1969 and first Republican representative from Puerto Rico elected to Congress;

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, former chairman of the Cobb County Commission; and

• Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 45th governor of Wisconsin and the first U.S. governor to have successfully kept their seat in a recall election.

“These five remarkable individuals will bring a diversity of experiences and perspectives to the convention stage in Tampa, where they will voice their support for Governor Mitt Romney. They have each served the public in their own impressive ways, and they all share a dedication to the Republican principles of individual opportunity, responsible government and personal liberty,” Chairman Priebus said.

Republican National Convention Chief Executive Officer William Harris said, “We are creating a world-class program of speakers at this convention. Their love for our country and vision for a brighter and more prosperous future will resonate in Tampa and echo across our nation.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi

“The government takeovers coming out of Washington have to stop. As an attorney general, we are constantly fighting the federal government back from overreaching and over-regulating – from the EPA to health care. We want to help businesses create jobs for our people, not regulate and tax them into bankruptcy. Mitt Romney will fight for our job-creators, and I am honored to be a part of his nomination to be the next president later this month in the great state of Florida,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Texas Republican Senate Nominee Ted Cruz

“The United States of America is still a shining city on a hill. We can restore the U.S. Constitution and reign in out-of-control spending with new leadership in Washington. The pundits will talk, but it is the voters who will make the final decision. There is a great awakening that is sweeping this country. I predict that we will see a new level of energy and commitment to reform at the Republican National Convention as we unite behind Governor Mitt Romney,” said Ted Cruz.

Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño

“The most important issue in this election is our economy. Mitt Romney has the real-world experience and solid plan that will create jobs and help businesses succeed. I will deliver this message to my party and to the world at the Republican National Convention in Tampa,” said Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens

“We can do better as a country. We must empower Americans to make their own choices across the board. The jobs-killing, unconstitutional policies coming out of Washington, D.C. must be undone. Elections do have consequences and we will start to put our country back on track at the Republican National Convention when we nominate Mitt Romney,” said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

“We have seen the power of bold ideas right here in Wisconsin. The American people are demanding bold reform and we need to put a leader in the White House who will fight to turn our country around. The Republican National Convention will be an important rallying point for our country and our party and I look forward to sharing our story of reform and officially nominating Mitt Romney as the next president of the United States,” said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

About the 2012 Republican National Convention

The 2012 Republican National Convention will be held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum August 27-30, 2012. Nearly 50,000 visitors are expected to come to the Tampa Bay area for the event, including delegates, alternate delegates, media and other guests. For more information about the 2012 Republican National Convention, become part of the virtual convention at www.ConventionWithoutWalls.com, visit our website www.GOPConvention2012.com and check out our official blog, Conventional Wisdom, at www.gopconvention2012.com/blog/.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 7, 2012

Sophie is a Viszla/Lab mix who is heartworm negative, approximately 3 years old and weighs 65 pounds.

Wally is a “Bassador” or Basset Hound/Lab mix who is one-year old and weighs 40 pounds.

Finally, Junior is a 54-pound Shepherd mix, that around here we call a Roxboro Hound. He is an owner turn-in, and his former person says he is great with other dogs, smart, and walks well on a leash.

These three dogs are all available for adoption from Walton County Animal Services. Forty bucks gets you a new best friend who is up-to-date on his or her shots, heartworm-tested, flea-treated, and comes with a voucher for discount spay/neuter and a sack of kibble. Adopt one of these dogs, and I’ll pay half the adoption fee. Seriously.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

We are now two weeks away from the 2012 Primary Runoff and Judicial Runoff elections. Things are going to continue getting crazy out there. As far as we know, in most jurisdictions, early voting for the August 21st runoff elections will start Monday and continue through Augus 17th.

Crazy as in someone photoshopping a photo of Congressional candidate Lee Anderson’s head onto another man’s body engaged in sexual activity. And then posting it anonymously on Facebook and Anderson’s website before it was deleted.

Crazy as in photoshopping a Hitler mustache on incumbent Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau and dedicating a website to calling him “Mike the Sleaze.” To be fair, the owner of that site posts his name and phone number on the front page and makes himself available to talk about it. Just like a crazy person might do.

Crazy as in accusing another candidate of paying $50,000 for the endorsement of a candidate who didn’t make the runoff.

Crazy as in switching the website for a DeKalb County Commissioner you used to work for into an endorsement of her opponent.

If you clicked on a link to DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer’s website on election night last week and found yourself staring at an endorsement for her challenger, your computer wasn’t malfunctioning.

former website for the District 1 commissionercarried an endorement of her primary challenger Larry Danese – who she trounced in the July 31 primary – with the line: “Replace Elaine Boyer” and “It’s Time for Better Representation.”

Danese posted a note on his website on election night, saying the endorsement was the work of a web designer, Dave Carlson, who has worked for Boyer and owns the old website domain. Danese said he played no role in the site change.

“A website designer who formerly worked for Elaine Boyer has revised one of her campaign website [sic] that he owns to include information taken from my campaign. Based on how my information has been changed, the designer and I appear to agree that Boyer is not the best choice for DeKalb’s District 1,” Danese wrote on his homepage.

Boyer’s website is now hosted at www.commissionerboyer.com. The Carlson-owned site is hosted at www.commissionerelaineboyer.com.

Pro-tip #1 for politicos: it’s a good idea to own the website domain registration for your own campaign website. For the low price of registering a site, you should probably register the .com, .net, and .org versions if they’re available.

Speaking of crazy, the Green Party candidate for President of the United States, Dr. Beth Stein, was in Atlanta last week, visiting the Capitol for a press conference and prison visits. For the time being, those are separate activities.

“This week’s defeat of the one-percenters’ transit plan at our expense shows that Georgia’s political life is neither people-proof or democracy-proof,” said Bruce Dixon, Co-Chair of the Georgia Green Party, which is hosting this tour. “We hope voters will continue to critically weigh their options and will come out to meet a candidate ready to address real issues and work in their interests. Greens offer an option to those sick of puppets financed by the banksters who tanked our economy and and fund a billion-dollar ad-fest passing for a presidential campaign.”

Dr. Stein expects to visit with families of some of Georgia’s nearly 60,000 prisoners. With one in thirteen (more than any other state) Georgia adults in prison, on bail, probation, work release or other forms of correctional or court supervision, the state has yet to shake its founding reputation as a penal colony.

Pro-tip #2: prisoners can’t vote, so you might think about more vote-rich environments for your next trip.

Georgia Greens hope to introduce their candidate to members of Georgia’s immigrant and undocumented communities who are struggling against HB-187, 287(g) agreements between local law enforcement and Federal immigration officials, the nation’s largest immigrant detention center in Stewart County and an ongoing wave of family-shattering deportations.

Pro-tip #3: also, undocumented immigrants can’t vote. That’s strike two.

In fact, before boarding her on her Atlanta bound flight, the Stein campaign is working this morning to bond the Presidential candidate and her running mate out of a Philadelphia jail following their arrest yesterday at the Fannie-Mae officeswhere they participated in a peaceful sit-in intent on preventing the eviction of home-owners in that city.

Pro-tip #4: being in jail in a jurisdiction other than the one in which you are registered to vote probably makes voting for yourself difficult.

Dr. Stein will also visit House District 57 stretching from Atlanta’s West End through to the Morningside community on the DeKalb border, where the Georgia Green Party’s candidate Kwabena Nkromo is winding up a petition drive to get on the ballot for state representative in the November 2012 election.

“Nkromo, Stein and Georgia Greens face the nation’s most anti-democratic and unfair ballot access laws explicitly crafted to restrict the choices of Georgia voters to limited options provided by the corporate parties,” said Dixon. Candidates of the corporate parties access the ballot by paying a filing fee, while those of emerging political parties labor under onerous signature collection requirements, twenty thousand and more for congressional candidates, and nearly sixty thousand for candidates who would appear on statewide ballots.

So, how successful was Dr. Stein’s visit to Georgia? Prospective State House District 57 candidate Kwabena “Cubby” Nkromo waited until she was gone to announce his failure to secure a ballot slot, even with the assistance of the top candidate on the Green Party ticker.

“I have decided to officially cease my race for State Representative due to our campaign’s unlikelihood of meeting the requirements by the August 6th deadline. Georgia continues to have the most restrictive ballot access laws in the country for both legislative district races like mine, as well as higher offices,” [said Nkromo].

According to the AJC, Georgia has been labeled as having the most restrictive ballot access laws in the country by Ballot Access News, an independent chronicler of election law in the states.

The Green Party, continues to make strides within the SW Atlanta community and received a number of signatures from the community who agreed with the Party, that the electorate deserves a choice and that they have a right to be on the ballot.

“We will continue to fight for the issues our campaign sought to include in the debate about the future of District 57 and the neighborhoods of Atlanta. The victory of the 99% in the defeat of the TSPLOST referendum demands that we stay vigilant and engaged in the struggle for affordable and equitable public transit as a priority for transportation investment in our region,” [said Nkromo].

Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower, whose wife inadvertantly wrote his qualifying check on the wrong account, leading it to bounce, has given up on gathering enough signatures to qualify as an Independent to keep his check.

Thrower needed to turn in close to 6,000 signatures from registered voters in Columbus by noon Monday to qualify to run as an independent in the November elections.

Thrower spent most of his Sunday in Lakebottom Park getting signatures on his petition.

He was disqualified from the coroner’s race after his $1800 check to pay his qualifying fee bounced.

Thrower will likely run as a write-in candidate on the November ballot against Buddy Bryan.

Pro-tip #5 – even where it’s not required for qualifying, a bank or cashier’s check for your qualifying fee is always a good idea.

Following its tradition of being one of the last counties to report election results, Fulton County this year went dead last.

Fulton County has finally certified its election results from the July 31 primary, but it still missed the state’s deadline to avoid potential fines.

“It’s certainly troubling to us. We have deadlines for the count to be completed,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is launching an investigation into the delay.

Fulton was the last county in Georgia to declare its results official, almost a week after voters went to the polls.

Fulton election officials were still counting votes this past weekend and were slow to input some of the early ballots.

The state says they reached out to the county several times, but never heard back from anyone.

“We don’t know exactly what the problem is. That’s one of the frustrating things for me. It would be nice if we did know. We don’t, but we’re going to find out,” Kemp told Channel 2 Action News.

Pro-tip #6 – for Brian Kemp, try turning off your Caller ID on your iPhone the next time Fulton County screws up and you need to talk to them. They may have been screening calls and avoiding you.

Fulton County is currently recounting votes in the Democratic Primary for Sheriff and predicts they will finish by Wednesday. I predict they’ll miss that deadline too.

Whomever writes headlines for the Marietta Daily Journal must be pleased with this one: Elections board leader decries tardy vote tallies.

Cobb’s elections board certified the results of Tuesday’s primary vote and acknowledged the need to get results made public sooner.

Board vice chairman Rob Garcia, who was acting as chairman during the Monday morning meeting because Beverly Smith was out sick, said he heard from some of those people who couldn’t understand why the Secretary of State’s website didn’t have results from Cobb sooner.

The ballot included such major votes as the proposed TSPLOST transportation sales tax referendum; and in partisan races, GOP candidates for county chairman and Democratic contests for the southwest Cobb commission seat.

“Cherokee County was at 67 percent reported before we had the first votes uploaded,” Garcia said. “I got a lot of smart-alecky emails saying, ‘Are you counting those by hand?’”

Elections director Janine Eveler said the first results were uploaded at 8:52 p.m. but couldn’t be seen online until after 9:30 p.m., nearly three hours after the polls were to close.

Eveler defended the delay in releasing early-voting results. She said that even though early voting ended July 27, the county can’t close those machines out until after polls close, because they can’t have results ahead of time. That meant that the early-voting results weren’t released until nearly 10 p.m.

Eveler said that several other unexpected factors added to the delay. Sixty-five percent of Election Day voters cast their ballots after 3 p.m., includes a number of people who were in line at 7 p.m. and thus were allowed to vote.

“You’re looking at two-thirds of the voters in one-third of the time,” she said.

Eveler also said that while workers had tested the new statewide reporting system with the Secretary of State’s office, they had not done a test using partial results.

Eveler said results of all votes, except for some of the nearly 6,000 mailed-in ballots, were online by midnight, but the mail-in ballots weren’t fully counted until 4:27 a.m., which is normal for a large county-wide election. Those paper ballots were hand-inserted into an optical scan machine.

She said the number of races on the ballot also contributed to the delay, with Cobb’s paper ballot being 18-inches long, compared to a 14-inch ballot for Gwinnett County.

That’s what she said!

Opponents of Brookhaven cityhood are asking Governor Deal for two of five slots on the  Commission that will oversee the pre-incorporation preparation.

The organization’s request appeared in the August 1 edition of “a:Times News,” which was distributed in several Brookhaven communities this past weekend.

“Recognizing the closeness of this election requires oversight by the No side to make sure all citizens in the new city are represented,” the [Ashford Neighbors] organization said. “Since this vote was so close, we want two No-City group people to be appointed by you to give us equal representation on the five-member commission to form the city.”

The legislation creating the Brookhaven cityhood vote stipulates that Deal’s commission is to review candidates for city manager, attorney, clerk and accountant, as well as finding the best locations for municipal offices. Those recommendations will be passed onto the mayor and city council, who will be elected on Nov. 6.

Deal spokesperson Stephanie Mayfield said the governor has until Sept. 1 to appoint the commission, and has not made the appointments yet. She added she was unsure of when the governor would announce the appointments.

In case you don’t live in Brookhaven and follow our local politics obsessively, the newspaper referenced above isn’t a real newspaper. It’s a thinly-disguised liberal rag that is run by the person who ran the Democratic campaign against State Rep. Mike Jacobs two years ago and appears to exist solely for the purpose of pushing the agenda of local liberals.

I generally refrain from offering Governor Deal unsolicited advice, but will make an exception here. The hippies who opposed Brookhaven’s incorporation are just crazy enough to try to make the new city fail with the hope that we’ll run back to the sheltering arms and confiscatory tax regime of DeKalb County. There might be people who opposed incorporation who will make a great contribution to our city: members of Ashford Neighbors do not fit that description.

The Governor said in a private event earlier this year that one challenge of being Governor is knowing enough people for all the appointments he has to make. If anyone in the Governor’s office is struggling to compile a list of potential appointees, I might have some suggestions. Email me. I won’t hold my breath waiting, however.

State Rep. Calvin Smyre demurred when asked to record a robocall for his Democratic colleague, Debbie Buckner, who faced a primary challenge to her reelection. At least according to Buckner:

After the qualifier, Buckner did answer the question: Did you ask Calvin to endorse you in a campaign flier?

“Yes,” she said.

Smyre’s response to Buckner at the time: “He said he is running his own race in November, and it is customary to run your own race and stay out of other people’s campaigns. He had his own race to run, and I understand that.”

Ask Smyre if Buckner asked him and Hugley for help.

“She didn’t ask us to do anything,” Smyre said.

Then Smyre calls the question a fishing expedition, trying to deflect the question by saying “the campaign is over.”

There was a rumor — and it was just that, a rumor — that in the wake of the election Buckner might jump to the Republican Party. She would not be the first rural white Georgia Democrat to make such a leap.

“I am a Democrat, and I have always been a Democrat,” Buckner said. “It allows me to focus on the issues I care about — health care, education and the environment.” [without the burden of actually passing legislation - Ed.]

So this little fishing expedition is now over.

Patrick Burns of Arc 3 Communications has written an insightful analysis of the social media aspects of the T-SPLOST vote, and found significant cultural differences in the preferences of pro- and anti- T-SPLOST voters. Among the findings:

  • Supporters and opponents of the T-SPLOST relied on very different news sources. T-SPLOST supporters’ favorite news source was National Public Radio, while opponents preferred Fox News.
  •  T-SPLOST supporters’ favorite program was The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, while opponents program of choice was House on the Fox Network.
  • Supporters of T-SPLOST were NFL fans, while opponents were NASCAR fans- both groups agreed that theAtlanta Braves was their favorite sports team.
  • Both sides tended to agree in the area of prominent consumer choices, with both groups most favorite food and beverage product being Chick-Fil-a.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 6, 2012

26200 is a young labrador mix who is said by volunteers to be very sweet and friendly and she is available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville. Call the Shelter for more information 770-339-3200.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

As of Saturday, Fulton County was not finished counting votes in last Tuesday’s elections and Secretary of State Brian Kemp is not amused.

Brian Kemp said he is concerned about “numerous and substantial issues” surrounding Tuesday’s primary election in Fulton County and more concerned with a lack of communication with local voting officials.

WSB-TV reports that Fulton County was scheduled to certify the results of Tuesday’s primary by noon Saturday. That deadline came and went. Now county election officials plan to meet tonight.

“This process does not usually take this long and every time that we’ve worked a deadline out with them that deadline has been moved,” Kemp told the TV station in an interview.

Maybe the General Assembly should consider a mechanism for the Secretary of State’s office to remove or supervise elections officials whose departments aren’t performing well enough.

Kennesaw State University hosts the Center for Election Systems, which provides support for the state’s voting system.

“They provide an invaluable service to the state of Georgia,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said. “This investment of taxpayer dollars provides a safe, secure and uniform election system that Georgia can be proud of.”

In late 2003, the center began preparing the election databases, also known as ballot building.

An election database maps precincts, races and candidates and provides for the storage of votes and eventual reporting for that election. The ballot is derived from the election database. Months before Election Day, the center begins preparing databases that produce the electronic printed and audio ballots used during an election.

There are specific election board rules that outline such things as how large a candidate’s name can appear on the ballot, the font size and the placement of a candidate’s name.

“By having a centralized building component, you have one spot where you can control that to make sure what’s seen by a voter in Fulton County in display, in receptiveness, in feel, looks the same as it does in Camden County,” [center director Michael] Barnes said.

The center builds ballots for 157 of the 159 counties to date, with only Cobb and Richmond counties doing it themselves.

“When we’re doing this in some cases it’s in a time window that’s extremely small,” Barnes said. “The election ended (Tuesday). Voters are anticipating to be voting on a ballot a week from Monday. You have no idea who’s in the runoff. You can’t guess. You have recounts going on. I calculated this morning that out of 159 counties we have 124 counties that have some form of a runoff, so that means we have to prepare 124 databases. Not only do we have to prepare them, they have to be built, they have to be viewed, they have to be checked, and then when we’re finished saying it’s good, they’re only given at that point to the counties for them to proof, because it’s the responsibility of the county to make sure that it’s correct.”

Some candidates in Cobb County complained that election results took too long to be released:

The first results from Cobb were not posted online until 9:39 p.m., more than two and a half hours after most polling places had closed. The nearly complete results were not available until 10 minutes before midnight. And it was 4:27 a.m. Wednesday before all the results were reported.

“You couldn’t get any results, and you had to go to the state level to do it,” said former county Commissioner Butch Thompson. “In somebody’s wisdom they decided that they didn’t want Cobb County to have the election results so normal people could see where we’re at. I don’t know why it now has to come under state control. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I found it real frustrating.”

State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), added: “Something needs to be done. Cobb used to be one of the counties that always had the earliest results coming in. At some point, people will start to question the process when you have that long of a delay.”

Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler was doing things by the book and ensuring that the numbers posted were accurate, and she deserves credit for that.

“Everything went according to plan,” Eveler told the MDJ the next day. “We felt very good about the whole process. Our processes worked great.”

Coweta County election officials were disappointed with 27% turnout:

Turnout, however, was low, with only 27.17 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

“I was thinking we would have between 30 and 40 percent turnout,” Scoggins said.

And even so, “I think we were a little bit higher than the state,” she said.

While Chatham County’s 26% was higher than predicted.

About 26 percent of Chatham’s 141,282 registered voters cast ballots in the primary election, according to unofficial results.

Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said there were no major problems.

“Everything went pretty well,” Bridges said.

The turnout was slightly higher than Bridge’s expectation of 20 percent. During the last primary before a presidential election in 2008, almost 23,000, or about 19 percent, of registered voters cast ballots.

The takeaway here: election turnout predictions by the people charged with administering elections are wild guesses.

Candidates for Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education begin qualifying today.

Qualifying for five commission posts and five school board seats begins at 9 a.m. today in the office of Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey. It was moved from May by a federal judge while a lawsuit over district lines was contested.

Qualifying will be held during business hours today and Tuesday but ends at noon Wednesday. The qualifying fee for a school board seat is $100. The qualifying fee for a commission seat is $360, and candidates must live in the district they want to represent.

At least 13 candidates have expressed an interest in the Dis­tricts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 commission posts, but only one person has announced plans to seek a seat on the school board.

School board incumbents are not term-limited and have a combined 43 years of experience. Two of the longest-serving, District 1’s Marion Barnes and at-large member Helen Minchew, first took office in 2000.

Richmond County Repub­li­can voters overwhelmingly approved term limits for school board members in a primary straw poll, but implementing them would take an act of the Georgia Legislature.

According to the Savannah Morning News, the challenge of runoff elections is turning out your voters.

Primary leader usually wins

If history’s any guide, Anderson and Hoskins have a leg up, said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.

The leader in the primary wins runoffs about 70 percent of the time, said Bullock, who’s written extensively about them.

He and other experts say runoffs demand a different approach than primaries.

Bullock cited two key factors — lower turnout and a campaign that lasts less than three weeks.

“Your first objective,” Bullock said, “is to make sure the people who voted for you in the primary get back to the polls. There is usually a drop off.”

Savannah College of Art and Design political science professor Robert Eisinger agreed.

“Every campaign ought to know who their supporters are and let them know it’s not over,” Eisinger said.

But, especially in local campaigns, said Savannah political consultant David Simons, that’s not always easy.

It’s smarter, he said, to make “extremely targeted” appeals to people most likely to vote.

Voting history and demographic data such as age and race — all public record — can locate such people, Simons said.

Simons recommended that candidates use mostly phones and mailings.

“I wouldn’t spend a dime on TV or radio in a local race,” he said. “You’ll pay too much to reach people who won’t vote.”

Because there’s so little time, he and Bullock agreed, it makes little sense to try of drum up new support.

Center Forward has reserved $357,000 worth of television airtime in the 12th Congressional District to support the reelection of Democrat John Barrow.

A complaint has been filed with the Judicial Qualifications Commission accusing Gwinnett County State Court candidate Pam Britt of stealing signs from other candidates.

Britt said she has run an honest campaign and strongly denied stealing any signs. She said she did remove two signs from a campaign supporter’s property at their request about five weeks ago, because other candidates did not have permission to place signs there.

Britt said one of the signs was broken, laying in the street and had been run over by cars. She said she threw the sign, which was for Richard T. Winegarden, in the trash. Britt said she returned the other sign, which looked reusable, to its owner, Greg Lundy.

“The timing on this being the week of the election is suspicious,” Britt said. “I think it’s an attack on my character, and obviously I’m upset by it.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution attempted to contact the other four primary candidates for State Court Thursday — Brantley, Winegarden, Lundy and Norman Cuadra — but only Winegarden returned calls seeking comment.

When informed of the investigation, Winegarden declined to discuss the situation. “The JQC investigation is confidential, so I don’t think I should be talking about it,” he said.

Sign-stealing is a common complaint during election season, but it’s difficult to prove without witnesses or photographs, Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said.

“It’s just not something you expect in a judicial race — it’s more often city councils, county commission, state House,” Conway said.

Winegarden’s campaign manager called Duluth police Tuesday to report someone stole his campaign signs, spray-painted them with a black skull and crossbones and re-posted them at the intersection of Old Peachtree Road and Sugarloaf Parkway, according to an incident report.

At Saturday’s Gwinnett County Republican Party breakfast, State Court candidate Emily Brantley accused Britt of something arguably worse in a Gwinnett County runoff. Brantley said that Britt voted in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary for either Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton. Maybe she voted for Bill Richardson?

In the Cobb County Commission Chair Runoff between incumbent Tim Lee and former Chair Bill Byrne, the challenger has picked up support from Larry Savage, who ran fourth in the primary election, while third-place finisher Mike Boyce will not endorse anyone.

Former county chairman candidate Larry Savage said he would campaign for Bill Byrne in the Aug. 21 runoff that will decide the next chairman if asked, while former candidate Mike Boyce said he would not be making an endorsement.

Voters sent Byrne and incumbent Tim Lee into the runoff in the Tuesday Republican primary race for county chairman. Lee led the pack with 29,024 votes, followed by Byrne, who received 19,388 votes, Boyce, who received 17,025 votes, and Savage, who received 7,662 votes.  About 60 percent of all voters cast a ballot against Chairman Lee.

Savage said he would work to help Byrne get elected if Byrne wanted.

“Bill sees the same thing that I saw starting more than two years ago — that we have lost our direction, we have gone adrift to the left, we’ve become decidedly more liberal in our approach to local government, and we just can’t continue that unless we want to turn out like everybody else that’s ever tried it,” Savage said Thursday. “That’s a natural thing that governments do over time is tilt to the left. They provide more and more services to more and more people and ever smaller groups, and it never works in the long run, and the only way it seems that people get over that is they go all the way to the end and to failure, and then they get to reset and start over, and I think we ought to be smart enough to be able not to do that.”

Were it to come down to picking a next-door neighbor, Savage said he might choose Lee because, on a personal level, Lee is likable.

“But Tim, I don’t know if Tim even has a personal view about government or if he has any philosophy about government,” Savage said. “He gets his direction from other people, and those other people, they may be upstanding citizens and successful business people and all that sort of thing, but they are not tuned in or obligated or committed in any way to the best interests of the county at large. They’ve got other interests that are a lot more parochial, and that’s the direction that the county follows.”

However, Savage said this is not about electing a next-door neighbor.

“We’re not electing a homecoming queen,” Savage said. “We’re not electing someone to be nice. We’re electing someone to deal with issues.

That Cobb Commission Chair runoff is likely to come down to voter turnout, according to even more politicos.

Marietta attorney Chuck Clay said it’s hard to say who could win the runoff because there should be a slight advantage to the incumbent, but with both Lee and Byrne being “known entities” in Cobb, it will all depend on who can get the most people back to the ballots in three weeks.

“The traditional rule is that if you’re an incumbent and you’re down, then you’re in trouble, but this is a little different scenario with the (TSPLOST) on and off, and both of these people have records that are known,” he said. “You don’t have an incumbent challenging a fresh face. It kind of throws that traditional view off.”

For Lee, Clay said he’s has the advantage in fundraising and seems to be well-liked, but Byrne is a hardworking candidate and within “striking distance.”

He also said that traditionally, around 15 to 20 percent of registered voters turn out for the primaries, and somewhere around half of that will make a showing for runoffs.

“At this time, it’s purely a turnout issue — who can get folks to come back to the poll?” he said.

First-time Cobb Commission candidate Lisa Cupid forced incumbent Woody Thompson into a runoff as well.

Lisa Cupid … said she’s been endorsed by former candidates Monica DeLancy and Ruth Negron

Cupid said she is confident about the race, given that more than 70 percent of voters opposed Thompson.

“We were pretty successful knocking door to door and calling people directly,” she said. “That may have to continue.”

Thompson said he talked with Connie Taylor, whom he appointed to the SPLOST Oversight Committee and Board of Tax Assessors, about an endorsement.

While nothing is official, he feels confident about the endorsement from Taylor, who finished fourth in the race, just behind Dr. Michael Rhett.

“I think she’s on board to help,” Thompson said.

Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr holds a 76-vote lead over challenger Pam Brown in the Democratic primary.

Elections supervisor, Nancy Boren, says more than 260 military ballots were mailed out 45 days ago, some going as far as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Based upon previous elections, only 6 to 8 percent are normally returned to the office before the deadline. Soldiers have until Friday to submit their mail-in ballots.

“I am not expecting those ballots to make a big difference in the outcome,” explained Boren.

[Pam] Brown… stated she will request a recount if Darr is declared the nominee.

Henry County Commissioner Warren Holder has requested a recount in his narrow loss to challenger Bo Moss, which will be conducted today by the county elections office.

For now, unofficial and incomplete returns have businessman William J. “Bo” Moss defeating long-time incumbent District I Commissioner Warren Emory Holder. Moss received 50.2 percent of the vote, or 1,898 votes, while Holder secured 49.8 percent, or 1,883 votes.

“Unofficially, there is a 15-vote difference between ‘Bo’ Moss and Warren Holder for the District I Commissioner seat,” said election clerk Brook Schreiner. “Our office is still waiting on military absentees; they have until Friday at 3 p.m. to get their absentee votes to us. After 3 p.m., we will certify the election.”

Schreiner said although the Henry election office has completed the count for provisional ballots, the number of votes for Moss and Holder remains the same as election night.

“As of [Wednesday], we had not received any military votes in the mail,” said Shellnutt. “There will be an official and complete report on Friday, when will do a final count after the mail runs.”

Muscogee County coroner Bill Thrower, who was bounced from the ballot for paying with a bad check, is trying to collect nearly 6000 signatures by Thursday to qualify for the ballot.

Thrower says he has at least 4,000 signatures so far. Officials say by August 3 at noon, he must pay a $1800 qualifying fee and turn in a declaration of intent to run as an independent candidate.

Pro-tip: collect at least 50% more signatures than you need, so that you still have enough after a bunch of them are challenged and thrown out.

Clayton County voters will get a second bite at the apple in runoff elections for County Commission Chair, Sheriff, Commission District 3, and Senate district 44. In each of those races, the incumbent was forced into a runoff.

In the District 44 senate race, challenger Gail Buckner and incumbent Gail Davenport ran neck-and-neck throughout the evening. The results show Buckner finishing with 45.8 percent of the vote to Davenport’s 45.2.

In the race for sheriff of Clayton County, incumbent Kem Kimbrough led throughout the evening but challenger and former sheriff Victor Hill remained on his coattails. Kimbrough garnered 42.4 percent of the vote to Hill’s 37.5 percent.

The only remaining candidate in that race to finish with more than one percent of the vote was Clayton County Police Lt. Tina Daniel, who finished third with 12.9 percent.

The commission chairman’s race saw challenger Jeff Turner and incumbent Eldrin Bell neck-and-neck throughout the evening on Tuesday and, when the final votes were tallied, the two were separated by four tenths of a percentage point with Bell garnering 41.95 percent of the vote to Turner’s 41.91 percent.

The third candidate, Roberta Abdul-Salaam, finished with 16.1 percent.

In the Clayton County Commission District Three race, incumbent Wole Ralph and challenger Shana Rooks ran a close race throughout the evening with Ralph finishing on top with 44.07 percent of the vote to Rooks 42.7.

New District Attorney for the Northern Judicial Circuit (comprising  Hart, Elbert, Franklin, Madison, and Oglethorpe counties) Parks White is preparing to take over from incumbent Bob Lavender, whom he defeated in the Republican primary. Awkward.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 2, 2012

Lilly and Libby are 5-month old mixed breed puppies who are available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter. They weigh about 16 pounds and are up-to-date on their shots and will be spayed, chipped, and tested for heartworms before they are adopted. They are in cage 315 in the puppy room and their ID numbers are 546760 (Lilly) and 546761 (Libby).

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan  Deal announced that he will work on prioritizing transportation projects in the wake of the defeat of T-SPLOST in all but three regions of the state:

“The voters of Georgia have spoken, and I will continue to do what I have done since I became governor: Work in consultation with state transportation leaders, legislators and local officials to establish our priority projects.

There will be belt-tightening. It’s certainly disappointing that we won’t have the resources to accomplish all the projects needed to get Georgians moving quicker, but it does force state officials, including myself, to focus all our attention on our most pressing needs.

For example, TSPLOST contained $600 million to rebuild the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange. We will face significant challenges in that corridor if that doesn’t get fixed, particularly after the tolls come down and volume increases. We’ll have a ‘need to do’ Transportation Improvement Program list, but not a ‘want to do’ list. In addition to tight state budgets, we’re also facing a significant reduction in federal funds so tough choices await.

On public transportation, yesterday’s vote slams the door on further expansion of our rail network any time soon. Neither I nor the Legislature has much of an appetite for new investments until there are significant reforms in how MARTA operates.

The referendum passed in three regions, and I think those regions will see great returns on their investment. Under the law, these regions will also receive a 90 percent match for local transportation projects, meaning they will only have to put up 10 percent from local funds. The law requires a 70-30 split in the regions that didn’t pass it.

As governor, I aim to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the nation to do business and improving our transportation infrastructure is a major part of that effort. Yesterday’s vote wasn’t an end of the discussion; it’s a transition point. We have much to do, and I’ll work with state and local officials to direct our limited resources to the most important projects.”

This is a positive development. Gov. Deal has shown a great facility for working with legislators and listening to and incorporating the ideas of people not named Nathan Deal. This is not a quality always found in Governors.

In the Ninth Congressional District, third-place finisher Roger Fitzpatrick said he will not endorse either Doug Collins or Martha Zoller.

Hall County Commissioner Ashley D. Bell, well-known for switching to the Republican Party, was defeated by Jeff Stowe in the Republican Primary.

Incumbent Hall County Chairman Tom Oliver came in second to Dick Mecum and is headed to a runoff..

Mecum, the former Hall County sheriff, earned 46 percent of the vote, while Oliver, the two-term incumbent, took in 34 percent.

Former North Hall Commissioner Steve Gailey earned enough votes to force the runoff.

Mecum finished just a few percentage points shy of winning the race outright.

Judicial, District Attorney, and Sheriff elections

We noted yesterday that Kathy Schrader took first place in the race for Gwinnett County Superior Court, receiving more than twice as many votes as the runner-up. Emily Brantley and Pam Britt go another round in the runoff election for Gwinnett State Court.

Superior Court Judge Art Smith, who was supported by Sen. Josh McKoon among others, combined a 150 vote margin in Muscogee County, his circuit’s most populous, with nearly 70% in Harris and took every other county except Talbot County in earning re-election to the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

Smith was the only one of five judges in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit who had opposition. He will serve a four-year term, as will the four judges who ran unopposed — John Allen, Gil McBride, Bobby Peters and Bill Rumer.

Smith was appointed to the bench in 2011 by Gov. Nathan Deal. He was appointed to complete the unfinished term for former Judge Doug Pullen, who stepped down last year amid a judicial misconduct investigation.

In DeKalb County, Judge Gail Flake was re-elected over Michael Rothenberg, who has been indicted for felony theft; apparently 28% of DeKalb County voters thought a (alleged) felon is better than a Flake. State Court Judge Dax Lopez also earned reelection.

In Fulton County, Judge Todd Markle won reelection with 54 percent over Clarence Johnson.

Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson appeared to hold a slim margin with 50.01 percent, to avoid a runoff. We’ll see if that holds.

Jackson won 34,648 votes, while Lankford received 22,483.

The Fulton County Board of Elections plans to have all the ballots counted and certified by Saturday, according to a spokeswoman.

“We’ve still got some absentee ballots and two more precincts,” Jackson said Wednesday morning. “We figure we’re about 50 percent plus 10 votes away from a runoff. I kept telling everybody, ‘every vote counts in this election.’”

Jackson said he was surprised by his narrow win — if it survives — particularly given that his top opponent only avoided being retried on criminal charges of extortion and income tax evasion by agreeing to never seek a law enforcement job again.

Jane Morrison won the election for Fulton State Court, beating Melynee Leftridge by 61-39.

In Cobb County, Judge Reuben Green was re-elected to the Superior Court and Greg Poole won 51% in the race for an open seat in Superior Court.

Poole, who has been a juvenile court judge for nine years, has regularly filled in on Cobb’s superior court bench.

“I’ve been doing this for one week a month for nine and a half years,” Poole said. “I’m going to continue to do it that way. … There won’t be any change in basic policy. I want to be efficient. I want to move cases efficiently.”

Rebecca Keaton and John Skelton advance to a runoff for Cobb County Superior Court on August 21st.

Keaton, who earned her law degree at John Marshall, said: “We’ll run hard and do what we need to do to win the campaign.”

She is a wife and mother of three who lives in Kennesaw and said she wants to serve the people by using her skills to provide great customer service. She plans to implement one computer operating system and an “e-filing” system similar to the other candidates.

Skelton, who ran at the behest of incumbent Stephenson, said late Tuesday: “The best person for the job will get it.” He added that he hopes his opponent will keep the run off clean.

Skelton earned his law degree at the University of Georgia. He and his wife have two children.

Marsha Lake (39%) and Larry Burke (26%) earned slots in the runoff for State Court Judge.

Three incumbents District Attorneys were defeated in primary elections Tuesday.

Cathy Helms in the Alapaha Circuit in South Georgia, Robert Lavender in the state’s Northern Circuit which includes Hartwell and Elberton, and Robert Brooks of the Tallapoosa Circuit, which includes Bremen and Cedar­town, lost their re-election bids.

Lavender lost to Parks White, a Richmond County assistant district attorney and Iraqi war veteran who, as a lieutenant in the Navy Judge Advocate General Corps, worked with Iraqis to prosecute insurgents.

A child molestation case also figured in the Alapaha Circuit race and may have played a role in incumbent DA Cathy Helms’ defeat by Dick Perryman in the Republican primary. Perryman beat Helms by 202 votes, winning 51.16 percent to Helms’ 48.84 percent. There were no Democratic candidates.

A child molestation case also played a role in Tallapoosa Circuit chief assistant public defender Jack Browning’s campaign — and subsequent defeat — of one-term DA Robert Brooks. Browning formerly practiced law at Murphy, Murphy & Garner — the former firm of U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy of the Northern District of Georgia. The Tallapoosa Circuit includes Haralson and Polk counties.

On his campaign website, Browning highlighted the dismissal of some charges in a child molestation case and a plea deal with minimal jail time.

So we now know a winning formula for defeating an incumbent District Attorney. File that away for later.

Appalachian Circuit incumbent Joe Hendricks came in second and will face a runoff against Blue Ridge attorney B. Alison Sosebee, who received the support of third-place finisher Harry Doss.

Incumbent Herbert “Buzz” Franklin in the Lookout Mountain circuit holds a 44-vote margin over challenger Doug Woodruff and may face a recount.

Woodruff said Wednesday he doesn’t know whether all the absentee ballots have been counted and if he will seek a recount. “If the votes haven’t all been counted yet, the margin could either grow or be reduced,” he said. “It could go the other way. At this point, a 44-vote margin is not much.”

In the election for Hall County Sheriff, Jeff Strickland and Gerald Couch both earned a spot in the runoff.

As the race narrows to two men, Strickland, who was the agency’s highest ranking officer when he retired in October, said he will focus on what sets him apart from Couch, who led the agency’s criminal investigations division.

“I worked in a higher level than he did,” Strickland said. “I was in charge of an entire department with over 450 employees and a $29 million budget.”

Couch, too, said he will focus on his qualifications versus Strickland’s.

“I’ve worked in every single area of the sheriff’s office,” Couch said. “I think I have a huge advantage in that area.”

Patty Walters Laine (31%) and Brook Davidson (26%) made it into a runoff for Hall County Probate Court, beating out two other candidates.

Scott Peebles and Richard Roundtree are headed for a runoff for Richmond County Sheriff.

Recounts

In the Twelfth Congressional District Republican Primary, candidate Wright McLeod, who appears to have come in third, has not decided whether to seek a recount.

Preliminary results Wednesday showed McLeod trailing Augusta businessman Rick Allen by 584 votes, with all counties reporting but provisional ballots not yet counted.

In an afternoon e-mail, McLeod left his options open.

“We are now considering our next steps,” he said. “I must consider whether or not a recount would be in the best interest of voters of the 12th District. Our campaign recognizes that requesting such would provide a ‘trust but verify’ approach to the election results and allow us all to move forward.”

Meanwhile, Allen resumed campaigning as though his place in the runoff weren’t in question.

Spencer Price has asked for a recount in his narrow defeat by Senator Cecil Staton.

“I appreciate the tremendous support from the voters of the 18th” District, said Price, reached via phone during a break from work Wednesday.

And “if I’m not successful, I will be back,” he added.

Station finished with 10,518 votes to Price’s 10,311. The final vote tally did not include 35 military ballots yet to be added.

Considering Staton’s 10-to-1 advantage in fundraising in the second quarter of 2012 — he collected about $115,000 — and his endorsements from party heavyweights such as Gov. Nathan Deal, it was an unusually close outcome.

Harris County Commission Chair Harry Lange has a slim 9-vote margin over Greg Allen who will seek a recount.

Allen defeated Lange at the polls, but fell behind when absentees were tallied; Lange, a three-term incumbent, collected 451 votes compared to Allen’s 442 with about three military and two provisional ballots uncounted, said Sherrail Jarrett, the county elections supervisor.

“I never really expected to garner the votes that I did to be honest with you, but just staying out and being in the community for so long, I knew I had a lot of support,” Allen said.

Both candidates voiced disappointment over voter turnout.

“I’m afraid a lot of my supporters figured they didn’t need to vote,” said Lange, 71, who estimated about 20 percent of registered voters in his district participated.

The race pitted a seasoned commission chairman against a youthful challenger, and the close finish seemed to reflect a string of controversies that have disquieted portions of the community in recent months.

“I’d heard so many people say they were dissatisfied,” said Commissioner Charles Wyatt, who isn’t up for re-election this year. “I hope it straightens Harry up. I hope it sends him a message.”

Lange attributed the dead heat in part to a long-running dispute over the use of the baseball fields in Mulberry Grove. County commissioners denied a rezoning request last year to prevent the fields from being used for travel ball.

Also in Muscogee County, Pam Brown, who challenged incumbent Sheriff John Darr, said she will request a recount.

“I’ll be asking for one, I’m certain I will,” Brown said. “I felt it would be close, but I thought that I would have the edge on him a little bit.”

The sheriff led Brown by a margin of about 0.448 percent — or 8,604 votes to 8,528 votes. Some 59 provisional ballots — votes not yet counted because of eligibility questions — remained out, and elections officials had received 22 military ballots as of Wednesday, said Nancy Boren, the county’s elections director.

About 200 military ballots were requested, but only a portion of those were expected to be returned.

The Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations plans to meet 3 p.m. Friday at the Government Center to certify election results. Georgia law allows for a recount when the margin of victory is within 1 percent.

If Darr prevails, Brown would have until Tuesday afternoon to request a recount in writing.

State Rep. Doug McKillip will not ask for a recount in his narrow loss to fellow Republican Regina Quick.

Runoffs

Carroll County Commission Chair Bill Chappell has been forced into a runoff with Marty Smith.

When the ballots were counted Tuesday night, Chappell has received the most votes, but the split was close to a three-way tie, a situation not usually found in incumbency races, one local political analyst observed.

The unofficial totals were Chappell with 4,594 votes, 34.9 percent; Smith with 4,356 votes, 33.1 percent; and third-place finisher Walt Hollingsworth, 4,217 votes, 32.0 percent.

Dr. Robert Sanders, a University of West Georgia political science professor, said he found the results “rather surprising” and was amazed at the closeness of the vote split and how no candidate was close to a majority.

“It goes to show that the Carroll County electorate is not thrilled with how things are going in county government,” Sanders said Wednesday. “There seems to be a number of issues, such as spending and services, but it may be reflective of general disappointment in government around the nation.”

Sanders said the vote seemed to be a question of, “Do you want the incumbency or not?” and it appears the Tuesday results showed nearly a two-to-one vote of dissatisfaction.

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Ends & Pieces

Seventy-three percent of Cobb County voters approved Sunday Sales in unincorporated parts of the county. This was a re-do of an earlier election in which only voters in unincorporated Cobb were allowed to vote; a court challenge overturned that election because all Cobb voters should have been polled.

A voting machine malfunctioned in Floyd County, trapping 85 uncounted votes; it is being sent to its manufacture to attempt to read those votes.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 4, 2012

“Liberty” is a lab/bassett mix who needs a foster home in order to live to see next July 4th. Visit Angels Among Us Rescue to donate for Liberty or email f[email protected] to foster her.

MISSING DOG!

MacCallan is a black lab mix who wears a red collar and was lost last night when he jumped the fence at his home. He is mostly black with a white chest and friendly disposition and he answers to “Mac” or “Pig” and may be skittish around strangers. Last seen leaving the Candler Park MARTA station after apparently riding a train. Seriously. In addition to his owner’s gratitude, there may be a reward from MARTA for information leading to his arrest for fare-jumping.

If you see Mac or capture him, please call Will at 706-977-8947 or email him.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The grace period for the campaign disclosure report that is currently due ends Monday, July 9th, and yesterday we heard multiple reports that the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission website was bogging down as people were logged in working on their campaign disclosure reports. One incumbent legislator reported that it took 90 minutes to get the system to accept a report showing two contributions.

“The backlog in the State’s filing system appears to be exclusively for ‘candidate’ filers as we are not experiencing the same difficulties filing ‘lobbyist’ reports,” says Rick Thompson the senior partner of R. Thompson & Associates a compliance reporting firm.

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“Don’t panic,” says Thompson, whose firm is responsible for filing a number of disclosure reports for candidate filers.

“There are 5-days left and I expect the Commission to get the issues resolved. As a candidate, your best course of action is to get started now. Document your filing efforts, including screen shots of the system and its delays, so in the event you do not file in time you have solid evidence to present in your appeal. You are going to have to be patient. Off peak hour filing is not making a difference. Our firm is experiencing many of the same challenges with reports we are submitting during the day as well as reports we are entering in the overnight hours.”

Additionally, it has been suggested that people having filing difficulties keep a log of the failures, and document their problems in a letter to the Commission and to the individual Commissioners.

What appears to have happened in the past is that the Commission has fined late filers and allowed those who received fines to ask the Commission to waive the fines if they had technical problems.

As recently as Wednesday, the fines ranged from $125 for council candidate Marianne Bramble to $2,750 for mayoral candidate Dick Smith. Buelterman, as well as council members Frank Schuman and Wanda Doyle, also faced fines of $1,375, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website. Council member Kathryn Williams, who is not running for reelection, had been fined $2,750.

On Friday, all the fines had been reduced to $125.

That still did not sit right with Doyle, who said she made sure to file her reports by the deadline.

“I don’t even think I should have to pay the $125,” Doyle said.

Most of those who have been fined deny filing late and say the fines were levied in error. But the head of the state agency charged with regulating the reports says it is the candidates who fouled up.

Candidates throughout the state have experienced problems filing, said Amy Henderson, spokesperson for the Georgia Municipal Association. The issues are a result of state computer glitches, candidates having to learn a new process and the understaffed commission, Henderson said.

The commission is being overwhelmed by filers and the number of questions they are getting, Henderson said.

The candidates’ appeals will be submitted to the commission for consideration at their next meeting, for which a date has not yet been set, LaBerge said.

LaBerge could not be reached Friday to find out why the fines has been reduced.

If past experience is any guide, you will also have trouble getting in touch with the Commission by phone as the deadline approaches. If this is the case, record also the times you attempted to call, and the disposition of the call, whether it was a busy number, you left a message, or you spoke to someone. I’d call from my cell phone to create a record of your calls, and take screenshots from the phone showing the calls.

Getting fined by the Commission is only one of the problems a candidate faces when they’re unable to file. The second issue, highlighted by the above story, is negative press related to the Commission website showing that your filing is late.

If one of my clients faces this problem, here’s what I suggest: contact the local reporter(s) and editor(s) covering your race, explain that you’re currently working on filing your papers, but are having problems due to the Commission’s filing system. Offer to share with them screenshots showing the problem, or ask them if they want to come over and see how the system is (not) working while you’re trying to file. Be open and honest and keep them in the loop.

By getting out ahead of the story, you increase the chance that a story, if written, carries the headline “State computer system problems delay ethics filings” rather than “Candidate fined by Ethics Commission for missing reports.”  This is much easier done if you start talking to the reporters before the grace period deadline and establish that not only are there problems with the system, but that you didn’t wait to the last moment and then try to blame the Commission’s system. And obviously the first headline does less damage to your campaign than the second.

Today from 11:30 AM to 3 PM, the Cobb County Republican Party will hold a barbecue at Jim Miller Park, located at 2245 Callaway Rd SW in Marietta. Adult admission is $15 and kids’ admission is $5 each. Williamson Brothers will be providing barbecue. If you see me there, say hello. Click here to go to our Events Calendar listing that includes a Google Map. If you’re on an iPhone, you can then click on the map and it will take you to the iPhone maps app where you can get directions.

While you’re at the Cobb GOP Barbecue, you can expect to hear about Sheriff Neil Warren’s endorsement of Josh Belinfante in the Republican Primary for State Senate District 6. Belinfante’s press release read:

Sheriff Neil Warren urged fellow Cobb County citizens to join him in his support of Belinfante. He stated, “Josh is the best candidate for the job. I know Josh personally, and we need his leadership and expertise at the State Capitol for a strong and safe Cobb County. Please join me in supporting Josh for State Senate.”

Tomorrow, July 5th, Florida’s United State Senator Marco Rubio will be autographing copies of his book An American Son: A Memoir at NOON on July 5that the Books-A-Million at 5900 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, GA 30043 [Click for a map].

A Commission appointed to advise Governor Deal on whether to remove Velvet Riggins from the Dougherty County School Board has recommended that Riggins be removed until the felony indictment against her has been resolved.

Riggins was indicted on April 25 by a Dougherty County grand jury on two counts of theft by taking, public record fraud and providing false information to obtain free school meals for a child.

The indictment stems from two 2011-12 free or reduced-cost school lunch applications filed for her children at Robert Cross Middle Magnet School and Lincoln Elementary Magnet School. Riggins is accused of falsifying information on the applications.

Riggins term on the school board expires Dec. 31, but she is running unopposed for a new four-year term in the November election.

Ends & Pieces

The Norfolk Southern has assembled its entire heritage locomotive fleet for “Family Portraits” at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Among the locomotives are those painted in livery honoring the Southern Railway, Central of Georgia, and Savannah & Atlanta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 18, 2012


Charlie Boy is a 46-pound, young Golden Retriever available for adoption from Angels Among Us Rescue.

The Cobb County Animal Shelter is packed after 63 dogs were turned in on a single day last week.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

On Saturday, Governor Nathan Deal was the keynote speaker in Rome, GA at the Georgia Honors Iraq War Veterans event.

“I know we live in a world where it doesn’t appear that the rest of the world appreciates the sacrifice that the United States of America makes on their behalf, as well as on our own behalf, but I can tell you in my travels, in my contacts with people around the rest of the world, they truly understand that the only real bastion of freedom, the only protector of liberty is the United States military,” Deal said to thunderous applause.

During his remarks, Deal called Gold Star Mother Jan Johnson, whose son Justin Johnson was killed in Iraq, to the podium where he presented her with a proclamation declaring June 16, 2012, Celebrate Iraq Veterans and Families Day in the state of Georgia.

“Justin is a Georgia hero; he is an American hero and his service will not be forgotten, nor will we forget your loss,” Deal said.

Deal used the occasion to make a plea for business leaders in the audience to remember that thousands of veterans have returned from Iraq, and many will soon return from Afghanistan, in need of a job.

The Rome News-Tribune also has video of the event.

On Friday, the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission had a full plate before it, but left some for July.

dismissed the complaint against former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes.

In 2007, Barnes was representing a client before a local zoning board and determined that the broad wording of state ethics law could determine that to be lobbying. He registered as a lobbyist, but before filing any disclosure reports he received an advisory opinion from the commission clarifying the law: He did not have to register. If he was not required to register, Barnes said, how could he have been required to file lobbyist reports?

The Commission also accepted a consent order by the lobbyist, Christopher Brady who took Speaker David Ralston to Europe in 2010.

Brady’s attorney, Stefan Passantino, said the state’s ethics law in effect at the time did not consider Brady’s expenditure on Ralston’s trip to be lobbying. He and the commission had a lengthy discussion about what constitutes lobbying as the law apparently limits it specifically to an attempt to influence an elected official about legislation.

Passantino said no legislation regarding mag-level trains was before the General Assembly at the time.

The Commission voted unanimously to find probable cause that John Oxendine’s campaign violated the Ethics in Government Act in 2010 when it accepted contributions over the individual contribution limit from a number of Alabama Political Action Committees whose funding originated with a single individual.

Oxendine attorney Stefan Passantino did not dispute that his client’s campaign accepted contributions from 10 political action committees and two Rome-based insurance companies that used the PACs in 2008 to funnel $120,000 to Oxendine’s campaign.

Instead, Passantino argued that the law placed an unfair burden on the campaign to know that the contributions were all linked to the same individuals and organizations.

Finally the Commission deferred taking action on complaints against Governor Deal and his 2010 campaign.

A second member of the Commission has referred to lawsuits by the former executive director and her assistant as “frivolous.”

Dunwoody City Council member Adrian Bonser will be the first public official charged before the city’s ethics board.

 

In a May 29 letter, Dunwoody City Council submitted a formal letter of complaint to the Board of Ethics against Bonser. The letter, signed by the mayor and the other five members of the council, alleges that Bonser violated sections of Dunwoody’s city charter and code of ethics, and lists as evidence the report of an investigation commissioned by the mayor.

“There should be a presumption of innocence and it has not been that way with certain council members [in this case],” Bonser said. “I think the entire investigation was a completely emotional and knee-jerk reaction and a poor use of taxpayer dollars.”

The council held executive sessions in late January and early February to discuss what is now known as “Project Renaissance,” a public-private partnership with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods to develop 35 acres in the Georgetown area into homes, shops, parks and a possible municipal complex.

After information from the meetings was leaked to a blogger and a newspaper, Mayor Mike Davis brought in former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to investigate the leak. Wilson’s report concludes Bonser and then-City Attorney Brian Anderson shared the information. Both have denied being the source of a leak.

Anderson resigned when faced with the threat of termination. On May 29, the council approved a separation agreement that provides him with two months’ severance pay.

Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower, who was bounced from the ballot after the check written by his wife bounced, is appealing the decision.

Supporters of the Fulton Science Academy contributed to Senator John Albers’s campaign, shockingly because he also supported Fulton Science Academy’s charter being renewed. This is seriously a news story, AJC? Tuck your agenda in, it’s showing.

Backers of Ron Paul for President will continue to show up to Republican events until it’s actually time to elect a President in their quixotic quest for a nomination their candidates has given up on.

Ron Paul has given up on becoming president, but loyal supporters are promising to promote the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman’s principles at the Republican national convention this summer, a potential complication for Mitt Romney’s goal of a peaceful coronation.

Paul backers have taken over state Republican conventions Nevada and Maine, and had a strong showing this weekend in Iowa, aiming to increase their voice and clout at the nominating convention in Tampa, Fla.

“We want to send Ron Paul-inspired folks to that convention to show we’re not going away,” says Iowa Republican David Fischer, a top Paul backer in the state.

Georgia atheists are organizing a group to lobby the General Assembly. Now the term “godless lobbyist” can be used literally. In what I’m sure is pure coincidence, the Georgia Solar Energy Association will also be forming a lobbying arm.

A Minnesota case with the potential for revisiting Citizens United may be accepted for hearing by the United States Supreme Court.

More than half of the local governments that would receive more than a billion dollars under the T-SPLOST to be voted on July 31st have failed to produce plans detailing what they will do with the money, according to the AJC.

Austin Scott obviously has seen all the Terminator movies and understands the threat posed by SkyNet, as he is teaming up with Sen. Rand Paul to offer legislation to restrict the domestic use of drones:

“We’re not opposed to the use of drones. But their use has to be consistent with the established rules with regard to search and seizure. The same thing that you would have to obtain to use a wiretap, you would have to have for the use of a drone,” Scott said. “This has the potential to be a huge invasion.”

H.R. 5925 includes exemptions for border patrols, and emergency use by law enforcement or national security authorities. Ultimately, Scott said, the legislation could address privacy rules when it comes to the commercial use of drones as well.

In that story, Jim Galloway notes that Rep. Scott plays left-field for the Republican congressional team, while Rand Paul plays center-field. So this proposal literally comes out of left-field.

Scott Hammond was sworn in as Upson County Commissioner for district 3 on an interim basis until a new commissioner is elected in the July 31st Special Election.

The Sumter County Board of Elections removed two school board candidates from the ballot.

Brantley Wills, a former resident of Webster County, had moved to Sumter County and had changed his residency but not his voter registration.

NeSmith said the Georgia Secretary of State is emphatic that a candidate cannot seek office in a district in which he does not live or is not registered to vote.

Linda Wright was seeking to run in District 1. When she presented herself to qualify for election, she was told that she actually lives in District 6. She said she and her family had been voting in District 1 for many years. However, she paid her qualifying fee for District 1.

NeSmith reiterated the Secretary of State’s position that it doesn’t matter where a candidate has been voting, even if it’s erroneous, but that she can’t seek office in a district in which she does not live.

He said the road on which Wright lives splits Districts 1 and 6.

“It’s the candidates’ responsibility to go to the map and make sure they live where they think they live because there can be clerical errors … “ NeSmith said. “The Secretary of State’s Office says if she’s been voting in the wrong district, this should be corrected immediately.”

The Sumter County Boards of Elections and Education are also defendants in a federal lawsuit challenging the school board district lines.

The contest for sole County Commissioner in Murray County turned personal as both candidates have close relatives who are employed by the county and traded charges.

[Challenger Brittany] Pittman charged that [Commissioner Greg] Hogan hired his daughter, Sarah Hogan Brindle, in the county’s 911 department, with Hogan responding that he had not — it was the department head (Peggy Vick) who had done the hiring. Hogan then countered that if Pittman were elected, she could arbitrarily give her husband — Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Pittman — a $20,000 raise if she wanted to.

Hogan also fielded a question from the audience about why he changed parties, from running as a Democrat during last year’s special election to fill the unexpired term of David Ridley to running as a Republican this year. Pittman is also running as a Republican.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” he said. “There are certain things morally that I don’t believe in, like gay marriage. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

The statement received applause from the audience.

Snellville Mayor Democrat Kellie Kautz denies that she planned to propose banning firearms from parks.

Hispanic voters have the potential to change the direction of electoral politics in Georgia, according to political scientists.

“(Georgia) is one of the states that has a lower registration rate,” said Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington whose research is referenced in the center’s report. “I think that poses a significant challenge to Latino empowerment.”

The Center for American Progress report suggests that some 88,200 Hispanics are eligible to vote in Georgia but not registered.

And if another 120,000 Hispanics in the state who are eligible to become citizens start the process and become active voters, their voting power could sway a Republican state in favor of Democratic candidates in the future.

“I think I can honestly say that Georgia’s not exactly thought of as a swing state (in national elections), but at the same time, there’s a substantial new bloc of people that could end up really putting it into play,” said Philip Wolgin an immigration policy analyst at the Center for American Progress’ left-leaning Action Fund.

“Of course, the question is, are they going to register? Are they going to naturalize and vote?”

Rock-em, sock-em robots in CD 9, 12

The AJC writes that the Republican Primary between State Rep. Doug Collins and radio talker Martha Zoller will provide fireworks as each tries to distinguish their record from an opponent with whom they share much ideology.

Not surprisingly, the 12th District Republican Primary to challenge Democrat John Barrow is also becoming a brawl.

Fundraising leader Wright McLeod is now facing questions about the improbability of maximum $2500 contributions to his campaign by employees of a supporter.

Consider Brittany Best, an executive assistant with Mullins Management in Evans.

Official records show Best, 24, has only voted once and never donated to a federal or state-level campaign in Georgia. Until this year, that is.

Her boss, Joe Mullins, is big backer of Republican Wright McLeod, an Augusta attorney seeking to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

Last Nov. 10, the 12th Congressional District hopeful’s campaign finance disclosure shows, Mullins gave $2,500 — the most the law allows. Joann Mullins, for whom McLeod’s campaign listed the same address as Joe, also gave $2,500.

Until recently employed at the local Pizza Joint in addition to working for Mullins, she apparently isn’t wealthy.

But records show that on March 30 — the day before the end of the reporting period — she, too, gave McLeod $2,500.

On the same day, so did Heather Fehr, also an executive assistant to Mullins. Like Best, Fehr had never before donated to a federal campaign.

Fehr didn’t return three phone calls, but I reached Best, who said she was “very uncomfortable” discussing her donation.

For now, of course, there’s no proof that anyone did anything illegal.

But a lot of things still just don’t add up.

Added to legitimate questions about McLeod’s devotion to the Republican Party, and his truthiness, further bad news may irreparably damage his campaign.

Ends & Pieces

Lawrenceville will celebrate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 today

The Philadelphia Winn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host an event, “Ring the Bells for 1812,” at 11:30 AM

[O]ne lesser-known story is that of Captain James Lawrence, the namesake of Lawrenceville. Lawrence gave one of the most famous naval cries in history — “Don’t give up the ship!” — when he was mortally wounded in battle, a press release from the DAR chapter pointed out.

During Monday’s event, at the gazebo in Lawrenceville’s Courthouse Square, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson will sign a proclation in recognition of the historic day, and the public is encouraged to bring a bell to ring as part of the ceremony.

Dredging the Savannah River to allow deeper access to the Port of Savannah will benefit Middle Georgia as well as the coast.

“It’s possibly the highest benefit-to-cost of any project the Army Corps of Engineers has ever done,” Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said last week.

No study has attached a prediction of new jobs to the port project, but economic development officials along the corridor of Interstate 16, which runs from Savannah to Macon, say they will be in even better position to recruit new industry, especially logistics companies and distribution centers.

“I can’t even guess the numbers of jobs, but this could have a tremendous impact,” said Pat Topping, executive vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission.

A recent economic impact study estimated Georgia’s deepwater ports accounted for one of every 12 jobs in Georgia in 2011 — or about 352,000 full- and part-time jobs. More than 20,000 jobs in Middle Georgia were found to be port-supported, with most of them in five counties — Bibb, Houston, Washington, Laurens and Baldwin.

Glynn County public schools were ranked among the worst school system bargains in the country.

Kevin McCoy, a former world champion, won the Georgia state disc golf championship in Augusta and was given a green hoodie.

The Brookhaven Bucks, part of the wooden-bad summer development Sunbelt League play the Berkley Lake Tides tonight at the Oglethorpe University campus, and the Atlanta Crackers on Wednesday.