Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 28, 2012

The Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth, Georgia has impending deadlines on Thursday before dawn for a number of dogs.

This is a one-and-a-half year old Lab boy who is great with other dogs and with people, available from the Murray County Animal Shelter with a deadline of 2 AM Thursday morning.

This sweet brown dog is a mother at ten months of age, and she and her puppies are destined to be euthanized tomorrow morning if no one steps up to adopt or foster. They are available for adoption immediately and transportation can be arranged.

These two 16-week old lab puppy males are still available for adoption.

Six black lab mix puppies (above) and their mother (below).

 

The year-and-a-half Boxer female above is the shelter volunteers’ favorite because she’s sweet to people and other dogs.

This black lab mix male is about ten months old and has the beginning of mange, but it’s easily treated.

There are a half-dozen other dogs in dire need before Thursday. Transportation for any of these dogs to the Atlanta area is available for free and we have sponsors who are willing to pay the adoption fee for any of these dogs. Email me if you’re interested in adopting and have any questions.

To save one of these souls, here is the contact information:

Lisa Hester, volunteer
[email protected]
[email protected]

Megan706-260-5251 (daytime Tu,Th,F)(TEXT or call)
706-695-8003
[email protected]

Pauline Davis
[email protected]
706-463-2194, TEXT messages only

If you are not able to save a dog at this time, you also may make a donation on behalf of one of the dogs or for a “hard to place” dog. To make a donation, simply go to www.paypal.com, click on the “send money” tab on the home page and enter the shelter acct, [email protected]. In the subject line, indicate this is a donation for the (brief descrip and/or ID # of animal or “hard to place dog”). IMPORTANT: Be sure to designate the payment as a “gift” or PayPal will take part of it.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Early voting has started in the runoff election for Senate District 30 between Bill Hembree and Mike Dugan.

Both Hembree and Dugan are expected to speak at the Dec. 1 county Republican meeting at Sunnyside Cafe in Carrollton, likely their last joint appearance before the election.

On the campaign trail, Hembree is emphasizing his years of experience as a legislator and his conservative background, while Dugan is running as a new face, with a new approach to the problems facing the state.

Hembree, 46, a Douglas County insurance agent, served 18 years as a Republican member of the Georgia House of Representatives, chairing higher education, rules and industrial relations committees. On Sept. 6, he resigned from the House to enter the state Senate race.

Dugan, 49, is making his first run for public office. He is emphasizing his military and business experience as training for the Legislature. He has pledged to hold regular town hall meetings, if elected, and to work for term limits. He said it’s time for new ideas and new leadership.

Hembree was strong in the early voting phase of the general election when he received more votes than he did on Election Day.

District 30 comprises portions of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties.

Extra points are awarded to the Douglas County Sentinel writer who actually used the word “comprise” correctly.

The nascent City of Brookhaven will also elect a Mayor and three City Council members in runoff elections. I’ll be voting for J. Max Davis for Mayor.

 During his campaign, Davis said he had a great experience connecting the voters with his campaign, which showed in his voting results numbers.

His campaign style also includes going door-to-door and phone calling — but Davis also held meet and greets in the homes of his supporters, as well as restaurants.

“I did meetings anywhere people wanted to meet and I would come and meet and talk with them,” he said.

On his continuing campaign before the runoff, Davis does not plan to change anything, but would like to replicate the results of last Tuesday.

“We’re just focused more on getting people out to vote,” he said.

In Brookhaven District 2, Rebecca Chase Williams is the likely winner and I would vote for her if I lived in that district.

In Brookhaven District 3, Kevin Quirk came in ten votes behind Bates Mattison in the initial election. Quirk has been going door-to-door, while I haven’t seen Mattison in my neighborhood.

In Brookhaven District 4, Joe Gebbia has been endorsed by State Rep. Mike Jacobs and will likely win.

“Joe Gebbia has displayed the ability to reach out to all individuals in his district,” said state Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, who was theauthor of the Brookhaven cityhood bill. “Whether you were for or against cityhood, Joe has proven that he’s committed to bringing our city together.”

The Brookhaven Patch has a pretty good analysis of the runoffs.

Plant Vogtle’s new reactors may be later than previously thought in being brought online as construction is running behind schedule. According to a story by Kristi Swartz in the AJC:

Worker training, increased project oversight and stiffer regulatory requirements are chief reasons behind the delay, tacking on six months’ worth of additional labor costs, Georgia Power has said. The project’s main contractors say the delays could be even longer, with the first reactor starting up in early-to-mid 2017 and the second one a year later.

The first of the $14 billion reactors was originally scheduled to be finished in April 2016, and the second one a year later. Regulatory and other pre-construction delays had already changed the estimate to six months later than that.

The delay had lead to a 1 percent increase in Georgia Power’s $6.1 billion portion of the project, but customers currently are not paying any of those additional costs because the utility has not asked utility regulators for permission to recoup that money.

David McKinney, Southern Nuclear’s vice president of construction support for Vogtle 3 and 4, revealed the contractors new estimated dates of “early to mid 2017, 2018” in a hearing Tuesday before the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The new reactors at Vogtle are the first to be built from scratch in the United States in 30 years. Georgia Power officials acknowledged that the project is under intense regulatory scrutiny from a cost and safety standpoint.

Frank Poe, Executive Director of the Georgia World Congress Center announced that a deal for a new Atlanta stadium should be ready by December 31st. Taxpayers will be on the hook for roughly one-third of the estimated $1-1.2 billion cost through the hotel-motel tax. Common Cause is rightly raising questions about the process and the public’s role or lack thereof.

Leaders with the Atlanta Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority have talked privately about a new stadium. Those talks are legal as long a quorum of a government board is not present.

Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry stands across the street from the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons play. Perry has questions about plans for a new Falcons stadium
Even if they are not breaking the law, Common Cause Georgia head William Perry argues the groups should add seats at the table for the public.

“When we’ve got a state agency dealing with a $1.2 billion facility, a third of which will be funded by taxpayers, taxpayers and citizens have a right and need to be engaged in the process,” said Perry.

Georgia might appeal a decision by a Federal Court of Appeals that prevents HB 87′s prohibition on knowingly transporting or harboring illegal immigrants in the course of another crime to the United States Supreme Court.

The state had asked the appeals court to reconsider its decision against a part of the law that would punish people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing other crimes. In August, the court ruled the measure is pre-empted by federal law, which already prohibits such activities.

Another part of the statute — nicknamed the “show-me-your-papers law” — has been on hold while the case was before the appeals court. That other provision would give police the option to investigate the immigration status of suspects they believe have committed state or federal crimes and who cannot provide identification or other information that could help police identify them.

Georgia has about 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could accept or decline such a case. Under that scenario, the state’s show-me-your-papers law could remain on hold until the Supreme Court acts.

“We are considering our options and no decisions have been made at this time,” the Georgia Attorney General’s Office said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Republican and Democratic legislators representing Macon and Bibb County are at odds whether to change local elections to non-partisan following the merger of the city and county governments.

A Republican-led push for nonpartisan elections in Bibb County led to clear fissures in the county’s legislative delegation hearings Tuesday at the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce.

State Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, said partisan elections were continued in the consolidation proposal that voters approved this year.

“Are we saying, ‘We got you to vote for it, now we’re going to change it?’” Randall asked. “Some may consider it to be a deceptive act.”

Randall said she expected bills for nonpartisan elections will be filed by state Sen. Cecil Staton and state Rep. Allen Peake, both Macon Republicans whom she thinks have the votes needed to pass them.

In a 2013 budget proposal released Tuesday, Nash unveiled a spending plan incorporating a new balance of funding created by a settlement with local cities over services. It divides the county into districts, ensuring that city residents do not pay county taxes for services they only receive from the city.

While that means all city residents will receive a break on paying for development and enforcement taxes, the biggest break will come for those in cities with their own police forces.

But Nash said the service from the county police department will change little. So with fewer taxpayers footing the bill for the county force, the tax bills for unincorporated residents (and those in cities without police departments) are expected to go up.

“Essentially, it’s a redistribution,” Nash said. “We feel like the safety of the residents is so important. I could not bring myself to make the cuts needed to balance the budget in the police district.”

The Gwinnett County Commission also approved an additional payment to Partnership Gwinnett, an economic development joint venture with the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce that has been under fire over its spending and whether records of Partnership Gwinnett are subject to state Open Records laws.

Under a new agreement approved by the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, the funds contributed to Partnership Gwinnett will be public.

A progress and financial report for the new nonprofit entity, along with a Board of Directors formed by the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce will be approved by the county. It would also keep the money separate from the chamber’s private donations.

“Their records will be open to an open records process so the county and the public will be aware of how those funds are used,” said Bryan Lackey, director of the county’s planning and development department.

The Columbus City Council settled a lawsuit with Expedia.com and Hotels.com over hotel occupancy taxes owed the city and which resulted in the websites pulling Columbus accomodations from their listings.

Without discussion, Columbus Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve a settlement of the city’s lawsuit against online travel websites Expedia.com and Hotels.com for approximately $586,000.

In addition to the money, the companies agree to remit the full amount of hotel occupancy taxes due to the city and to re-list local hotels on their websites, City Attorney Clifton Fay said.

The Expedia case is the second such case the city has settled with online travel sites. The city settled with Orbitz for $230,000 in 2010 and Priceline settled with the city for about $72,000 with no litigation. Those bring the city’s total in settlements to just over $888,000.

The litigation between the city and the online travel brokers began in 2006, when the city sued, claiming the companies were not remitting the proper amount of hotel occupancy taxes. Ostensibly in reaction to the lawsuits, many online brokers stopped listing Columbus hotels on their websites, costing local hoteliers business.

If travelers entered Columbus into the websites, they were directed to hotels in nearby cities instead.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will close its Georgia Rural Development Office in Baxley.

Sumter County Commissioner A.J. Hurley will face trial for bribery as jury selection begins today in federal court in Albany.

Hurley is accused of agreeing to accept $20,000 in bribes from an unidentified asbestos abatement company licensed in Michigan in order to influence the vote of a contract before the Sumter County Commission, according to the indictment levied against him by a federal grand jury in May.

The government contends Hurley received two bribes.

Hurley has denied the accusations and maintains his innocence.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November19, 2012

Biscuit (black-and-tan) and Mayflower (yellow) are lab-hound mix puppies who are approximately 3-4 months old and weigh about 15 pounds each; the littermates are available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control.

June is a happy , beautiful, adorable, playful, very affectionate lab mixed puppy, who is about 3 months old and weighs around 8 lbs; she is available for adoption from the Savannah Chatham Animal Control.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Because GeorgiaDailyDigest.com and GeorgiaPoliticalDigest.com have shut their doors, we’ve started GaNewsDigest.com to provide a wider variety of links to news stories about Georgia politics, business & economy, education and energy issues. The site is updated through the day.

On Friday, Governor Nathan Deal announced that he decided against setting up a state healthcare exchange under Obamacare.

“I remain committed to common sense health care solutions that empower consumers to take responsibility for their own health, motivate the private sector and drive efficiencies for consumers, employers and governments alike,” Deal said. “I continue to hope that we might finally engage in a serious conversation about restoring meaningful flexibility to states around health care programs.”

Deal said the federal government needs to loosen regulations that restrict states’ options.

“We have no interest in spending our tax dollars on an exchange that is state-based in name only,” Deal said. “I would support a free market-based approach that could serve as a useful tool for Georgia’s small businesses, but federal guidelines forbid that. Instead, restrictions on what the exchanges can and can’t offer render meaningless the suggestion that Georgia could tailor an exchange that best fits the unique needs of its population.

“I have joined numerous other governors seeking guidance from the federal government on establishing exchanges. We’ve yet to receive serious answers to our questions. I will not commit Georgia taxpayers to a project with so many unknowns.”

State Senator Vincent Fort (D) doesn’t like anything ever done by any Republican anywhere  Governor Deal’s decision.

“I bet this crowd, when the feds set up the health care exchanges, are going to howl about that,” Fort said.

Fort also said that putting uninsured people in the Medicaid program would decrease the costs that insured patients pay to cover the bills of those who need medical care but lack insurance to pay for it.

“It’s unfortunate that the governor’s chosen to put politics over the need of Georgians,” Fort said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a feature on the long, strange trip that is Glenn Richardson’s political career. The story is worth reading in its entirety.

In Senate District 30, where Richardson failed to make the December 4th Runoff, State Rep. Bill Hembree will meet Carrollton businessman Mike Dugan, and it’s a jump ball.

Hembree led the four-candidate field in all three counties of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding, which comprise District 30. He led Carroll with 12,173 votes, topping two Carroll County candidates — Dugan, with 9,703 votes, and business consultant Jim Naughton, who had 5,091 votes. Former Georgia Secretary of State Glenn Richardson of Hiram finished a distant fourth in Carroll County with 3,627 votes.

In the total district vote, Hembree got 27,565 votes; Dugan, 13,843; Richardson, 8,467; and Naughton, 7,043.

Hembree believes the upcoming advance voting will be important to his chances of winning — he said his campaign determined that he received roughly 15,000 votes during the general election’s early voting cycle. That would account for more votes than he received on Election Day.

“We received more in advance voting than we did on election day,” Hembree said. “With 15,000 voting for me early, if we can get that same type of commitment we feel like that is a real positive step for us.”

In 2011, a pair of Senate special elections held in November went into December runoff elections; in SD 28, Duke Blackburn led the first balloting but was overtaken by now-Senator Mike Crane in the runoff and in SD 50, former State Rep. Rick Austin led the first election but lost the runoff to Senator John Wilkinson. There was some spillover in those elections from the leadership battles in the State Senate that may be absent this year, but those examples should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone finding himself or herself in a December runoff.

Here’s what I told the Carrollton Times-Georgian:

“I could go on all day with examples [of December runoffs that reversed earlier results],” said Todd Rehm. “That said, Bill Hembree still has to be considered the leader in the runoff for SD 30. Hembree’s experience and ability to fundraise, along with the fact that Hembree carried Carroll County, make it his race to lose. But if there’s a lesson for candidates who come in first in November elections and head for a runoff it’s that they can’t afford to take anything for granted and Bill Hembree should be doing everything possible to ensure his victory.

“And remember, there’s yet another election in January.”

Speaking of Senate leadership, here’s an interesting inside tidbit: Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) punched above her weight at the Swamp Showdown in Little Ocmulgee State Park, where the Senate Republican Caucus elections were held last week.

Renee Unterman, another powerful senator from the Gwinnett delegation, said she was honored to nominate and second Shafer for the position [of President Pro Tem], during a meeting at Little Ocmulgee State Park. She had 19 proxies from the Reform Caucus to support her colleague.

“Our Reform Caucus is committed to uniting fellow senators with the lieutenant governor restoring order, transparency, and ethics to the Georgia State Senate,” she said of the group.

The appointment is a coup for the county, she said.

“Gwinnett’s prominence continues to rise with the state’s legislative leadership, as our delegation leads both in the Senate and the House,” she said. “Sen. Shafer is a shinning example of our talent in Gwinnett County.”

So, including her own vote, Unterman was voting for an absolute majority of the Republican Caucus.

Walter C. Jones of the Morris News Service writes about what changes in Senate leadership may mean for the state.

The leaders legislators picked says a lot about them and the coming two-year term of the General Assembly.

House Republicans made no changes. Most observers figure they didn’t need any. They had success on Election Day, during the last session passing major legislation and in negotiating contentious bills like the budget and tax reform with the Senate and the governor.

His loss continues the concentration of power in North Georgia. With the exception of mid-state residents House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal of Bonaire and Senate Majority Whip Cecil Staton of Macon, the leaders reside upstate.

The Senate Republicans did make changes to their leaders.

Winning the nomination for president pro tem was David Shafer of Duluth. Other winners are Ronnie Chance of Tyrone as majority leader and Butch Miller of Gainesville as caucus chairman.

Consider how their elections consolidate power. Shafer has been a long-time ally of Cagle, who’s from Hall County like Miller and Gov. Nathan Deal. Chance has been Deal’s Senate floor leader.

Having the bulk of the legislative leadership living close enough together to carpool to the Capitol could mean favoritism toward the region they all call home. But remember that two of Deal’s top projects are the deepening of the ship channel in the Savannah River and investing enough in Georgia Regents University in Augusta to make it one of the country’s premier medical schools.

At the very least, it suggests there will be close cooperation. It may not seem possible to exceed last year when Deal’s signature legislation, criminal-justice reform, passed unanimously and his HOPE reforms nearly did the year before. But other bills ran into less harmony, and Deal and Ralston reportedly held off on more ambitious legislation out of fear of discord, mainly in the Senate.

Now, a new combination of leaders will give their full attention to legislation. And as Shelton said, “Any organization is a reflection of its leadership.”

The image in the reflection is coming into focus, and it looks a lot like a soft-spoken grandfather, Nathan Deal.

Given Governor Deal’s leadership in bringing jobs to Georgia, and his respectful approach to working with the legislature, this bodes well for our state.

State Senate Democrats will meet today to elect their leadership.

Welcome to the 2013 season of Georgia Republican Party elections! I’ve already received a piece of direct mail from John Padgett, who is running for First Vice Chair. Here’s my two cents: if you want my vote, you have to ask me for it personally. The pool of eventual voters for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party is small enough that you can identify frequent flyers from past convention cycles and start calling them personally.

The first rule I tell anyone running for office is that the best way to earn someone’s vote is to ask them for it personally; everything else, all mass media, are second-best ways of dealing with the fact that in most elections above the level of State House, you won’t be able to reach every voter personally. This is the most fundamental rule of winning elections.

Unfortunately, the last few cycles have seen GAGOP elections take on the aspects of large-scale media-driven campaigns featuring direct mail, robocalls, websites, and mass emails. But it doesn’t speak well of your promise to be the “Grassroots” candidate if you don’t personally contact the actual voters who make up the grassroots, tell them about yourself, and ask personally for their vote.

If you want a truly grassroots-drive Georgia Republican Party, join me in declining to vote for anyone who does not ask personally for your vote.

Speaker David Ralston will address the Nov. 28 breakfast of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Marietta Chapter.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials has notified the Gainesville City Council that it objects to the at-large districts in which council members are elected.

“At-large voting processes have been undone by litigation in many jurisdictions across the county,” said Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO’s executive director. “We believe the city of Gainesville is not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and we want to work to eliminate the at-large voting process with the City Council cooperatively.”

File under bad headline writing: “Gov. Deal to pay fees in failed ethics complaint” states the headline in the Rome News-Tribune, which might sound like Governor Deal was being fined for an ethics complaint filed against him. But the story is about the State Ethics Commission deciding against making Rome-based ethics gadfly George Anderson pay the legal fees incurred by Deal’s campaign to defend against a frivolous ethics complaint that was dismissed.

The Government Transparency Commission voted 3-1 on Friday against making Anderson pay a portion of the legal fees that Deal spent to address complaints from Anderson….

Anderson apologized for some of the language used in his complaints. But he said it’s unfair to ask citizens to pay for lawyer fees when their complaints against public officials are rejected.

The executive director of Georgia Common Cause, William Perry, said his group was concerned that forcing citizens to pay would discourage others from filing complaints.

File this one under “please don’t give the General Assembly any ideas.”

Moonshine distillers are making their first batches of legal liquor in this tiny Georgia town’s city hall, not far from the mountains and the maroon, orange and gold canopy of trees that once hid bootleggers from the law.

A handful of moonshine distilleries are scattered around the South, but observers say this is the first they’ve ever seen right in a city hall. The distilleries come amid an increased interest in the U.S. for locally made specialty spirits and beer brewed in homes and micro-breweries.

The Dawsonville moonshine makers and city officials say the operation helps preserve a way of life. It also carries on traditions of an era when moonshine meant extra income for farmers, medicine for their children and helped fuel the beginnings of NASCAR racing.

“Dawson County was, sure enough, the moonshine capital of the world at one time,” distiller Dwight Bearden said, as he checked on the still where the third batch of Dawsonville Moonshine was being prepared. “It was just a way of life back then.”

Last week, the distillery was delivering the second batch of moonshine it’s made to its distributor, which has orders from liquor stores and other businesses around the state. Georgia law prohibits the distillery from selling its liquor at the site, but allows a distributor to ship it to stores with a liquor license, where it can be sold legally.

Wood recently got approval from state officials to offer small samples for tourists to taste.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville, who introduced that bill during the most recent session, said Thursday he believes there will be more legislation during the upcoming session that would allow the Dawsonville distillery and others in the state to sell a single bottle of moonshine to tourists who want to take one home.

Locally made and locally grown products are a key aspect of the business, she said. A batch of apples fermenting last week came from the north Georgia town of Ellijay, about 30 miles away, she said.

The local movement has been a successful one in north Georgia, where several vineyards dot the mountain landscape and offer tastings of wines made with locally grown grapes. In Blue Ridge, at least one apple orchard brews and bottles its own apple and peach ciders.

Corn used by the distillery is also grown locally, and the distillery sticks to authentic recipes and doesn’t use any sugar, Wood said.

“This ain’t sugar liquor,” she said, “this is the real deal.”

Senate Leadership Elections: Official Press Releases

Shafer Elected President Pro Tempore by Georgia Senate Republican Caucus

ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) has been elected by the Senate Republican Caucus to serve as the next president pro tempore of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.

“I am humbled by the support shown by my Senate colleagues in today’s election,” said Senator Shafer. “With the upcoming legislative session less than two months away and with several critical issues needing immediate attention, it is imperative that we begin work now.”

“I congratulate Senator David Shafer on being nominated by the Republican Caucus for President Pro Tempore and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Senator Shafer will become the 68th president pro tempore in the history of Georgia, the Senate’s second-highest ranking position after the lieutenant governor.  The president pro tem chairs the Senate Administrative Affairs Committee, which is responsible for operations of the Senate, and is charged with speaking on behalf of the entire Senate. He also assumes the duties of the lieutenant governor in his absence.

Senator Shafer most recently served as chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, vice chairman of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee, and as a member of the Senate Finance, Government Oversight and Rules Committees. He also served as an ex-officio member of the Health and Human Services Committee.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol. At that time, the entire Senate will cast a formal vote for president pro tempore.

Chance Elected Majority Leader by the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus

ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Senator Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) was elected by the Senate Republican Caucus to become the next majority leader of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.

“I am honored that my colleagues have placed their faith and confidence in me to serve as Senate Majority Leader,” said Senator Chance. “Looking towards the upcoming legislative session, it will be more important now than ever before to remember why we became a public servant. We are not here for partisan politics or personal benefit. We are here because our constituents have entrusted each one of us to represent their best interests, and we must be held accountable to that task.”

“I congratulate Senator Ronnie Chance on being elected Majority Leader and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Once sworn in, Senator Chance will hold the second-highest ranking position in the Georgia State Senate.  The majority leader is the primary spokesperson for the majority party and works closely with Senate leadership to develop policy platforms.  In addition, the majority leader is also charged with setting the legislative session calendar.

Senator Chance most recently served as chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee and as a member of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions, Ethics, Finance and Higher Education Committees.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol. At that time, the entire Senate will cast a formal vote for majority leader.

Sen. Cecil Staton Re-Elected to Serve as Majority Whip

ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) was re-elected today to serve as Majority Whip of the Georgia State Senate, for the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.“It is a great honor to be re-elected to serve as the Republican Party’s Majority Whip in the Georgia State Senate,” said Sen. Staton. “As Majority Whip, I remain committed to advancing conservative leadership and supporting our caucus and its commitment to legislation that makes Georgia a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

Sen. Staton previously held the position of vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus prior to his appointment as Majority Whip. This will be his second concurrent term as majority whip in the state senate. The Majority Whip’s primary responsibility is to research legislation, educate and inform caucus members, ensure that majority members are present during important votes, and is also responsible for counting votes. The Majority Whip is the third ranking leadership position within the Republican caucus.

“I congratulate Senator Cecil Staton on being elected Majority Whip and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Sen. Staton is also currently a member of the Senate Committee on Assignments and the Senate Appropriations Committee and is Chairman of the sub-committee on Higher Education. Additionally, he serves on the Rules, Finance, Transportation, and Banking and Financial Institutions committees and sits on three sub-committees.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

Sen. Butch Miller to Serve as Republican Caucus Chair

ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) was recently elected to serve as Republican Caucus Chair of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.

“I want to thank the previous leadership team, the Lt. Governor and my colleagues in the senate for electing me to serve as the Republican Caucus Chair,” said Sen. Miller. “I am honored and humbled by the trust and confidence of my colleagues, and especially the citizens of the 49th Senate District.”

Sen. Miller currently serves as the Governor’s floor leader and will begin serving his first term as caucus chair in January. The Senate Majority Caucus Chair is responsible for working with caucus leaders to develop the caucus agenda, oversee meetings and assist in the development of policy.

“I congratulate Senator Butch Miller on being elected Majority Caucus Chairman and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Sen. Miller currently serves as chairman of the State and Local Government Operations Committee and as secretary of the Economic Development Committee.  He is also a member of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and Transportation committees and is an ex-officio member of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

Sen. Judson Hill Elected Vice Chair by the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus

ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Senator Judson Hill (R-Marietta) was elected yesterday to become the next vice chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, effective with the start of the 152ndLegislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections yesterday during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.“It is an honor and a privilege to receive such strong support from my fellow Republican State Senators,” said Senator Hill. “I look forward to serving as Vice Chair, and it is my intention to drive the Senate Republican Caucus towards good policy measures that are fiscally responsible and promote government efficiency.”

“I congratulate Senator Judson Hill on being elected Majority Caucus Vice Chair and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

Senator Hill most recently served as chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee and as a member of the Senate Appropriations, Health and Human Services and Special Judiciary Committees. He also served as an ex-officio member of the Insurance and Labor, Judiciary and Transportation Committees.

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

Sen. Steve Gooch Elected Caucus Secretary by Georgia Senate Republican Caucus

ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) was recently elected to serve as Majority Caucus Secretary of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152ndLegislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.

“I am deeply honored to be chosen by my colleagues to serve as the Secretary of the Senate Republican Caucus,” said Sen. Gooch. “I wholeheartedly believe this newly-elected Senate leadership team is committed to advancing fiscally-responsible state government and creating policies that bring about positive change for the people of Georgia. I am humbled by my colleagues trust and look forward to working closely with members of senate leadership and the General Assembly during this upcoming legislative session.”

Sen. Gooch currently serves as Secretary of the Transportation Committee and is also a member of the Economic Development, Government Oversight, State and Local Government Operations and State Institutions and Property Committees. He also serves as Ex-Officio of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee. In addition, Governor Deal appointed Senator Gooch to the MARTOC Committee in 2011.

“I congratulate Senator Steve Gooch on being elected Majority Caucus Secretary and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.  “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”

The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 11, 2012

Gwinnett County Animal Shelter runs a “Black Friday Sale” with adoptions of dogs and cats with black or majority-black coats costing only $30, a significant discount over the normal cost of $90 and a probably less expensive than the first set of vaccinations, which all of these dogs have received.
27904 above is described as “a treasure” by volunteers at the shelter, and “likes to retrieve a ball & lets you take it from his mouth. He doesn’t look to have been stray for long – appears well-kept, also he is non-reactive to other dogs. He’s small-statured and an absolute ball of fun! Would make a great companion all-around.” Unfortunately, he’s also listed as “urgent,” which means in danger of euthanasia. If someone adopts him today, a sponsor will cover the difference between the normal price and the “sale” price.

27978 is a black-and-white lab mix, who is a young, friendly female who is available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Shelter and should be eligible for a discount tomorrow.

27851 is a majority-black German Shepherd male, who is friendly and is available today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

27733 is a friendly lab mix female who is available for adoption today from Gwinnett.

27904 is a friendly black lab mix male who is available today for adoption from Gwinnett.


Grace is a 3-4 month old Chihuahua who is not eligible for a discount because she’s at Walton County Animal Services, but their adoption fee is only $40 to begin with. We ran her photo yesterday, but are featuring her again because this is such a great photo.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

If you don’t get enough of GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan by watching tonight’s debate, you might want to attend a pair of fundraisers featuring Ryan on October 24th at the Cobb Energy Centre.

Admission to a reception at which the Wisconsin congressman is due is relatively low-priced, just $500 per guest, but the cost for a grip-and-grip and roundtable discussion are considerably higher.

Donors have been asked to contribute or raise at least $10,000 for a photo opportunity with Ryan and $25,000 for a roundtable discussion.

The Romney campaign said Friday it was not immediately apparent if Ryan would hold any public events while in Georgia.

The Gwinnett County GOP will hold a barbecue on Saturday, October 13 beginning at 11 AM. I’ll be in Bainbridge, so will miss it, but if their recent events are any sign, it’ll be a great event. Continue reading

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 9, 2012

This good-looking puppy is on his way to becoming a tragic statistic unless someone steps up to adopt or foster him. A large, friendly, playful little guy, the volunteers with Gwinnett County Animal Shelter write that he’ll be the first to be put down if the puppy section fills up. If you want to adopt him, Call the shelter for more information 770-339-3200 and refer to his number 26296.

These little hound or lab puppies apparently get along pretty well and would make a nice pair of friends.They were found stray and are apparently littermates or at least very good buddies. 26437 is male, and 26436 is female, and both are available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens will speak to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month. I suspect this is related to his role at the top elected supporter of Mitt Romney in Georgia. Congratulations to Sam.

Congressional candidate Wright McLeod has asked for a recount in the twelfth district Republican Primary, where he currently is narrowly out of the runoff.

But no one — apparently including McLeod — expects the recount, due to be finished by noon today, to change the result.

“He’s got basically two chances, slim and none,” said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “Put the emphasis on none.”

The reason: All but about 2,400 of 60,000-plus ballots in the primary were cast on computerized touch-screen voting machines.

They’ll be retabulated by the district’s 19 counties, said Jared Thomas, spokesman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in charge of Georgia elections.

Thomas said he doubts that will change the total very much, if at all.

Experts compare the retabulation process to using a calculator to tally up — yet again — the sum of two plus two.

“It may not change at all unless they find some voting machines had totals that somehow got left out,” Bullock said.

That recount should be finished by noon today. I wonder if any recounts in Georgia have changed election results since the implementation of computerized voting. Email me if you know of any.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s spokeperson isn’t aware of any such cases, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Recounts are “overseen by us and done by the counties just like election night,” said Jared Thomas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.

“They will re-scan all the absentee ballots and re-tabulate results” from voting machines, he said.

In a written statement after Georgia verified the first count, Staton said the certification made his “campaign victory official.”

Thomas said he was not aware of any case of a recount changing an outcome.

Since 2002, all Georgia voters have used electronic voting machines.

Potentially more interesting are Senator Cecil Staton’s comments about his role in the Senate Republican Caucus.

But it’s not clear if the tepid endorsement from voters in the district will be followed by a struggle for Staton to remain Senate majority whip. The Senate GOP caucus will vote on leadership after the November general election.

“I have not decided about whether I will run for (majority whip), some other office or return to being a committee chair. You can’t be whip and a full committee chair at the same time,” Staton wrote in an e-mail.

Staton led the Senate Science and Technology Committee before being voted whip two years ago.

There likely will be 36 to 38 Republicans in the state Senate by late November and some of them, wrote Staton, are undecided about who they will support for leadership.

“Conversations at this point about caucus positions invite premature speculation,” he said.

This could lead to an extended conversation about the role of the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC, which is thought to have funded incumbent protection mailpieces for several Senate Republicans.

One might wonder how efficient and effective an operation the Senate Caucus Promotion PAC was when the organization appears to have poured seven mailpieces into the lopsided victory by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers while spending considerably less in the very close campaigns for Senators Murphy and Staton, who barely won, and Senator Johnny Grant, who was defeated.

Republican Senators may be in for extended discussion of the legality and independence of the Republican Caucus Promotion PAC:

some members of the Republican Caucus in the Senate are wondering exactly who made the decision to donate money that they helped raise to an brand-new independent committee that hired a previously unknown company to assist in the re-election efforts of six of their colleagues.
Publicly, they are saying nothing. Privately, they are furious. “None of us knew anything about” the donation or the mailings, said one Senator.
Another Senate veteran has also denied knowledge of the decision behind the donations, and said he was “surprised embarrassed, mortified and angry,” to learn of them.
Another Senator claimed the donations were “inherently illegal,” not for the lack of disclosure, but because the donation appears to have violated the campaign contribution limits.
And while Republican Senators may be ducking calls and avoiding questions from the press, they’re also getting calls from the people who wrote the big checks to the Republican Senatorial Trust. Those donors want to know why their money is being spent this way, and whether or not their donations were used illegally.

The Savannah Morning News headline, “John Barrow hits prospective foes Lee Anderson and Rick Allen; they hit back — and each other” makes the General Election sound like a Three Stooges move.

Why did U.S. Rep. John Barrow attack two prospective foes this week without knowing which one he’ll run against?

People wondered out loud about that when the Augusta Democrat teed off on Republicans Lee Anderson and Rick Allen.

One possible answer surfaced quickly: Anderson and Allen responded by blasting each other almost as much as Barrow.

“It’s probably what Barrow wanted,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint. “He drew them out and got them to beat each other up.

David R. Werner has been promoted by Governor Nathan Deal to Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and External Affairs. According to the press release,

Werner previously served as deputy executive counsel and the policy adviser on public safety. He also held staff positions in both the state House and state Senate. He is the co-chairman of the Governor’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, co-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia and a member of the Federalist Society. He and his wife, Suzanne, reside in Atlanta and are members of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Kathy Schrader for Judge Banner

Springfield will elect a new Mayor after the resignation of Mayor Joe Quimby Jeff Northway.

Qualifying will cost $35 and will be held from 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 27, through 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Springfield City Hall, 130 S. Laurel St.

City officials said they recently discovered that Northway was convicted of three felonies in Texas in the 1980s. They said he lied and said he was not a convicted felon when he applied to run for mayor.

Northway resigned July 12 and has declined to comment.

The city said Northway was convicted of two felonies — theft by receiving and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1983 in Harris County, Texas. He received a three-year sentence on those charges.

After serving the sentence, he was convicted in 1989 of a third felony for unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Lesli Messinger won the Democratic Primary to take on Republican Congressman Jack Kingston. Apparently, her “Midwestern values” are one of the reasons Georgians will vote for her. Hmmm, blonde hair and midwestern values. Sounds like another candidate named “Leslie”.

Among the recounts that affirmed election night figures was the reelection of Senator Jack Murphy in Forsyth County and Geoff Duncan’s win over former State Rep. Tom Knox.

Incumbent Sen. Jack Murphy received 13,290 votes to challenger Steve Voshall’s 13,176. Murphy’s total was unchanged. Voshall’s final tally represents a loss of one vote.

There was no change in the election night totals in the House District 26 race. Former major league pitcher Geoff Duncan defeated former State Rep. Tom Knox by a count of 4,507 to 4,452.

More than 30 percent of Forsyth County’s registered voters voted in the election.

“I was very happy with that turnout,” [County elections supervisor Barbara] Luth said. “Usually we have a lower turnout in the primary elections.”

Fulton County is doing its usual efficient job of recounting votes in the Sheriff’s race; originally expected to take two days, they finished early by taking some shortcuts.

The law mandated a recount of the sheriff’s Democratic primary because the July 31 results had Jackson winning without a runoff by less than 1 percent. The counting took place in a drab warehouse in northwest Atlanta, where about 20 election workers re-fed absentee and qualified provisional ballots into the computer.

But instead of feeding precinct voting machine results directly from memory cards to the computer, Fulton reused master memory cards of the votes from each precinct created by election workers on election night, which may again cloud the result.

[Sheriff candidate Richard] Lankford asked officials to feed each voting machine’s card separately into the computer. At the very least, officials should have re-created new master memory cards rather than using the old ones, he said.

“Any manual process is not a tamper-proof system,” he said. “You’re almost at a point that it is not worth running for office in Fulton County because you can’t trust the vote counting.”

Serious policy proposal here: the legislature should consider giving the Secretary of State greater authority to supervise elections, including possibly replacing local officials,  where the locals have a record of fumbling procedures.

House District 66 runoff candidates Bob Snelling and Mike Miller answered some questions by the Douglasville Patch. Both candidates agree that Snelling previously served eight years in the State House, but they disagree on what it means.

Bob Snelling: “I have eight years of experience in the Georgia House of Representatives. I learned about the many intricacies of our legislative system. But, more importantly, I built relationships with community leaders throughout the state. That was my strong suit during my years of service, meeting and working with people. Many of those relationships remain to this day. These relationships will be invaluable a I seek to bring local legislative ideas to the process.”

Mike Miller: “My opponent has served in the Georgia Legislature before for some eight years in office. He seeks to return to office to reunite with friends at the State Capitol. We are running for very different reasons and have very different records in elected office. I am running to bring change and conservative principled leadership to the State Capitol.”

“I have been speaking up about the need to improve our ethics laws to include restrictions on lobbyist gifts for bureaucrats and to require candidates to disclose anonymous mailers and robocalls. My opponent has been silent on these matters.”

According to Democratic State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, who cruised to reelection, Snellville has the highest foreclosure rate in Gwinnett County.

One in every 300 homes in Georgia is in foreclosure, according to the AJC.  That’s double the national average.

In Snellville, (including unincorporated), it’s even worse: 1 in 127 homes are in foreclosure (as of June 2012).

Last month, around 40 percent of home sales in Snellville were foreclosures.

Foreclosure reform is something that is high on Kendrick’s list of priorities.  She has attempted to have bills passed, including HB 781, that would revolutionize the foreclosure process, according to Kendrick, but so far they have all been shut down.

“Next year,” she said, “I want to break down the bill into separate components.  If they won’t pass the whole thing, maybe parts of it will pass.”

One thing she wants to do is change Georgia from a non-judicial foreclosure state to a judicial one.  Every other legal procedure requires a person to hand you the papers, according to Kendrick, but that is not the case with foreclosures.

“Under our current system,” she said, “you get a certified letter and they sell your house on the courthouse step.  It doesn’t go through a judge.”

This one reminds me of a bawdy old rugby song: “Woman says she went to court for a warrant, left with proposition from the judge”.

The alleged incident occurred April 9 after Angela Garmley says she was assaulted by three people who once rented a trailer from her and her husband in Murray County. Garmley said when she went to take out the warrant, Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran propositioned her for sex when she was alone with him in his chambers.

“He asked me if I cheated on my husband,” Garmley, 36, of Chatsworth, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He said he wanted to have a mistress he could trust.”

Cochran says that never happened.

“We’re denying all allegations,” Cochran, who was reelected last month, said Wednesday. “The truth will come out. Right now, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.”

Cochran did not sign the warrant on April 9. Instead, Garmley said, he asked her to return to court a few days later and to wear a dress but no underwear.

“He said if I did that I would be very satisfied with the decision he’d make on my case,” she said.

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 27, 2012

Pen 231 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter holds this cute Lab mix, who has been misclassified as a “Pibble.” She’s accurately described as playful and friendly.

Tomorrow, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs ProgramThe event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Owners of convenience stores tied to illegal gambling have contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater, Muscogee County Sheriff John T. Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Judge Steven D. Smith among other candidates.

The contributions have raised questions as employees and relatives of campaign supporters — and at least one contributor himself — have been ensnared in a broadening Columbus police crackdown on illegal cash payouts from electronic gaming machines.

Businesses raided for alleged gambling since 2008 have given at least $28,000 to local candidates over the past four years, including nearly $10,000 to Slater and about $6,000 to Darr, according to an analysis by the Ledger-Enquirer.

The officeholders said they had not considered returning any contributions after the gambling raids, noting the defendants haven’t been convicted. They insisted they have never given or been asked for preferential treatment in exchange for the contributions.

Atlanta Unfiltered writes that Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is accused of working on mailings for casinos and phone-handicapping services after he was elected to the General Assembly.

Chris McClurg, soon to be unsuccessful candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge has been named as the biggest offender for political campaign signs in the rights-of-way.

Gwinnett code enforcement officers said the “biggest offender award” goes to Chris McClurg who is running for superior court judge.

Police said of the 150 illegal signs they picked up, 90 belonged to McClurg.

McClurg also has a voting record that includes 2004 Democratic Primary and Primary Runoff elections, and the 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Augusta Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is eligible to run for Superior Court.

A formal challenge to Saunders’ candidacy was filed in May by Augusta attorney Jack Long. Long claimed that Saunders should not be allowed to challenge Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet for his seat in the Augusta Circuit because state law bars anyone who has defaulted on tax obligations from holding office.

Kemp, who has the final say in such election challenges, decided to adopt Judge Michael M. Malihi’s July 16 ruling, which said although Saunders owes federal taxes, his plan to pay the IRS under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy settlement meets the standard for a payment plan required by state law.

SOS Kemp also announced that his agency’s website will feature a new elections return tool for the primary elections.

“Our Agency’s new ENR system is a great resource for Georgia voters,” said Kemp.  “Information will be distributed efficiently, be interactive, and be able to be broken down to the precinct level.”

Would-be state Senate candidate Garry Guan has dropped out of the race after his residency challenge. Senator Curt Thompson is now unopposed.

Kemp rejected residency challenges against Republican Carla Roberts in HD 81 and Brooke Siskin in HD 95, in both cases adopting the recommendations of the Administrative Law Judge who took evidence.

Ashley Fielding of the Gainesville Times writes about the Republican Primary in the Ninth Congressional District.

One calls herself a “firebrand.” Another repeats that he’s the only “consistent conservative.” And the third rarely sits down without mentioning the U.S. Constitution.

A seven-month campaign for the Republican nomination to run for the newest U.S. House seat in Georgia, which once drew five Republicans from three counties, culminates Tuesday with just three candidates on the Republican ballot.

Those left are a former state representative from Hall County, a retired principal from White County and a former conservative radio talk show host, also from Hall.

If neither Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick nor Martha Zoller is able to garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the two with the most support will face off in an Aug. 21 runoff.

The winner of the election will face Democrat Jody Cooley of Gainesville in November’s general election to represent all or parts of 20 counties in Northeast Georgia in Congress.

Former Governor Zell Miller has endorsed the reelection of state Senator Cecil Staton, according to a website owned by Cecil Staton

Senator Miller said, “Shirley and I have known Catherine and Cecil Staton for many years. I don’t do this frequently, but I feel so strongly about this race that I wanted to let you know that I’m supporting Cecil Staton for re-­‐election. I know a conservative champion when I see one.

Don’t let anyone fool you. Senator Staton is pro-­‐life, pro-­‐family, and pro-­‐business. He is a tax-­‐cutter, a budget-­‐balancer, and a job-­‐creator. We need him to keep fighting for our conservative values under the gold dome. I encourage everyone in the six counties of the 18th district to join me in supporting your Senator-­‐-­‐Cecil Staton.

An ethics campaign finance complaint has been filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge over campaign expenditures. According to the filer of the complain,

“The most troubling of these allegations is an apparent elaborate scheme to funnel campaign contributions to a company responsible for maintaining a website www.pirouettesexy.com … the Pirouette Dance Company, whose name was changed to Pirouette Company with the Secretary of State in February 2012, currently maintains a website featuring pictures of scantly clad women and a current schedule of dates and fees,” [complainant Charlie] Statdlander said in a statement.

Other clients of Pirouette include DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, Democratic State Rep. Pat Gardner, State House candidate Ronnie Mabra, Gail Davenport, DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez, and Citizens for Transportation Mobility. Sound like a legitimate political consulting practice to me, but that does give me some ideas for my website.

Chuck Eaton, running for reelection to the Public Service Commission, is supported by Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit.

Much of the decisions that the PSC makes are handcuffed by Georgia law and an increasing appetite for  the General Assembly to regulate utilities via every more friendly regulations codified as state law.  Senate Bill 31 continues to resonate as an example, with the legislature, not the PSC, deciding to pre-fund Georgia Power’s return on investment for two new nuclear reactors at plant Vogtle.

One of Chuck Eaton’s strong points is that he is intellectually curious.  He is a person who is willing to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers, and solicits opinions regularly on topics that interest him.

He has a keen grasp on the various risks associated with coal as the EPA continues to push coal powered electric plants toward extinction.  He understands that while natural gas prices are at historic lows right now, the history of the fuel is one of price volatility which could lead to wide variances in power costs.  He understands that nuclear is cheap once the power plants are operational, but getting a plant built after 30 years since the last plant was built will present unique challenges.

Eaton prefers a balanced approach, with Georgia not putting all eggs in one basket.  He’s generally pragmatic about the needs of the state, and balances the needs of Georgians with the requirements that those the PSC regulates are entitled to earn a profit as defined in state law.

While not someone I always agree with, Eaton is someone who can explain and is willing to defend his positions based on fact and underlying law.  That’s a rarity in politics.

In short, I trust him.  That’s also rare.  He’s an incumbent that gets my vote.  That’s getting more rare.

Eaton is also supported by Governor Nathan Deal, Congressman Tom Graves, Attorney General Sam Olens, and numerous other Republicans.

T-SPLOST opponents outnumbered supporters at a debate over the sales tax hike last night at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said her displeasure with the proposal came last year when the toll lanes were activated along Interstate 85. She said her inquiries into the issue, which actually increased congestion, caused her to realize the problem with the bureaucracy.

And, as far as the project list is concerned, she added that a proposal to convert Gravel Springs Road to an interchange angered her Buford constituents.

While debates in the Legislature lingered for years before the current Transportation Investment Act was adopted, Unterman said leaders would be anxious to take on the issue again in January if voters say no to the proposal.

“That’s the risk,” she said of politics intervening in the Legislature, “but I still say that risk is better than dumping billions of dollars into a system that is not working.”

Also in Gwinnett, T-SPLOST opponents are questioning whether county funds are being used to support the T-SPLOST.

Partnership Gwinnett, funded by businesses and government agencies, has won national acclaim for efforts to attract jobs to metro Atlanta. But on Thursday citizens groups questioned whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

They also were skeptical of claims the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t used public money to support the transportation sales tax measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Some Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed in supporting the T-SPLOST; a group called “Georgia Hispanic Republicans” are unanimously opposed to T-SPLOST. Make of it what you will.

The American Communist Lawyers Civil Liberties Union seeks to intervene in a lawsuit over Sumter County Board of Education district lines.

The Georgia Ports Authority is seeking to intervene in the federal lawsuit challenging the dredging of the Savannah River to improve access to the Port of Savannah.

The Georgia Ports Authority wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel saying its contractual and economic interests are at risk.

The authority also asked a judge to block South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission from entering the suit, saying that would expand the action and simply bring in extraneous issues.

The authority wants the river shipping channel deepened to handle larger ships that will be routinely calling when the Panama Canal is deepened in 2014. It filed the motions on Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday gave the other parties in the case until Aug. 6 to respond.

The lawsuit filed by environmental groups contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a South Carolina pollution permit before the deepening work can begin. The suit alleges toxic cadmium from river silt will be dumped in a dredge spoils area on the South Carolina side of the river.

The suit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta, Ga., as well as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.

Forsyth County Elections

Senate district 27 pits Republican Senator Jack Murphy against Forsyth County Tea Party  founder Steve Voshall.

House district 26 is a contest between formers: former State Rep. Tom Knox and former Florida Marlins pitcher Geoff Duncan.

Walker Bramblett, the incumbent Chief Magistrate Judge meets former Chief Magistrate Barbara Cole. In 2008, Cole stepped down as she did not meet then-new requirements for years as a member of the State bar, but she now has enough time as a lawyer to mount a comeback.

The race for County Coroner features a retired medical examiner, a funeral director and a nurse, seeking to succeed Lauren McDonald, who is running for Sheriff.

The Republican primary for County Commission District 2 will decide whether incumbent Brian Tam or one of his challengers, Dennis Brown and Scott Padis, take a seat on the Commission, as no Democrat is running.

County Commission District 4 will also be decided in the Republican primary between incumbent Patrick Bell, and challengers Tim Hubbard, Charles Meagher, Cindy J. Mills and Bill Mulrooney.

One of those candidates for District 4, Cindy Mills, had an ethics complaint filed against her because she failed to list her role as an officer in the Forsyth County Parks Foundation on her Personal Financial Disclosure. She amended her PFD that day.

Holly LaBerge, spokeswoman for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said the complaint will not be pursued until after the July 31 election.

“If it was filed within 30 days of an election, we can’t do anything with it until the election is over by law,” LaBerge said.

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State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Forsyth) was appointed chair of the Jekyll Island State Park Oversight Committee, on which he currently serves as a member. Tough duty.

A former Forsyth County deputy who was terminated during his probationary period claims his firing was because he posted on Facebook that he supports Duane Piper, who is challenging Sheriff Ted Paxton in the Republican Primary.

Ends & Pieces

Rocky Creek Solar Farm in Upson County is the first facility of its type in Georgia, and is now producing up to 1 megawatt, enough to power 300 homes. Georgia Power purchases electricity produced at the facility, with an additional 18 megawatts under development.

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office took second place in its division in a national law enforcement highway safety challenge.

Rome-based Bubba will compete in dock diving at the Summer at the Rocks event in Stone Mountain this weekend. The event runs today through Sunday. Bubba is a four-year old chocolate Lab who enjoys food, licking himself, and belly rubs.

Model High School in Rome is holding it’s annual band camp. This is not a one time occurence, but annual.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 26, 2012

Pen 107 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter houses this young, male Shepherd mix. Shepherd mix is what the shelter calls him, I’d say he looks like the other parent was a Golden Retriever. He’ll be available for adoption beginning Sunday.

On Saturday, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs Program. The event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today, we start with congratulations to Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Billy Ray and Atlanta lawyer Lisa Branch, who have been named to the Georgia Court of Appeals by Governor Nathan Deal.

Judge Ray will join the Court on July 30th and Branch on September 1st. Judge Ray previously served as a Republican member of the State Senate and was the founder and presiding judge of the Gwinnett County Drug Treatment Court.

Speaking of Gwinnett County Superior Court, two of the candidates out there have gotten involved in a knife fight involving mail, robocalls, and allegations of ongoing corruption.

Harsh to be sure, but the assertions of fact appear to be true. Then there’s the robocall, which states:

“This is an important alert for Gwinnett voters.”

“Superior Court Judge candidate Tracey Mason Blasi was appointed to be a zoning judge by Shirley Lasseter, who has pled guilty to bribery charges.”

“Today it was announced that Lasseter’s sentencing for bribery has been delayed to allow the investigation to continue into corrupt public officials.”

“It would be irresponsible to elect a candidate such as Tracey Mason Blasi to a judgeship in Gwinnett, especially considering the connection to corrupt public officials”

“We don’t know where this investigation will go, and we don’t need to risk letting Miss Mason Blasi be elected as a judge.”
Please remember to vote No to Gwinnett corruption and vote No to Tracey Mason Blasi on July 31st.”

That call may just violate Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct promulgated by the Judicial Qualifications Commission if it was paid for by a candidate for Superior Court. I’d give 50/50 odds that a complaint is filed.

Canon 7(c) states that candidates for judicial office

“shall not use or participate in the publication of a false statement of fact concerning themselves or their candidacies, or concerning any opposing candidate of candidacy, with knowledge of the statement’s falsity or with reckless disregard for the statement’s truth or falsity.”

Tracey Mason Blasi fired back with her own Robocall, using the voice of Gerald Davidson,

“Chris McClurg chose to mail false statements about one of the most reputable attorneys in this county, Tracey Mason Blasi.”

“Mr. McClurg knows his comments are untrue and misleading but sent them anyway.”

Here’s where it gets interesting: I think that robocall by Gerald Davidson might also violate Canon 7 if it was done by the Blasi campaign, unless she can point to a statement of fact on Chris McClurg’s mailer that is untrue. Odds on a JQC complaint being filed concerning this call are also 50/50.

Blasi also sent out an email blast in which she writes:

Some of my opponents have stooped to unfounded personal attacks on me but they cannot attack my proven record of service in Gwinnett County.

Seriously, Tracey, you shouldn’t be slinging mud at all of your opponents, when you know (a) that Chris McClurg or his candidates did the mail and robocall; (b) that one of those other candidates will be the next Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett County; and (c) that Governor Deal will soon be appointing another Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett and the Judicial Nominating Commission is unlikely to look kindly upon this.

DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson has apologized for an alcohol-and-grief induced tirade at the Tanqueray Lounge.

“I was a little despondent and upset over my wallet,” Watson said in a phone interview with the AJC. “I have apologized to the constituents and I will apologize to the officer.”

Watson admitted he was in no shape to drive.

“I had a moment where I was trying to console myself and I had a few drinks. I at least had enough sense not to drive myself home,” he said. “Hopefully voters will forgive me that.”

Before leaving the club, the incident report states, Watson engaged in a profanity-laced tirade directed at two women he believed had pilfered his wallet, which contained $200. He acknowledged he did not witness them steal it.

“I’m going to act a [expletive deleted] fool in the morning,” said Watson, as quoted in the report. “One of those two [expletive deleted] stole my wallet.”

Parker wrote that he encouraged Watson to “behave like a public official,” but the commissioner continued to direct slurs toward the two women.

One of them, Sheneeka Latessa Bradsher, of Hampton, Va., was briefly arrested for disorderly conduct after ignoring Parker’s warnings to calm down, according to the report.

But the officer chose to give her a warning because, “I did not feel I would be justified in arresting Ms. Bradsher for disorderly conduct and not arrest Mr. Watson.”

In Forsyth County, a supporter of Sheriff Ted Paxton is being investigated for a roadside beautification program sign-stealing spree.

Channel 2 News reports that one of Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton’s campaign workers is being investigated for stealing more than 30 campaign signs belonging to Paxton’s opponents.

Authorities said they responded to a domestic dispute at Joni Owens’ home and saw a stack of signs outside her garage. Paxton’s campaign manager said Owens has since been fired from the campaign.

This is the same person who had earlier been accused of stealing signs for Senator Jack Murphy’s opponent. Senator Murphy emailed me to say he had no idea about the sign-stealing and I believe him. The fact that the person accused of sign-stealing was found with the signs of ten different candidates looks more like a crazy person and less like a campaign tactic.

Some of the specific allegations in the ethics Campaign Finance Commission complaint against Senator Chip Rogers include:

that Rogers “masterminded a scheme to violate the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act by causing the transfer of $140,000 from the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust to a political action committee (PAC) he caused to be created.” Manuel claims those funds were then used “primarily for his own benefit in the form of in-kind contributions to his campaign.”

[Complainant Colleen] Manuel also alleges that Rogers violated an additional campaign finance rule by soliciting a vendor, “instructing that vendor to mail on behalf of candidates including himself, suggested specific messaging and then funded this vendor’s operation.” She said the value of the mailing is alleged to exceed $2,500, violating the Section 21-5-41 of the state Campaign Finance Act, which limits maximum allowable contributions. “The Rogers PAC filed disclosures showing that $72,552 was spent to benefit Rogers,” she said, referring to the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion (GRSCP) PAC.

Manuel said in the complaint that Rogers hired Michael Luethy, who registered the GRSCP PAC (an independent committee) on May 18. The Senate Caucus trust then transferred a total of $140,000 to the GRSCP, she said.

Manuel said the GRSCP PAC then paid for at least six mailings expressly advocating the re-election of Rogers.

Rogers’ only response was to say the complaint was not newsworthy.

“Surely a last-minute bogus ethics complaint from a member of my opponent’s campaign is not worthy of news coverage,” he said.

Senator Cecil Staton has also drawn a complaint.

The complaint has been filed by State Senate candidate Dr. Spencer Price.

Price says the senator got an illegal campaign donation in the form of mailed campaign material. Price reported the alleged violation to Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The complaint says that Staton received a contribution from the a group allegedly funded by the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust, which wasn’t reported on his campaign disclosure. Staton says his campaign wasn’t responsible for the mailings, it was not from the trust, and that he properly reported campaign contributions.

“The Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that third party organizations can spend what they want to that’s their first amendment right, the only problem would be if there had been any cooperation between our campaign and that organization and their has been none, absolutely none,” says Staton.

Staton called the complaint frivolous, and a distraction from the real issues surrounding the senate race. The senator maintains there’s no merit to Price’s allegations.

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Obama for America must not like gay people or they wouldn’t have spent $62 at an Atlanta Chick-fil-A, right?

Jane Morrison is running for Fulton County State Court, hoping to become one of the first openly-lesbian judges in Georgia.

Morrison has her own civil practice where she works full-time, but she is also a part-time solicitor for the cities of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek. She’s also served as a judge on a part time basis for Atlanta Municipal Court as well as a part-time Fulton Magistrate judge.

Morrison said she also has experience with criminal defense when early in her career she represented defendants in Atlanta Traffic Court.

“What I bring is a broad base of experience,” said Morrison, who is endorsed by Georgia Equality and the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats.

Wait, I guess she actually is an openly-lesbian judge already.

Michael Caldwell drew 45% of the vote against State Rep. Charlice Byrd in 2010 and is back for a second bite at the apple. The winner of the Republican primary faces Lillian Burnaman, the only Democrat running against an incumbent in Cherokee County.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Ronald Mabra is a resident of House District 63 and can stay on the ballot, rejecting the findings of an Administrative Law Judge that Mabra was not a resident and therefore not qualified to run for State House.

 

Ends & Pieces

Willie Nelson will headline a concert at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth on October 20th, 2012 as part of the Railroad Revival Tour.

Performers will arrive in a vintage train for the Oct. 20 concert at the museum located at 3595 Buford Hwy. About 8,000 to 10,000 fans are expected to attend the Saturday concert.

“The Railroad Revival Tour is a concert tour which seeks to focus attention on the importance of railroads to our nation’s past, present and future by holding concerts at railroad-affiliated locations and touring by train rather than by the more familiar bus,” acording to Jeffrey Hildebrand, marketing manager for the museum. “The Southeastern Railway Museum is pleased to have been selected as the kickoff location for the 2012 concert series.”

Concert attendees will be able to tour the museum and see the special train assembled for the tour, Hildebrand said. “The museum will gain considerable publicity, and we hope to be able to turn many of the music fans into repeat visitors to the museum,” he said.

The Duluth City Council in a called meeting Monday (July 23) approved a special-use permit request by David Conway representing the Dripping Springs, TX-based tour to allow loudspeakers to operate within 1,000 feet of residential areas near the railroad museum from 2 to 11 p.m. for the one-day concert.

There is no way I’m missing this show. Hope to see you there. Early bird discount $55 tickets go on sale at 11 today.

Canon has announced a great new camera called the EOS M, which takes the innards of an 18 Megapixel DSLR and puts them in what is essentially a point-and-shoot body with interchangeable lenses.


The EOS M is expected to be available in October and will sell for $800 in a kit that includes a 22mm f2 lens. It will also mount existing Canon EOS lenses with an available adapter. When yours arrives, let me know, because I’d like to see and play with one of these.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 28, 2012

“25422” is a black lab mix who will be available for adoption beginning Monday, July 2d from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. He is a medium-sized, friendly boy.

His odds aren’t very good, as it’s the time of year when shelters are full and euthanasia may be a daily occurrence. He also suffers from “black dog syndrome,” which means that black-coated dogs are often passed over for adoption and end up euthanized.

Not everyone can adopt or foster a dog, but many of us can donate money, time, or dog items to the rescues that work every day to save dogs from public animal shelters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Because I have psychic abilities when it comes to Georgia politics, I can tell you that the biggest political news of today will come sometime after 10 AM and will originate in Washington, DC.

The Supreme Court is widely expected to release its opinion or opinions in the Obamacare case today. Starting around 10 AM, I’ll be hanging out at the SCOTUSblog live blog to get the news as soon as it’s available.

In anticipation of the decision, the SCOTUSblog main site has a plain English summary of the issues in the case. The Wall Street Journal has a good discussion of what’s at stake in the case.

If you have some free time this morning and want to await the decision with others, the Atlanta Tea Party will hold a “Countdown to Obamacare Decision” at the State Capitol on the Washington Street side on Thursday, June 28th from 9:30 AM to Noon. Tea party supporters are asked to join and bring signs, but signs must not have wooden or wire stakes.

Governor Deal will hold a press conference at 2 PM on Thursday to address the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration reform law, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is asking parties in the lawsuit over Georgia’s House Bill 87 to submit briefs discussing the effect of the ruling on the Georgia case.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice made good on its threat to sue the State of Georgia and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, challenging the state’s compliance with the  Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which requires that ballots for elections to federal office be sent 45 days in advance of the election. Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said:

“Our uniformed service members and overseas citizens deserve a full opportunity to participate in all elections of our nation’s leaders including runoff elections for federal office in states where they are held. This suit seeks relief to ensure that Georgia’s military and overseas voters, many of whom are members of our armed forces and their families serving our country around the world, will be provided the opportunity guaranteed by UOCAVA to receive, mark and return their ballots in the upcoming primary runoff election, as well as all future federal runoff elections.”

Republican State Rep. Mark Hamilton finds the DOJ’s timing suspect.

In the fall of 2010, more than 1,900 Georgia voters serving in the military or living overseas sought applications for absentee ballots in electronic format for the first time.

Georgia’s military and overseas voters were able to access their absentee ballot electronically 45 days prior to election day. To access their ballot, these voters logged on to a secure website, printed and cast their ballot, and then mailed them back to their county election office. This saved weeks of time previously lost to delivery of blank ballots by mail. The system that delivered these blank ballots was developed in-house within the Georgia secretary of state’s office at no additional cost to Georgia’s taxpayers.

Georgia was one of the first states in the nation to be in full compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act through passage of Georgia House Bill 1073, signed into law in 2010 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

However, it now appears that a politically motivated U.S. Department of Justice is willing to put this system into question just one month before our state’s primary election.

I cannot believe that this is an earnest attempt to expand voting opportunities for our men and women in uniform. Georgia has an incredible track record on this issue, and even issues write-in runoff ballots with all absentee ballots to ensure that every Georgia citizen has the opportunity to vote in every election in which they choose to vote.

In fact, this system was developed with the Department of Justice in 2005 and has served our state well since then. Can anyone imagine developing a plan with a third party only to have them sue you over it years later? That’s exactly what the Department of Justice is doing with this lawsuit. It doesn’t inspire a whole lot of trust and confidence in our federal government, does it?

I am shocked by the suggestion that the United State Department of Justice would make politically-motivated decisions. Shocked.

Greg Davis is also shocked at anyone questioning Attorney General Eric Holder’s devotion to following upholding the law whether he want to or not.

I just had to find out why U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would want to deny our soldiers and other overseas voters the right to vote.

In the first place, this is not Georgia’s first run-in with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. In 2004, the U.S. government successfully challenged Georgia’s failure to provide adequate time for voters overseas to participate in runoff elections. Obama cannot be blamed for that one.

Let’s fast-forward to this year. Federal law says that all absent uniformed services and overseas voters are to have ballots 45 days before the day of the election. When Rep. Hamilton claims that Georgia follows the law, this is only partially true. For runoff elections, only 14 days would be possible. If one reads his column closely, Rep. Hamilton does not dispute this. Instead, he blames the Justice Department for not bringing up the subject earlier.

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Yet again, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has drawn the ire of the University System of Georgia with his political signs that depict the UGA and Georgia Tech mascots.

Georgia Board of Regents Vice Chancellor for External Affairs Tom Daniel confirmed to the Ledger-News Friday that he has asked Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers’ alma mater, Georgia Tech, as well as the University of Georgia, to pen letters to Rogers asking him to quit using those schools’ patented sports team logos on campaign signs. All university system patented logos are the property of the Board of
Regents.

Rogers’ campaign spokesman Robert Trim said the senator would not have any more signs printed with the logos.

Trim said the signs with the logos were printed for a special event a few years ago, and the only ones in circulation are ones people took home with them.

“We distributed (those signs) over two years ago, and we are honored support for Sen. Rogers is consistent and long-lasting,” Trim said.  “We think the recycling of signs from former events represents conservative values.”

I note that Trim didn’t say anything about taking the questioned images down from the Dawgs for Chip Rogers or Jackets for Chip Rogers facebook pages.

Here’s a new link to a different story reporting on the trademark issue.

Speaking of yardsigns, CBS Atlanta asked the tough questions of judicial candidates in Gwinnett County about why some of their signs were in rights-of-way along roads. As we all know, the Georgia DOT doesn’t like political signs in their rights-of way.

Seriously, CBS Atlanta, you were in Gwinnett County, where a sitting County Commissioner recently pled guilty to federal bribery charges, where another former Commissioner is under indictment for allegedly taking a million dollars in cash for zoning decisions, and everyone is wondering which current or former Commissioner will be indicted next, and this is the best you could come up with?

The American Civil Liberties Union will represent the Ku Klux Klan as it seeks to adopt a highway.

The Klan was recently denied the chance to clean up part of Route 515 in Union City.  Seagroves says that the decision to exclude the group from  a purely voluntary program appears to be based on a the viewpoint of group members, which she says is a clear violation of the first amendment.

“Any decision about participating in a public program has to be content neutral, and when our department of transportation decided to close the program to a group because its views and opinions were offensive to some, we consider that a violation of the first amendment.”

Speaking of the Klan, yesterday I inadvertantly wrote that Roger Garrison, under fire for pictures showing him in a KKK robe and mask 25-30 years ago, is Sheriff of Forsyth County. That was a mistake. Garrison is Sheriff of Cherokee County.

Muscogee County Superior Court’s Chief Judge John Allen is stepping down as Chairman of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, but will remain on the Commission as a member.

“Judge Allen leaves an indelible mark on the judiciary, which he has served so honorably,” said Jeff Davis, the commission’s director. “Judge Allen has led the commission through a flurry of increased activity over the last few years, steadfastly ensuring that those who aspire to be judges respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust.”

Allen will take office as President of the Rotary Club of Columbus.

Georgia Public Broadcasting brings us the surprising news that a Democrat Wright McLeod is the front-runner in the Republican Primary for the Twelfth Congressional District. The Augusta Chronicle brings us the not-so-surprising news that the Federal Elections Commission is seeking records from McLeod’s campaign.

The Federal Election Commission is asking 12th Congressional District Republican candidate Wright McLeod to provide additional information about his campaign spending or face an audit or penalty.

In a June 18 letter to McLeod campaign treasurer Cameron Nixon, FEC Senior Campaign Finance Analyst Robin Kelly says McLeod’s April quarterly report did not state the purpose for several disbursements of campaign funds, including those characterized only as “payroll.”

“It’s time that Wright McLeod finally tells the truth by admitting he made major mistakes, including stealing our campaign’s donor list,” Paradise said Tuesday. “The FEC has confirmed what we’ve believed for some time – Wright McLeod is in clear violation of the law.”

McLeod campaign spokeswoman Holly Croft called the letter, which has a response due date of July 23, “a routine administrative request” and pointed to similar FEC requests for additional information made earlier this year to Allen and another Republican candidate, state Rep. Lee Anderson.

Both letters, posted on the FEC.gov Web site, cite the candidates’ failures to include more specific information about some donors’ employers besides “requested” or “self.”

Asked whether the letter verified Paradise’s complaint, which McLeod officials have dismissed as a frivolous “hatchet job,” Croft said “there could be some overlap” between Allen’s complaint and the FEC letter.

The dispute between Georgia Southern and a media company owned at least partially by Senator Cecil Staton is in the news again, just in time to gratuitously attempt to extort embarrass Staton by using his political position as a weapon in a business dispute.

All the correspondence from Georgia Eagle Media to Georgia Southern about this dispute has come from Staton.

Georgia Eagle’s statement calls the disagreement a “contract dispute” with Georgia Southern Athletics “not connected personally or individually with Cecil Staton.”

The company added, “Were it not the case that Mr. Staton is state senator and in a contested primary election in five weeks, we are confident this legal dispute between two business entities would not warrant the attention of Georgia Eagle Media, Inc’s media competitors.”

That last phrase refers to Georgia Eagle Media’s television and radio operation, WRWR, in Warner Robins.

Staton has previously released extensive documentation of the dispute that appear to raise legitimate issues about the amount of money owed. Also, Staton’s company attempted to make a partial payment of money that was not disputed, but the University refused.

Sock puppets appear to be making their first appearance in Middle Georgia, as a Staton supporter named Brian Zorotovich is accused of sending emails trashing Staton’s opponent from an email account bearing the name Beth Merkelson Mal Reynolds.

“Zorotovich has attempted to distort the facts of all the circumstances involving these financial challenges,” said Price.”His actions, rather than speaking negatively of my character, actually speak negatively of his own.”

For his part, Staton told the Reporter on Monday that he had no clue who Beth Merkelson Zorotovich is. He said he tries to avoid “that stuff” as much as he can. “It just raises the blood pressure,” said Staton. “I don’t have time for childishness,” said Staton. “I am the senator and I will continue to do that job. I think that’s about all they (Price) have. They haven’t been able to do anything else. They haven’t raised any money. We’re just doing we’re supposed to do.”

Grovetown City Council member Sonny McDowell was indicted in an Alabama federal court for bribery.

“Sonny” McDowell, who was arraigned June 15, is accused of offering a kickback to a former employee of the Alabama Department of Public Safety in 2007.

McDowell and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, Ala., face a four-count indictment alleging bribery related to a program receiving federal funds, according to a statement from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Alabama.

Part of Potts’ job in July 2007 involved helping the Alabama Department of Human Resources solicit bids for an electronic fingerprint system. McDowell is owner of Southern Detention Technologies Inc., which sells fingerprint machines.

The indictment accuses McDowell of offering and Potts of accepting a $1,700 check and $1 for every fingerprint scan run related to the DHR, according to the statement.