Tag: Don Balfour

29
Aug

Sen. Josh McKoon to AG Olens “Please investigate Don Balfour”

17
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 17, 2012

This young female English Setter mix might be a great bird dog. She might also be a couch potato. Either way, she’s available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Her ID is 26571 and she is located in pen 139.

This puppy is described as a baby lab, but I’ve never seen a lab with markings like those. She is a large, playful and friendly puppy with ID #26454 and is in pen 214, waiting at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter for her new home and family.

I’d already compiled this morning’s featured dogs when I saw this photo and couldn’t resist. She is a young Siberian Husky available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Large and friendly, she was surrendered by her owner and does not like cats.

GPB has the first of a three-part series of advice and stories about adopting dogs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State Rep. Johnny Floyd of Cordele, who switched parties to become a Republican in 2006, has been elected Chairman of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board. Former State Rep. Jay Shaw was elected Vice Chair.

State Senator Don Balfour settled a complaint by the Senate Ethics Committee alleging the Rules Committee Chairman submitted inaccurate reimbursement claims.

The committee concluded that “Sen. Balfour failed to maintain accurate records of his travel and consequently submitted inaccurate vouchers to the Legislative Fiscal Office,” according to its report, which was released late Thursday afternoon.

Veteran lawmakers said it was the first time the Senate Ethics Committee voted to punish one of the chamber’s members.

Balfour, chairman of the Rules Committee, was accused of billing the state for mileage while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips, and for failing to create a subcommittee to audit all senators’ reimbursement vouchers.

On Thursday, Balfour acknowledged making “some inadvertent mistakes and I’ve said that all along” and admitted he had not created an audit subcommittee — but neither had previous chairmen. He did not speak to reporters after the report was released.

Balfour has subsequently amended his reimbursements and will repay $350 to the state plus a $5000 fine. His chairmanship presumably will be subject to the Committee on Assignments.

Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) was not amused.

“While I strongly agree with the Committee’s determination of guilt, I disagree with the penalty, which will not deter future serious breaches of Georgia law and is not as strong as penalties imposed when similar offenses have been committed in the past.”

“I will be preparing a minority report in the days to come which I will forward on to appropriate parties for consideration which will address these matters in much greater detail. Suffice it to say that the action taken today, in my opinion, further undermines public confidence in state government and reinforces the anything goes culture at the Capitol.”

Also not amused? Debbie Dooley, who I would argue is the most influential woman in Georgia politics at the moment.

Dooley called the penalties “a slap on the wrist” agreed to in a “backroom deal.”

“The attitude of the voters and the grass roots is that the Senate chamber is a good old boy network that actually takes care of their own and covers for their own,” she said.

The committee, Dooley said, is “rubber-stamping unethical behavior from Sen. Balfour.”

Dooley vowed to press Attorney General Sam Olens and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to investigate Balfour’s actions.

She said her organization also will pressure Senate leaders to strip Balfour of his committee chairmanship. The Rules Committee decides which bills make it to the Senate floor, and as chairman, Balfour has great power to influence those decisions.

Richmond County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Scott Peebles and County School System Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree will meet in the runoff for Sheriff on Tuesday.

Manure has become the metaphor of choice in the 12th Congressional District Republican Primary Runoff between State Rep. Lee Anderson and Rick Allen. Lee Anderson hit the air with an ad accusing Rick Allen of bringing out the manure spreader and visuals of Rick Allen getting what is presumably manure flung on his face.

Now, the Augusta Chronicle suggests that Anderson is mailing out the manure himself.

Mud – or in Grovetown state Rep. Lee Anderson’s case – manure – continues to fly in the 12th Congressional District race as Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff between Anderson and Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen grows closer.

A mailer from Lee Anderson for Congress goes too far in accusing Allen of contributing money to incumbent Democrat John Barrow, said Allen’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Paradise said. “This piece is a last-minute piece, and maybe they thought ‘let’s send it out and hope we don’t get caught.’ But they slipped up.”

I’ve got to wonder what the robocalls sound like in that campaign.

Also going negative in the runoff are State Senator Miriam Paris and her opponent David Lucas.

During a news conference Thursday, Lucas addressed a controversial campaign mailer that featured an unflattering picture of the former state representative who appears to be yawning. The mailer goes onto to say:

“We don’t need a sleeping senator. David Lucas falls asleep on the job. And when he wakes up, he’s a nightmare. David Lucas slept while thousands of jobs left Middle Georgia.”

Now Lucas is firing back. He’s says if anyone has been sleeping on the job it is Paris.

“The senator elect was asleep on the job when they did the consolidation bill that she could not explain,” Lucas said.

The ad was paid for by Georgia Forward, a group that describes itself as independent and non-partisan. Lucas believes that ad was paid for by republicans. He feels that negative campaigning is taking over the race but says he’s not the one behind it.

Both candidates deny negative campaigning.

Murray County Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran has resigned under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission for pre-signing blank arrest warrants for police officers.

The commission posted on Thursday Cochran’s resignation letter, a letter from Gov. Nathan Deal accepting his resignation and a copy of a consent order signed by Cochran agreeing to resign and to not seek any other elected or appointed judicial office.

A report accompanying those documents, also signed by Cochran, says the commission was investigating whether Cochran “allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests” and whether he “pre-signed blank arrest warrants for completion by law enforcement officers while he was absent from the office.”

Cochran was also recently accused of making advances toward a woman before him on methamphetamine charges.

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A political consulting firm called “Pirouette Companies” continues to cause controversy in the now-settled Fulton County election for State Court Judge.

An ethics complaint filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge in the days before the July 31 primary will be investigated by the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission to determine if any laws were violated.

The complaint was filed by Charlie Stadtlander, a gay voter. Leftridge faced off against open lesbian Jane Morrison in the non-partisan campaign for the open seat of Fulton State Judge. Morrison won with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Statdlander accused Leftridge in his complaint of an “apparent elaborate scheme to funnel some $18,500 to a company responsible for maintaining a websitewww.pirouettesexy.com” that features “pictures of scantly clad women.”

But here’s where the Pirouette Companies saga turns into more than just a remnant from a campaign that’s now finished:

Mitzi Bickers, a longtime political operative, said she consults for Piroutte Companies and started working for the company earlier this year.

The company has a youth program that includes teaching dance to young people, but the money Leftridge paid was to Piroutte Companies and not to a dance company, Bickers said.

“We have not done anything unethical,” she said.

Bickers, who is gay, took an unpaid leave of absence from working for Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration in May to work for Pirouette. Records show that Pirouette was paid more than $115,000 by Citizens for Transportation Mobility, which supported TSPLOST. Reed was a strong outspoken supporter of TSPLOST.

“I took an unpaid leave of absence so there would not be any conflict of interest with TSPLOST,” Bickers said.

Ends & Pieces

Atlantan Cassie Mitchell is headed to London to compete in the Paralympics in three wheelchair sports, the 100m and 200m sprint and the discus. I met Cassie when I volunteered at Shepherd Spinal Center with the Quad Rugby Program. She’s an amazing athlete and holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Georgia Tech, where she works.

Three members of the US Army marksmanship team who competed in the London Olympics have returned to Fort Benning where they are teaching junior rifle camp.

The Marksmanship Unit sent seven soldiers to the competition at the Royal Artillery Barracks, but Sgt. Vincent Hancock was the only one to strike gold in men’s skeet shooting. He’s on leave preparing for a big welcome home Saturday in Eatonton, Ga.

Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson, the first active-duty soldier to ever qualify for a Paralympics, is the only member of the Marksmanship Unit left to compete in London. Olson, who lost his right leg after he was wounded in Iraq in 2003, will compete in the 10-meter air rifle Sept. 1 and the mixed 50-meter prone rifle Sept. 4.

As an instructor, [Sgt. 1st Class Eric] Uptagrafft said he’s teaching the 15-17-year-old shooters the basic fundamentals of firing a small bore .22-caliber rifle at a target less than the size of a dime 50 meters away.

“All the things you use to get to the Olympics are the things these kids are going to use hopefully to get there in eight or nine years,” he said.

Students had to apply to earn a spot at the five-day camp. Michael Garner, 16, of Celina, Texas, said it’s exciting to get help from world-class shooters and Olympians.

1
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 1, 2012

This little low rider looks like a cross between a blue tick coon hound and a basset and is available for adoption from Cobb County Animal Shelter. He is said to have a great, friendly personanilty, is up-to-date on his shots, and will be neutered, microchipped and tested for heartworms before he goes home. His ID is 546592, he is in run 850 and he weighs 49 lbs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

This is far from exhaustive, as I was up too late last night watching election returns, but I’ll delve deeper into some of the happenings in yesterday’s elections, including ballot questions and local races over the next few days.

Two things became clear in last night’s elections: T-SPLOST was soundly rejected and most GOP incumbents were reelected.

T-SPLOST passed in three districts, Central Savannah River, River Valley, and Heart of Georgia regions will see their sales taxes go up when the measure goes into effect.

Chuck Eaton beat Matt Reid for the Republican nomination for PSC District 3 by a margin of nearly 60-40. Stan Wise beat Pam Davidson for PSC District 5 by 56.5-43.5.

Eaton said:

“I am grateful to the people of Georgia for allowing me the opportunity to represent the Republican party in November.

I also want to thank Governor Deal, Lt. Governor Cagle, Attorney General Olens and all the grassroots activists who supported our campaign.

As we move toward November, we will continue the discussion of whether Georgia wants lower rates, reliable utilities, and more good jobs, or whether we wish to change course and pursue a radical agenda that will cost more money from consumers, and make our state less competitive for new jobs.”

Wise said,

“We’ve made a commitment over the years of promising just a few things – reasonable rates, reliable generation and clearly we’re building an infrastructure for the future, whether it comes from increased natural gas infrastructure in the state or growing nuclear transmission for generations to come.”

Congressional Primary Election

Ninth Congressional District – Runoff between Doug Collins (41.80%) and Martha Zoller (41.14%). The math geek in me notes that both of those percentages are evenly divisible by 11; the politics geek notes that this means three more weeks of dueling press releases piling up in my inbox.

Line of the night goes to Doug Collins.

Asked about the nail-biting returns, Collins said, “we’ve got plenty of nails left.”

As in the election, Martha came in second for line of the night by a slim margin,

“Well, I didn’t get crushed tonight,” she said. “I did pretty darn good.”

Twelfth Congressional District appears to be headed for a runoff between Lee Anderson (34.22%) and a player to be named later. Currently, the Secretary of State’s website shows Rick Allen with a 558-vote lead over Wright McLeod, but it also indicates that not all precincts are reported, so this may change .

At midnight, Augusta businessman Rick Allen was leading Evans lawyer Wright McLeod by about 500 votes, but neither was conceding the second-place finish that would place one of them in the runoff. The Asso­ciated Press didn’t call the runner-up results because of the closeness of the race.

The margin is close enough to guarantee McLeod a recount if it holds in the official count, The Asso­ciated Press said.

Senate Primary Elections

Senate District 6 – appears to be Hunter Hill with 52% over his opponents, but irregularities in voting, which included voters assigned to incorrect precincts and paper balloting in midtown Atlanta may mean that the race is not truly called for several days.

Senate District 7 – Tyler Harper beat Mark Hatfield, who was trying to move up from the State House.

Senate District 9 – Don Balfour cruised to an easy reelection with nearly 63% against two challengers.

Senate District 18 – Cecil Staton appears to have squeaked out a victory in a race where the candidates were separated by a single point, or roughly 200 votes.

Senate District 21 – Chip Rogers appears to have beaten Brandon Beach by 59-41

Senate District 25 – Johnny Grant defeated by Burt Jones 47-53.

Senate District 27 – Jack Murphy appears to have been reelected by less than half-a-point, a 117 vote margin.

Senate District 31 – Bill Heath (45.3%) meets Bill Carruth (41.1%) in a runoff on August 21.

Senate District 44 – Gail Davenport (33.9%) came in second to challenger Gail Buckner (42.4%) and is probably at a disadvantage headed into the runoff.

Senate District 47 – Frank Ginn wins.

Senate District 52 – Chuck Hufstetler appears to win without a runoff with a 54-30 margin over David Doss.

Selected House Races

House District 2 – Jay Neal over challenger Steve Tarvin with a 57-43 margin.

House District 16 – Trey Kelley wins over Jennifer Hulsey by 58-42.

House District 20 – Challenger Michael Caldwell beats incumbent Charlice Byrd by 53-47.

House District 21 – State Rep. Sean Jerguson reelected over Scot Turner.

House District 26 – Geoff Duncan appears to have a 55-vote margin over former State Rep. Tom Know.

House District 34 – Charles Gregory defeats incumbent State Rep. Judy Manning.\

House District 44 – State Rep. Don Parson reelected.

House District 45 – State Rep. Matt Dollar reelected.

House District 46 – State Rep. John Carson wins his re-nomination for his first full term but faces Kevin “Funny Mustache Hipster” West in the General. It is notable that Carson’s GOP opponent took more than twice as many votes in losing 68-32 than Democrat Kevin West took in his uncontested primary.

House District 56 – “Able” Mable Thomas handily defeated Ken Britt in the Democratic Primary, winning reelection by a 65-35 margin.

House District 57 – Democrat incumbent Pat Gardner appears to have whipped Rashad Taylor by a 63-37 margin.

House District 117 – Regina Quick beats Doug McKillip by 64 votes.

In Athens-Clarke County, Quick claimed almost 63 percent of the nearly 3,200 votes tallied. For McKillip, Tuesday’s race came less than two years after he switched to the GOP just weeks after his re-election as a Democrat in what was then an exclusively Athens legislative district.

McKillip led balloting in Oconee County (56 percent), Jackson County (63 percent) and Barrow County (66 percent).

House District 118 – Spencer Frye defeats incumbent Keith Heard in the Democratic Primary, while Carter Kessler won the GOP nomination.

House District 58 – Simone Bell won the matchup against fellow incumbent Democrat Ralph Long.

House District 63 – Ronnie Mabra leads into the runoff with 49.2%.

House District 66 – Bob Snelling, (49.63%) a former State Rep. will be in a runoff against Mike Miller (27.17%).

House District 75 – Democrat Mike Glanton appears to have knocked-off incumbent Yasmin Neal by 56-44.

House District 81 – Chris Boedeker over Carla Roberts by 70-30.

House District 97 Brooks Coleman whipped Robert McClure, a 20-something Ron Paul supporter by 70-30.

House District 103 Timothy Barr appears to have won the Republican Primary, but voting problems appear to have occurred in some early and absentee ballots.

House District 109 – Dale Rutledge beat incumbent Steve Davis.

In one of the more contentious legislative races, state House Rep. Steve Davis (R-District 109), lost to businessman Dale Rutledge by more than a 2 to 1 margin, 3,942 votes to 1,761, in the Republican Primary. There is no Democratic challenger.

House District 121 – Barry Fleming makes a return to the state house as a Republican, the only one of four attempted state house comebacks to clinch a win so far.

House District 167 – Jeff Chapman, a former Republican state senator will return to the Capitol as a new member of the lower house.

House District 180 – Jason Spencer beats Adam Jacobson with a 262-vote margin.

Other Notable Runoffs

Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee faces former Commission Chair Bill Byrne in a runoff. Grab some popcorn, this one’s going to get nasty.

In Gwinnett County Commission District Three, incumbent Mike Beaudreau took 47.34% and lands in a runoff, most likely with Tommy Hunter.

Kathy Schrader took more than 43% in the election for an open seat on the Gwinnett County Superior Court, more than double the vote total of second-place finisher Tracey Mason Blasi.

Emily Brantley and Pam Britt appear headed for a runoff for Gwinnett State Court, narrowly edging former State and Superior Court Judge Richard Winegarden out.

25
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 25, 2012

Pen 236 houses a Lab mix puppy and Pen 221 a Rottie mix, at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. The Gwinnett Animal Shelter is offering discounted adoptions through July 28th.

Lawrenceville Pit Bull Terrier (pronounced “pibble”) Titan was awarded third place in the Humane Society’s national Dog of Valor contest for saving his owner’s life twice.

“I think he won because he saved her life, which is just amazing,” DuBois said. “There is so much negative press about these dogs and there are incidents where unfortunate circumstances happen, but overall, the breed is an amazing breed. They are made not to be gentle by humans. (HSUS) thinks he deserves all the credit that he gets because he is an example of what the breed really is.”

Titan, a 5-year-old pit bull, saved owner Gloria’s life last July. Her husband, John, was set to leave for work when Titan got between him and the door and began whining, then running up and down the stairs.

John finally walked upstairs and discovered Gloria lying on the ground bleeding from her head. Doctors later said she had suffered an aneurysm and a fractured skull.

Just recently Titan came to the rescue again when he barked to wake John up at 4:30 a.m. When John went downstairs he found that Gloria had fallen in the bathroom, breaking her hip and another bone.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 25, 2012

A complaint has been filed with the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission alleging that mailings by the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC aimed at reelecting Senator Chip Rogers violates campaign rulesManuel alleges Rogers, along with other incumbent Republican state legislators, benefited from the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion Political Action Committee.

The PAC has come under scrutiny as it is actually registered as an independent committee, but has been raising money to promote incumbent senate Republicans faced with primary challengers.

Manuel did not return repeated phone calls and emails by press time.

Rogers said he hasn’t received any notice from the commission about Manuel’s complaint and criticized the complaint as not factual.

[Rogers's opponent Brandon] Beach has also been slapped with an ethics complaint.

Macedonia resident Jeff Whitmire filed the complaint with the state on Monday, alleging Beach has not accounted for advertising he’s done on Facebook and in the My Woodstock Monthly magazine.

Whitmire alleges the magazine was printed and distributed before the June 30 campaign disclosure deadline.

He also alleges Beach’s Facebook advertising began in May, and those disclosures were not reported for the June 30 reporting deadline.

“To be honest, I’m fed up with Washington and I’m fed up with crony politicians,” [Whitmire] said. “And I don’t like this Chicago style politics. I’m looking to see if there’s something bigger behind this.”

But that’s not all: apparently, you can’t trust political direct mail in that race either.

Both campaigns are also accused of engaging in mudslinging.

Rogers’ campaign has been accused of attacking Beach on his role in the Georgia 400 tolls.

A mailer produced by the anti-TSPLOST organization Traffic Truth is utilizing false newspaper headlines, noting the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce CEO has “failed to stop the Georgia 400 tolls” and “Beach sponsors party for largest tax increase in Georgia history.”

The first made-up headline refers to the upcoming regional transportation sales tax referendum voters across the state will consider on July 31.

One mailer criticizes Rogers for his involvement in the controversial loan he received to remodel the Oglethorpe Inn in Calhoun.

It also slams Rogers for his alleged connections to John Letcher Edens, the man Rogers and Graves transferred the loan to.

Edens, along with his son Jonathon Edward Edens, were both arrested and charged with theft in Cartersville last July.

Rogers referred to the mailer as “Chicago-style gutter politics” that “shows the desperation of my opponents and the lack of any positive ideas for Georgia.”

Rogers also said he believed the flyer contains false accusations and plans to “consider all potential legal action after the conclusion of the political campaign.”

Brian Laurens, a political consultant to Senator Rogers, accuses Beach of sending out robocalls and transmitting Laurens’s cell phone number as the Caller ID number.

Brian Laurens, owner of Brikel Communications and Consulting, is accusing Beach of using his cell phone number to call voters.

Laurens said he discovered the alleged robo calls were made when he returned home from church on Sunday.

The Holly Springs resident said the calls began to pour in around 2 p.m. and went through 8 p.m. Sunday.

“The call said something about Chip Rogers being for the TSPLOST and voting for it and was portrayed as coming from a registered LLC, (the) Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee County,” he said.

Laurens added that “deductive reasoning” led him to believe the calls were the work of Beach and his campaign.

He noted he believed he received well over 100 phone calls.

“I’m sorry this type of dirty politics and shenanigans have entered into the electoral process of Cherokee County,” he added.

Laurens has regularly done campaign consulting work for Rogers.

I read elsewhere that the number of return calls Laurens received was in the range of 700-800. Maybe I’m confused.

In the race for Gwinnett County Superior Court, Republican Senator David Shafer has endorsed Duluth attorney Kathy Schrader, who currently serves as a Municipal Court Judge for Duluth and Sugar Hill, and previously was appointed by both Governor Sonny Perdue and Governor Nathan Deal to the board of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families. Shafer said:

“Kathy Schrader will make an outstanding addition to the Gwinnett Superior Court. Her qualifications are second to none, and she is the best choice for protecting our children and families.”

“That’s why I’m asking you to join me in voting to elect Kathy Schrader as our next Superior Court Judge.”

The race for Ninth Congressional District continued to be the other nastiest one out there. Martha Zoller received the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

“If you agree that it’s time our elected officials stopped talking at us and started listening to us, then I hope you will join me in supporting Martha Zoller….

“Martha is running against the establishment, which, as we know, is an uphill battle; but with all of our support she can win. In Congress, she’ll vote to cut spending, lower taxes, and repeal Obamacare. In addition to being pro-life and a firm defender of our Constitution, including our Second Amendment rights, Martha is a strong fiscal conservative….”

On Facebook, the Collins campaign reacted:

“While we admire and respect Governor Palin, Martha’s liberal talk threatens our conservative values. But don’t take my word for it, go to www.seemarthasayit.com and you can see and listen to her yourself. Whether it’s her pro-abortion, pro-civil unions or other liberal views, Martha Zoller would be wrong in Congress. Better to have a true Georgia conservative like Doug Collins. The endorsements he’s received from Governor Zell Miller, Speaker Ralston and the NRA, along with the faith shown in him by Governor Deal show he shares the values of people who know and love North Georgia the most.Æ

The Gwinnett Daily Post profiles the races for Senate District 9, featuring Senator Don Balfour, and the District 47 challenge to Senator Frank Ginn.

Over the past 20 years, Forsyth County has gone from primarily Democratic to strongly Republican, though political leaders disagree on the root cause.

“This county used to be solid blue, blue enough to be purple,” said Sharon Gunter, chair of the Forsyth County Democratic Party. “Then the Civil Rights Act passed, and it got a little redder. And then there were some incidents in the county where the few black people who did live here left.”

From the 2010 Census, the county’s population of 175,511 consisted of 4,510 African Americans, or about 3 percent.

For the Forsyth County Tea Party Chairman, Hal Schneider, it’s the county’s demographics that have all to do with the Democratic Party’s small presence.

“Forsyth County is very rural,” Schneider said. “It is historically very white and it is an affluent county. These things add to the fact that you have a lot of Republicans, a lot of conservatives in this county.”

However, Ethan Underwood, chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party, said the political shift in Forsyth was due to the liberal stance associated nationally with Democrats.

“I think the Democratic National Party became more liberal,” he said. “I don’t think that Forsythians agreed with the views on social issues, add to that, the growth of Atlanta. Many self-employed folks who are paying taxes and paying employees are the ones who live in Forsyth County, and those folks tend to vote Republican.”

Underwood said that the Republican Party normally ranges between 79 to 86 percent of the vote during an election.

Glen Williams, a candidate who will be defeated by State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick in the HD 93 Democratic Primary, says he was threatened for speaking at the Gwinnett County Commission hearing about a proposed rezoning.

Williams said the applicant’s attorney, Simon Blue, confronted him in the corridor outside the auditorium, threatening to sue him.

“I was accosted and verbally threatened with a lawsuit,” Williams told commissioners during a public comment period later in the meeting. Several neighbors also told the board what they witnessed, in an attempt to have a record of the altercation.

Chuck Eaton’s reelection campaign to the Public Service Commission received a boost from Congressman Tom Graves, who recorded a robocall endorsing Eaton, whom Graves has known since they both were members of the Coverdell Leadership Institute.

“Chuck is the strong conservative we need at the state level working to prevent Obama’s radical green agenda from driving up our gas and electric bills. Chuck Eaton is the only conservative in the race and just last month he voted to lower our electric rates.”

Richie Smith, who was booted from the ballot by Brian Kemp vows to appeal the ruling that tax issues made Smith ineligible to run for State House district 151.

In a statement released Tuesday through the Georgia House Democratic Caucus, the 41-year-old Smith said he would appeal the disqualification to Fulton County Superior Court.

“My opponent switched parties after promising to be a Democratic representative, and that’s not right,” said Smith, a bus driver from Lake. “I will fight to remain on the ballot and to stand for the citizens of District 151. If they want to defeat me, it will be at the ballot box.”

Lamar Brand of Blakely filed paperwork challenging Smith’s candidacy over what Brand said were back taxes owed by the candidate. Smith failed to show for a hearing on the matter.

A candidate for Terrell County Magistrate Judge says as part of his campaign that he wants to eliminate the position.

Beth Hilscher was sworn in as the newest member of Suwanee City Council, filling the seat vacated when Jace Brooks resigned to run for County Commission.

A poll shows support for video lottery terminal gambling, according to WXIA 11 Alive.

Because we don’t have enough politicians, a summer camp in Washington is training high school girls for future careers in politics.

Running Start, a nonprofit group that encourages women to get involved in politics at an early age, hosted about 50 girls recently in Washington, introducing them to female role models and instructors and teaching them the basics of networking, fundraising, public speaking and other skills essential to political success.

“It’s really important for young women to be involved in politics,” said Sophie D’Anieri, a 17-year-old high school senior from Troy, N.Y. “I think there is some discrimination against women that makes it difficult to run.”

“I’m sort of weird for my age to be this interested in politics,” said 17-year-old Rachel Hansen, of Philadelphia, who aspires to run for president. “I think girls my age aren’t thinking about the future that much. They’re just thinking about what’s going on Friday night.”

Bless her heart, that Hansen girl sounds just like Josh McKoon must have at that age. I’m voting for Tammy Metzler.

The Albany City Commission passed a property tax increase, also known as “another nail in T-SPLOST’s coffin.”

A former Minnesota Senate Aide who was fired for having an affair with his female boss is suing because he says women who do the same thing become lobbyists receive different treatment.

Brodkorb filed his lawsuit against the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Senate and a top Senate administrative official, claiming an invasion of privacy, defamation and gender discrimination, among other things. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 – a standard figure in state civil lawsuits – but his attorneys have said they hope to get at least $500,000.

The lawsuit was filed after Brodkorb and his attorneys said they obtained a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Brodkorb’s team declined to make the document available.

The lawsuit said the episode caused him “emotional distress” and “similarly situated female legislative employees, from both parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators.” Brodkorb’s lawsuit said he should have been afforded the chance to transfer jobs.

Ethics

State House Ethics Commission Chairman Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs) released a list of 49 candidate for State House who signed the “Gift Cap Pledge” but have failed to abide by existing campaign disclosure laws.

“It is disappointing, ironic and hypocritical that 49 candidates for the Georgia House of Representatives who signed a petition to impose a $100 lobbyist gift cap on lawmakers are themselves in violation of ethics and campaign finance laws.

“These candidates have failed to file, or filed late, their required Declaration of Intent (due when they first qualified to run), their Personal Financial Disclosure (due 15 days after qualifying to run), and their Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report (which was due July 9),” says state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R- Sandy Springs. “All either have already been fined or expect to be fined shortly as required by Georgia law.”

“These are major violations by both Democrats and Republicans. These candidates should pay their fines and file the required reports immediately if they truly believe in full, open and immediate transparency,” the chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives Ethics Committee says. “On the one hand they seek to promote so-called ‘ethics’ by endorsing a meaningless ‘gift ban’ yet on the other hand are behaving unethically by flouting current laws.”

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“They should certainly pay the fines mandated by law before the July 31 primaries,” Wilkinson continues. “I would remind them that the fines cannot be paid with campaign funds and that the first $25.00 of each fine goes to fund the state’s Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.”

“These current laws are tough and, unlike the proposed $100 lobbyist expense cap, actually work. Unfortunately, caps lead to non-reporting and underground lobbying. We’ve seen this in other states. If they worked and were not merely a public relations gimmick, they would have been put in place years ago,” Wilkinson says.

Reacting to the AJC story about legislative candidates who face tax issues, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer opines that candidates should first follow the law before seeking to write new ones.

when more than 50 candidates for Georgia elective offices have had a total of more than $1 million in tax liens filed against them, you have to wonder whether some of the people who want to make and administer Georgia’s future laws — especially tax laws — know enough or care enough about the current ones.

12
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 12, 2012

Tiffany (F) and Trouble (M) are six-week old puppies and weigh about eight pounds each. The $40 adoption fee for each includes vaccinations, deworming, and a voucher for a discount spay or neuter. Their owner turned them in to Walton County Animal Services, where they are available for adoption today.
These puppies are among the dogs and cats available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. It would be nice if I could tell you that the $30 special Gwinnett County Animal Shelter is running on adoptions is because their services are no longer needed and they’re going out of business. But the sad truth is that like countless shelters across the state, they’re receiving more animals than they can care for.

Georgia Ethics

The Senate Ethics Committee meets today at 11 AM in Room 328 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building without a publicly-announced agenda. The last time the Committee met with an announced agenda, they issued a statement that:

The Committee found that substantial cause exists to believe that Senator Balfour violated Senate Resolution 5 as it is further defined in the Senate Administrative Affairs Per Diem Policy and will seek to negotiate a settlement of the matter with Senator Balfour.

The next day, Senator Balfour wrote in a statement printed in the Gwinnett Daily Post,

“I still have not been allowed to go before the committee and defend myself.”

“When I do, I am confident the committee will understand that a senator who gave up thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded pension benefits had no intention of doing anything wrong in a matter of a few hundred dollars,” the statement read.

In my opinion, the bigger problem is the continuing failure of the Senate to abide by state law that require the Senate Rules Committee to appoint a subcommittee to examine reimbursements periodically.

state law says that the Senate Rules Committee must have an audits subcommittee “to examine and review, not less than once every two months, legislative expenditures, including all vouchers submitted by members of the Senate, as provided for in this Code section, for which the members have received payment. The subcommittee is authorized to issue reports of its examination and review.”

That Atlanta Journal-Constitution report is nearly two years old and it doesn’t appear that any progress has been made. This is about more than alleged improprieties by a single member. A continuing failure to act on reviewing per diem and reimbursements is either an organizational dysfunction or part of an internal culture that allowed alleged improprieties to occur without any threat of discovery.

The Senate has an opportunity to ensure that the review process at least begins before the next Session. Appointing a retiring Senator as Rules Chairman with the specific task of beginning to review these expenditures would be a significant step in restoring public trust to the Senate and might remove politics from this important process. A retiring Senator also won’t have any pressure to campaign for reelection, but could devote himself to the task. And collect a per diem too.

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At 10 AM, Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), who is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee, will hold a press conference in front of the Sloppy Floyd Building across from the Capitol. McKoon will join the Gift Cap Pledge Alliance, which comprises Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Georgia Conservatives in Action, and Common Cause Georgia in a bus tour beginning July 24th.

The tour will begin Tuesday, July 24 with a kick-off in Atlanta and end on Friday, July 27 in Athens. Tour stops will include Gainesville, Blue Ridge, Dalton, Macon, Columbus, Albany, Valdosta, Waycross, Brunswick, Savannah and Augusta.

The Ethics Express bus tour is open to all Georgia citizens and those in joining the tour should contact William Perry at 404-524-4598 or [email protected] Further details will be released at the press conference.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced on Tuesday that Academy Sports + Outdoors will bring 250 new jobs to its existing distribution center in Jeffersonville, Twiggs County.

Imagine my surprise last night to read on the front page of the AJC’s website the headline  “Electric rates not falling along with fuel costs.” But I thought that Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton was touting his vote to lower electric rates just as our air conditioners have switched into 24-7 mode. What’s really going on? The AJC ran a goofy headline that would lead you to believe that we’ll be paying a higher rate, even though the AP story never mentions Georgia but discusses rates in other state, and though electric rates are going down in Georgia.

Democratic State Representative Scott Holcomb has $51k cash on hand to defend himself in what is likely the highest-targeted state house race for the Republican Caucus. Republican challenger Dr. Carla Roberts has $27.5k cash on hand, but I suspect a portion of that is spoken for; Roberts hired an attorney to defend against a residency challenge. The filer of that challenge to Roberts’s residency, Chris Boedeker, reported $4372 cash-on-hand. The winner of the Boedeker-Roberts Republican Primary will start at a fundraising disadvantage to Holcomb, but will likely receive air support from the GOP House Caucus in the general election.

Angela Spencer of Neighbor Newspapers writes more extensively about North Fulton Tea Party debate between Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and challenger Brandon Beach, including their positions on T-SPLOST, charter schools, vouchers, Milton County, and toll roads.

The T-SPLOST campaign is acknowledging for the first time that their pet feeding trough project is on the ropes:

Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams acknowledges he and other supporters face an uphill battle with voters.

“It’s going to be a tight election, because I think the economy is such right now that people are very concerned about any kind of financing,” Williams said. “They want it proven to them that the traffic relief and the jobs are going to come out of this.”

Local lawmakers in Savannah are managing expectations in advance of the looming T-SPLOST defeat:

Some local lawmakers are concerned that these projects could be the last for a while if voters reject a proposed penny sales tax for transportation.

The state has funded the projects to the tune of about a $290 million in recent years.

Savannah State Representative Ron Stephens says, that’s led some high-ranking state officials to tell him that Savannah’s “had its turn” and not to expect much in road funds in coming years.

“Keep in mind that we’ve had a lot of coastal leadership for quite some time,” Stephens say. “So there has been mention that Savannah has had it’s major projects.”

He says, the area has lost political influence because of redistricting and the election of North Georgians to top leadership positions.

Todd Long, Deputy GDOT Commissioner, warns that federal road funds may become scarce if Congress learns to live within its means:

“If Congress lives within its means — and you know that most people running for Congress, around here at least, are saying (that) — there’s this general attitude that eventually they’re going to say, ‘Whatever the gas tax brings in is what we’re going to spend on transportation,’” he said.

If that happens, in 2015, Georgia “will probably see a 25 to 30 percent decrease” in transportation funding.

In a bright spot for advocates of raising taxes, the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government endorsed passage of T-SPLOST.

Jim Galloway has an interesting story about State Rep. Charlice Byrd and her Republican Primary opponent Michael Caldwell. It seems that Byrd has changed her vote after casting it 24 times, more than any other legislator.

The effort that Caldwell put into his research — as a salesman for a small safety equipment company, he describes himself as meticulous — went far beyond your normal opposition research. A team of six friends combed through thousands of pages of House journals.

According to their count, about one-third of 180 House members have never changed a vote once it was cast. Most others “dabble in it a little bit, but no more than two or three times on average,” Caldwell said.

He recorded every changed vote by every House member over the past six years on a spreadsheet and has begun passing the document around. “I wanted to make clear that I wasn’t just going after the one that was politically convenient to me,” Caldwell said.

Many of his statistics are stories begging to be told. For instance, in the opening days of 2008, during a furious feud between Gov. Sonny Perdue and the volatile Speaker Glenn Richardson, House members lined up behind their leader and overrode six of the governor’s vetoes. But state Rep. Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, sided with the governor. He voted against each override. And then decided he’d picked the wrong side. Maddox changed his vote six times that day, by Caldwell’s count.

But Caldwell also found that Byrd, his primary opponent, had come down with voter’s remorse 24 times in the past six years, registering more changed votes than any other member of the House. Her closest rival was state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, who recorded 13 changed votes.

The effort Caldwell put into the research may tell you more about Caldwell than about Byrd.

Republican candidates for the 12th Congressional District will meet in a forum called “Getting Kids into the Conversation,” and sponsored by the Junior League of Augusta on Monday from 6 to 7:30 PM at Augusta-Richmond County Public Library.

The Richmond County Republican Party will co-host a televised debate next Wednesday for 12th District candidates  in the River Room at St. Paul’s Church, 605 Reynolds St.; doors open at 6 PM and the public should be seated by 6:30 PM. The debate will be broadcast live on WRDW News 12 from 7 to 8 PM.

Most of the candidates for Cherokee County School Board have filed their disclosures for the period ending June 30th.

Bernice Brooks was disqualified from the election for Carroll County Board of Education.

Brooks, the incumbent who had represented the area for more than a decade, was disqualified Tuesday.

“We will not throw out the ballots because there were several other candidate races and issues on the ballot,” said Carroll County Elections Supervisor Becky Deese. “Ms. Brooks does have a recourse she can take, but if the decision remains, votes for her will not be counted.”

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has released its survey of candidates for state and county offices.

National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund endorsements are out and you can expect to hear your local candidates touting their ratings.

Georgia Equality has released their endorsements. Interestingly, they make no pick in the State House race between State Rep. Rashad Taylor, who is gay, and State Rep. Pat Gardner, who has long supported gay issues. Also interesting, they have endorsed Ron Paul supporter Robert McClure, who is challenging State Rep. Brooks Coleman in the Republican Primary.

Matt Reeves, immediate Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association, endorsed Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court in the July 31st election.

“I am supporting Kathy Schrader because of her stellar reputation and her commitment to the our community.  I understand personally the time and energy it takes to balance family, practice law and hold the office of President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association. Under Kathy’s leadership, the GCBA won every possible award from the State Bar, including the President’s Award. Her tenure as President laid the groundwork for the strong organization we are today, and I am confident that Kathy will bring that same leadership to the Superior Court. I am pround to endorse my fellow Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association and fellow Duluth resident, Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge.”

Reeves served as Counsel to Representative Wendell Willard, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, during the 2008 Georgia General Assembly. Last week, Schrader was endorsed by Sherriann Hicks, who served as President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association from 2003-2004

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Senate Ethics Committee Meeting tomorrow, July 11th

Georgia Senate Ethics Committee meetingThe Senate Ethics Committee will meet tomorrow at 11 AM in room 328 of the CLOB.

There is no agenda, but maybe this is what they’re meeting about.