Tag: Gwinnett County Superior Court

10
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 10, 2012

Scooter, Lilac, and Ozzie are puppies who are available for adoption from Walton County Animal Services. Scooter is 2-3 months old and weighs 10 pounds. Lilac is about two months old and 15 pounds. Ozzie is about ten months olds and weighs 15 pounds. Take your pick for $40, which includes a voucher for a discounted spay/neuter, up-to-date shots and de-worming.

Brewster is 8-10 months old and weighs 15 pounds; Mama Dog is 2 years and 15 pounds; Jack is a seven-year old black lab mix who is neutered and whose owners have been notified but have not picked him up from the shelter. Old dogs have great value and great hearts, but are not as adoptable as puppies. Please consider adopting one of these old souls or fostering.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Advance voting begins on Monday for the August 21 runoff elections, as far as we know. Check your county’s voting information on Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website. Current information on advance voting for the runoffs is limited, so if you have any questions, please call your local elections board.

Early voting has already begun in Hall County.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are both whining about negative ads and blaming the other without taking any responsibility. That tactic might be embraced by other candidates.

The Republican National Convention announced yesterday that Attorney General Sam Olens will co-chair the platform sub-committee on Healthcare, Education and Crime with Idaho State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and Oklahoma RNC National Committeewoman Carolyn McLarty.

We will be receiving updates for at least one delegate to the National Convention and will include it in our morning emails. If you’ll be in Tampa as a Delegate or guest and would like to send us reports, photos, or souvenir twenty-dollar bills with Ronald Reagan’s likeness, please email us.

My attention was directed yesterday to the fact that Democratic State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick faces Republican Tina Hoffer in house district 93′s general election.

After the recount in the 12th Congressional District Republican Primary election, Wright McLeod remains in third place. State Rep. Lee Anderson meets Rick W. Allen in the runoff.

Millard Grimes writes that the Republican Primary between Regina Quick and Doug McKillip was the worst he’s ever seen.

It was poetic justice that only 64 votes separated the totals for Regina Quick and Doug McKillip in the July 31 Republican primary that decided the occupant of the House District 117 seat in the Georgia General Assembly. They both deserved to lose. A virtual tie was next best.

As a political junkie, I’ve been following campaigns for more than 60 years. The Quick-McKillip campaign was the worst I’ve seen, and it was fought over such a minor stake — two years in the Georgia House of Representatives.

There were constant campaign mailouts, hundreds of minutes of radio ads, and even the newspapers got in on the cash flow.

In Muscogee County, Sheriff John Darr won the Democratic primary with a narrow 71-vote margin after a recount. Strangely, each candidate gained 19 votes during the recount. Doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence in the voting system, does it?

James Grogan was sworn in as Mayor of Dawsonville to fill the term of the late Mayor Joe Lane Cox.

In the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, which comprises Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker Counties, a recount was requested in the District Attorney election, where incumbent Herbert “Buzz” Franklin received 42 more votes than his opponent, Doug Woodruff.

Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers endorsed Gary Sisk in the runoff election to succeed Summer. Sick will meet Larry Black in the runoff.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has been endorsed by two of the six candidates who did not make the runoff against incumbent Kem Kimbrough.

Runoff for Gwinnett County Superior Court

Tracey Mason Blasi was the runner-up in the election for Gwinnett Superior Court and was attacked by one opponent, Chris McClurg in the primary; she hit him back with a negative robocall. Fair enough, though both candidates lost votes from where they stood before the negativity started. McClurg actually went from a tight third-place one week out to fourth on election day according to internal polling.

Yesterday, a letter from Tracey Mason Blasi hit mailboxes, claiming that “[i]t is so important for our judicial system that elections for judge remain above those kinds of tactics using ‘attack robocalls’” and attributing them to her ‘opponent,’ which leaves open the implication that she means her opponent in the Runoff election, Kathy Schrader, who is my client.

Tracey Mason Blasi knows that is a false implication. I will state here that neither I nor Kathy Schrader had anything to do with the negative mail or robocalls that targeted Blasi during the primary. Kathy Schrader told Blasi the same thing.

In fact, I suspect that implication is the result of a poorly-written letter rather than what the writer meant to say, because I have read another letter written by Tracey Mason Blasi, addressed to Mike Bowers as head of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and Governor Sonny Perdue, in which Blasi wrote:

It has been my experience that Mrs. Schrader is the attorney to whom the most experienced attorneys in Gwinnett County will refer cases. I believe that she has earned her impeccable reputation over the eighteen years that she has practiced law in Gwinnett County by effectively representing her clients, by treating clients and fellow attorneys alike with respect, and by doing it all with integrity.

As an eighth generation Gwinnettian, I am confident that our community will continue to be a place families want to live with the strong leadership, the good works, and the integrity of professionals like Kathryn Schrader. I support her wholeheartedly as the new addition to the Gwinnett County Superior Courts.

That last letter appears on Tracey Mason Blasi’s letterhead with a signature and was faxed from her fax machine.

Kathy Schrader for Judge Banner

Given Tracey Mason Blasi’s earlier assessment of Kathy Schrader’s integrity, it is unlikely that she now questions Schrader, since the only thing that’s changed is that Blasi is now seeking the Superior Court bench herself.

Ethics

The State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission website was malfunctioning yesterday and wouldn’t allow viewing of filed campaign disclosure reports on an intermittent and annoying basis throughout yesterday. As I write this it is down yet again.

Click Here

During the days leading up to the last report due date, there were extensive problems reported by candidates filing online. With the reduced number of filers for the runoff period, some of the pressure on the system may be lessened, but recent reliability problems don’t give us confidence.

Speaking of disclosures during the runoff, Rick Thompson had some tips for candidates.

“There are additional reporting requirements for candidates in a runoff election,” said Thompson, who formerly served as head of the State Ethics Commission and is currently managing partner of R. Thompson & Associates, specializing in compliance reporting and ethics strategy.

“The first report is your typical Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report (CCDR) for August 15; this is referenced as the ‘6-Day Before Primary Runoff’ report,” Thompson said, “Candidates who did not win their primary bids have statutory reporting requirements that continue for the campaign through termination the end of the year.  This is something often overlooked by candidates and it can be a significant issue, especially if the candidate seeks election at a later time.”  Thompson’s firm offers a package for reporting and termination for campaigns that end before the year does.

Dariel Daniel chose to mail his disclosures rather than fight with the online filing system. I bet he wishes he had paid for a return receipts.

the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission said Wednesday that Board of Education candidate Dariel Daniel has paid his fines, but the commission did not have his campaign disclosure report.

“We do not have any report from him that are waiting to be checked in, or are in the ‘have a problem and filer has been contacted’ pile,” said Holly LaBerge, executive director of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, in an email. “This isn’t to say that the report isn’t in the mail, but if he didn’t sent it certified or overnight delivery – which is statutorily required – then there is no way to know where it is or if it will ever get here.”

Daniel, after being told about LeBerge’s response, said he had sent his disclosure through U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail “long ago.”

“When I called to ask why it wasn’t posted, (a representative) said ‘We are swamped with these forms and we will post it when we get to it,’” Daniel said.

LaBerge said there was a backlog of paper-filed reports waiting to be entered into the commission’s system due to a problem with the way they were filed, and the filers had been contacted. It is up to the filer to correct the problem.

Daniel is facing Board of Education incumbent Sheila Rowe in a runoff on Aug. 21. Rowe on Tuesday announced she had filed an ethics complaint with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission over Daniel’s late fees for not filing, which were listed owed for December, March and June for the current election, plus $65 overdue for his 2004 run for the same seat.

Jim Galloway writes for the AJC that House leaders may be considering a total ban on lobbyist spending on legislators.

We’ve gotten reliable information – and not from a single source — that House Republican leaders are considering legislation next January that would ban all lobbyist spending on lawmakers altogether. Nothing. Zip. Nada. And that Ralston is among those who have expressed interest in this path.

The impact on the culture of the state Capitol would be tremendous.

Leaders of the state Senate have signed onto the petition pushed by Common Cause Georgia and tea party groups, endorsing the $100 cap.

[Jim - see how easy it is to include a hot link?]

Events

On August 15th, beginning at 6 PM, Josh Romney will headline a fundraiser aimed at young professionals at the Park Tavern at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Georgia Finance Chair Eric Tanenblatt will host with Congressmen Tom Graves, Rob Woodall, and Austin Scott expected to attend.

Host / Private Reception / Photo — 6 p.m.
$1,000 per Person (Give or Raise)

Photo Opportunity — 6:30 p.m.
$250 per Person

General Reception — 7:00 p.m.
$100 per Person

Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal will host Governor Mike Huckabee at a reception and dinner supporting the Romney Victory Committee on August 16th at 5:30  (Photo Op) & 6:15 PM (Reception) at the Robson Event Center, located at 310 Broad Street in Gainesville, GA 30501. The full invite is available here.

5:30 PM Photo Op – ($5,000 PER PERSON/ $10,000 PER COUPLE)

6:15 PM General Reception – ($1,000 PER PERSON)

To RSVP for either of these events, please contact Dabney Hollis at (404) 791-7179 or [email protected], or Stephanie Jones at (404) 849-7211 or [email protected]

9
Aug

Kathy Schrader pink t-shirts now available on her website

You can also place your order below and all proceeds go directly to the Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court campaign, except for the small amount PayPal charges for payment processing.


Sizes




8
Aug

New yardsigns for Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge runoff election

640 Kathy Schrader Superior Court Gwinnett

2
Aug

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.

Click Here

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.

27
Jul

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.

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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