Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 5, 2012

Vernon is a good-looking black lab who loves swimming and people, playing fetch, and gets along with other dogs. He is available for adoption from Dixie Dog Rescue in Vidalia, Georgia.

 

These three dogs are still available for adoption from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth, Georgia and are due to be euthanized Friday morning in the pre-dawn hours unless a rescue commitment is made. Email [email protected] or call 770-441-0329 if you’re interested in helping one of these souls. Transportation is available.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

So, I was wrong in my prediction that Bill Hembree would win the Republican Primary Runoff in Senate District 30. Mike Dugan will move forward to face Librarian Libertarian James Camp in the January 8, 2013 election. Hembree carried Paulding County with 65% and his home county Douglas with more than 80%, but the two counties combined for only 37.7% of votes cast in the runoff. Dugan carried Carroll County, where he lives, by more than 3-to-1 and with Carroll accounting for 63.3% of the vote, it was enough to bring him in with a total margin of 750 votes.

“I’m humbled and proud,” Dugan said. “I’m not surprised that we won, but I am surprised with how well we did and I’m thankful for that. I’m going to take tomorrow off, with Christmas coming, and catch up on a bunch of ‘honey do’s,’ then I’m going to start getting ready for Jan. 8. Anybody who thinks this race is done is just kidding themselves.”

It was a disappointing loss for Hembree, who came within 2 percentage points of winning the race outright in the Nov. 6 voting. He had 48.4 percent of the vote then, while Dugan got only 24.3 percent to win a spot on the runoff ballot. But more than 70 percent of the voters turned out then, with the presidential race and several state and local contests on the ballot.

The take-away from this is that if you’re a candidate, avoid December runoffs like you would a land war in Asia. As I told the Times-Georgian, they’re unpredictable and custom-made for upsets.

Rehm cited numerous examples of candidates who trailed in general election voting only to win a runoff, including Mike Crane’s win over Duke Blackburn in the November 2011 Senate District 28 race.

Add to that Senator John Wilkinson’s win in November 2011 and Chuck Eaton’s win from behind in December 2006, and the pattern is that reversals can and do occur in late-year runoff elections.

Senator Chip Rogers resigned from the State Senate effective today. Governor Deal has ten days to call a special election to fill the vacancy, and the special election must be held at least thirty days later and no more than sixty days after the Governor calls for the election. This would allow a Special Election to fill Rogers’ seat on January 15, 2013, the day after the General Assembly convenes. Even with the possibility of a runoff election, the early date would allow a new Senator to participate in much of the 2013 Session.

Early speculation is that Brandon Beach will run, having won 12,000 votes against Rogers in the General Primary in July. Also mentioned is State Rep. Sean Jerguson, whose Cherokee County residence may be helpful in a district where Cherokee County contributed 81% of the 2012 GOP Primary.

If Jerguson runs for Senate, political consultant Brian Laurens might run for Jerguson’s seat. Scot Turner, who carried 42% of the GOP Primary against Jerguson would also be a likely candidate. The Cherokee County legislative delegation will meet with local officials tomorrow to discuss priorities for the 2013 Session, followed by a Town Hall meeting for Cherokee residents at 6:30 PM. I expect there will be some talk of the Senate race.

Dennis O’Hayer at WABE has a nearly 16 minute interview with Chip Rogers.

J. Max Davis will take office as the first Mayor of the City of Brookhaven, winning nearly 66% over Democrat Sandy Murray. Rebecca Chase Williams won the District One city council seat, with almost 66% of the vote.

Both incumbent members of the Clayton County Board of Education were defeated last night.

With 15 of the 16 precincts reported, District 2 challenger Mark Christmas appeared to have handily defeated incumbent Wanda Smith, while voters in District 7 appeared to have selected Judy Johnson over incumbent Trinia Garrett.

The two districts have a combined 30,000 registered voters. But fewer than 600 residents cast votes Tuesday. The school board race was Clayton’s only election Tuesday. The vote continues a movement of change that began this summer when the county ousted its sheriff and two longtime commissioners.

Democrat Frederick Ward won Putnam County Commission District 1 by an eight-vote margin.

Democrat Wayne Hall won a seat on the Jeff Davis County Commission.

In Augusta City Commission District 1, William Fennoy beat incumbent Matt Aitken, reversing the runoff election three years ago.

Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal will light the tree at the Georgia State Capitol today at 11 AM in the rotunda. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black will introduce the Governor.

I’ll be well-behaved at the Capitol today, as the Georgia State Troopers there will be carrying assault rifles. (Actually, I suspect they won’t carry them routinely but will have them available.)

Governor Deal says that renewing the hospital bed tax or Medicaid assessment fee is vital to healthcare in Georgia.

“Without it, we’re going to be hard-pressed to maintain the quality of care and to provide the payments to the provider community that we’d like to see.”

Passed in 2010, the provider fee allows the state to collect 1.45 percent of net patient revenue from hospitals. It raises more than $200 million annually for the state Medicaid program, and helps draw down nearly $600 million more in matching funds from the federal government.

The fee is set to expire next year, unless lawmakers decide to renew it.

Deal says allowing the tax to expire would wreak havoc on the state budget.

“I support something that is going to provide for the filling of that gap in our  budget and the provider fee seems like the most logical way to do that.”

Deal says a unified front among hospitals will help avoid another ugly episode at the state Capitol.

“I certainly hope the hospital community – if they can come together on an agreement and recognize the importance of it – they’re the ones that are going to be making those payments. We would hope that would mitigate some of that conflict,” said Deal.

Regardless of the provider fee, the state Medicaid program is already financially challenged. It’s facing a deficit of more than $300 million heading into next year.

AllNews 106.7 is reporting that Fulton County may hire Republican lobbyists in order to have more effective communications with the General Assembly. Fulton County Chairman John Eaves says he thinks the Commission can be more effective by personally lobbying legislators. This is the same John Eaves whose radio ad said Republicans would turn back the clock on civil rights and evoked police dogs and water hoses. Good luck with that.

The Atlanta City Council has adopted a measure endorsing gay marriage by an 11-2 vote.

The Canton Tea Party has received a couple of nastygrams from the Georgia Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Carolyn Cosby, chairwoman of the Canton Tea Party, confirmed Monday she has received an order from The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission regarding ethics charges made against the Canton Tea Party and the Citizens Review and Recommendations Committee, stemming from alleged actions taken during the recent campaign season.

Complaints 2012-0032 and 2012-0033 were filed by Post 3 Commissioner Karen Bosch in June. Cosby said Monday the correspondence listed both complaints and said “respond in 15 days or pay $12,000 in 30 days.” However, Cosby said she received notice of additional complaints filed by an apparently unidentified complainant.

Ethics commission spokesperson Holly LaBerge said Monday that, in general, if a case being investigated by Ethics is not credible, it would be dismissed.

“The issuance of a compliance or consent order means there is a violation of some sort that has occurred,” she said, noting that proceedings regarding the complaints are not open record until a final resolution is made.

“The consent order can be signed by all parties or can go to hearing if the person objects to it,” she added.

In the complaints regarding the two groups led by Cosby, Bosch charges the groups were raising money to mount campaigns to influence votes for and against candidates.

To the complaint regarding the citizens’ committee, Bosch attached a flier that has Cosby’s contact number at the bottom. The flyer promoted Post 2 candidate Channing Ruskell as a “Tea Party Favorite” and decries the actions of incumbent Post 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard. To the complaint on the Canton Tea Party Patriots, Bosch attached documentation from Hubbard, who attended a meeting of the organization. He said Cosby, would only let “favorites” address the audience and asked those in attendance to consider donating to a “special fund for the ‘favorites’ candidates.”

Cosby said Tuesday the complaints charge her of opposing the Homestead Option Sales Tax Referendum at a tea party meeting held in October. She said she was personally opposed to the HOST.

Besse Cooper, the Georgian who was the oldest woman in the world, died yesterday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November19, 2012

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Senate Republicans did make changes to their leaders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Senate Democrats will meet today to elect their leadership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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