Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 26, 2012


“Amy Pond” is an eight-week old, eight-pound yellow lab mix puppy who was abandoned in a shopping cart in a grocery store parking lot and is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Services.


“Ruff” (left) and “Tumble” (right) are also eight weeks old and weight eight pounds each. They’re available from Walton County Animal Services today.

This six-month old Shepherd mix is still at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter and is in dire straits now. Three litters of puppies arrived and they’ll be euthanizing to clear room. We have a sponsor who will pay the adoption fee if anyone is willing to foster or adopt.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The Georgia State Patrol reports that 2,527 accidents occurred on Georgia’s roads this weekend with nineteen people dying in wrecks during the period from 6 PM Wednesday through midnight Sunday.

PolitiFact reviewed Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell’s statement that Fulton County Elections had a lower error rate than the national average and found it to be a steaming pile of lies.

“I did some checking on my own to see what are the error rates for elections departments as large as this one. You’re well below the average,” Darnell said during the County Commission’s meeting Nov. 7.

PolitiFact Georgia was curious to determine whether Fulton’s error rates were below average, but we encountered a roadblock.

Darnell said she respects the work of PolitiFact Georgia but wouldn’t discuss anything related to the election department. She complained about biased media coverage on the subject, particularly by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The commissioner did suggest we examine Fulton and compare it with other Georgia counties.

The greatest complaint about Fulton came from people who said they were told their names weren’t on the county’s voter rolls. In such cases, the person is given a provisional ballot and the county then works to verify that person is registered to vote.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, 9,575 provisional ballots were cast on Nov. 6 in Fulton. That was more than twice the total of provisional ballots cast in Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties combined, state data show. More than 100 people who tried to vote in Fulton have filed complaints to the state about the Nov. 6 election, the AJC reported.

Fulton elections officials were still printing and delivering supplemental voter lists to precincts hours after the polls opened, the AJC has reported. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp called the situation a “debacle.”

Fulton officials have made some mistakes in recent years administering elections. In 2008, the county sent absentee ballots late to as many as 2,500 voters, the AJC reported at the time. The result: Some voters were unable to cast ballots in that year’s presidential election.

Let’s recap. Fulton Commissioner Emma Darnell said the number of errors by the county’s elections staff was “well below the average.” She declined to provide details to back up her claim. Research shows Fulton was in the middle among U.S. counties of comparable size when it came to provisional ballots rejected in 2008, the last presidential election. That year, twice as many provisional ballots were cast in Fulton than there were in some of Georgia’s largest counties.

From the evidence available, the county’s recent history and the high number of provisional ballots cast in this month’s election, there’s not much evidence to back up Darnell’s claim that Fulton was “well below the average.” We rate her claim False.

I hope this is an issue that the legislature will address in the 2013 Session, and consider whether the Secretary of State’s Office should be able to intervene in elections where a county has a proven record of incompetence, or on an emergency basis when a problem surfaces in a previously well-run election department.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee visited Valdosta and Albany on Saturday, hawking his book, Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett: A Grandfather’s Thoughts on Faith, Family, and the Things That Matter Most.

Today, Col. Oliver North will follow his footsteps, selling and signing his newest book, a novel called Heroes Proved.North will appear at noon at the Fort Benning Exchange, 9220 Marne Road, Columbus, GA 31905. At 4:30 he will appear at Books-A-Million at 1705-C Norman Drive, Valdosta, GA 311601.

Senator Chambliss promised the people of Georgia he would go to Washington and reform government rather than raise taxes to pay for bigger government. He made that commitment in writing to the people of Georgia.

If he plans to vote for higher taxes to pay for Obama-sized government he should address the people of Georgia and let them know that he plans to break his promise to them.

In February 2011 he wrote an open letter addressed to me when he joined the Gang of Six saying he would not vote for any plan that raised taxes. He would support only tax revenue that resulted from higher growth.

Sen.Chambliss mentions his fear of losing a primary if he breaks his word to Georgians and votes to raise their taxes. History reminds us that when President George H.W. Bush raised taxes in a deal that promised (and did not deliver) spending cuts he was defeated not in the primary, but in the general.

When Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska violated his pledge to the American people, he would’ve won a primary battle. But he withdrew because polling showed he could not win a general election having both lied to his state and raised their taxes.

Perhaps someone should let Norquist know that in Georgia in 2014, the only election that will matter will be the Republican Primary.

Tomorrow, Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash will present the County’s proposed budget for 2013.

“We have spent the last two weeks combing back through the budget and confirming our five-year forecasts,” said Nash, who has played a hand in many county budgets as the government finance manager and county administrator before her election as chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners.

In the past several years, the economy has forced the government to cut expenses, and 2013 will be no different. Nash said the budget was built on the assumption that the county tax digest will drop another 2 percent due to still-declining property values.

“The national economy continues to struggle,” Nash said. “If it slows again, then we will feel that effect here in Gwinnett. The level of uncertainty meant that we had to be very cautious in our cost analysis and revenue projections.”

On top of that, the budget document, which is usually several dozen pages long, will be even longer due to the new accounting methods outlined in the settlement of a three-year-long dispute with local cities.

The settlement, which ensures that residents do not pay county taxes for services that their city government provides, means that county departments will have several pools of funding, all of which have to be analyzed for their tax revenue.

“The implementation of provisions of the consent order for the Service Delivery Strategy dispute with the cities contributed to the complexity and extra work required this year,” Nash said. “Essentially, separate service districts, funds and budgets had to be established for three functions: fire, police and development. Thus, general fund had to be split into four separate funds. The service area and funding structure of each of the new districts are unique, and none of them are countywide. The consent order constrained how services were to be structured and how they were to be funded.”

Commissioners will have just over a month to consider the proposal before a scheduled vote in January. Residents can sound off on the plan at a Dec. 10 hearing. Nash encourages people to view department budget presentations on the county website for more background on the proposal.

“While I would have liked to finalize the proposed budget earlier, it clearly was more important to ensure that it was based on the latest information and soundest analysis possible,” she said.

Kristi Swartz of the AJC has written an article about solar power that does a good job of laying out two of the problems with deploying solar on a large scale in Georgia.

Southern Co. executives say higher electricity prices, tax breaks and other subsidies have created a favorable environment for solar energy to flourish in the Southwest. The region also receives nearly twice as much sunlight as other parts of the country.

“So when we first thought about getting some experience in the renewable sector, we went to where the best resources are, and that’s the desert Southwest,” said Tom Fanning, Southern Co.’s chairman and chief executive officer.

The chief reason Southern has given for not investing more heavily in solar in Georgia and the Southeast is because the region’s electricity prices are low. Developing solar made little business sense because it was too expensive to compete with traditional forms of electricity.

Now the utility wants to add 210 MW of solar to its energy mix, saying improvements in technology, among other things, have led the renewable fuel to drop in price.

Regulators have been reluctant to mandate any use of solar energy, primarily because traditional fuels have been cheaper. What’s more, solar is an intermittent resource.

The Law of Unintended Consequences is apparently still in effect as efforts to stem illegal immigration have bogged down the licensing renewal system for doctors and nurses.

When lawmakers tightened the state’s immigration laws, one provision was to require all licensed professionals to prove citizenship at renewal time.Some medical professionals have had to briefly stop seeing patients due to the new delays in renewal as a result of the law.

Doctor’s licensing must be renewed every two years. This was previously done on a state website, with a few clicks and a renewal payment. Doctors received confirmation of renewal immediately.Now, applicants must submit a notarized affidavit and ID proving citizenship. The state says near a third of doctors are seeing a delay of 10 or more days.

Cars that were flooded in Sandy may make their way to Georgia through insurance sales, auctions, and unscrupulous or ignorant sellers. Be careful.

In coming weeks, the Hall County Sheriff’s Department may come to resemble a scene from “Full Metal Jacket” [language warning at that link] as Sheriff-elect Gerald Crouch encourages deputies to trade jelly donuts for pushups.

“I set my own personal goal to lose that weight and get back in shape, and I still do that to this day,” he said.Now, as Couch readies to take the reins of the sheriff’s office in January, he wants to make fitness a goal for all deputies.“It’s important to citizens that they have a department they can be proud of, and when it becomes obvious to them that there’s no physical standards that exist in a department, public confidence in the agency, and in its leadership, can deteriorate,” he said.

Couch plans to develop a fitness policy starting immediately with a fitness program for new hires, he said.

Couch said for current personnel, he plans to phase in a program over time.

“None of these actions are seen as anything punitive,” he said. “I want to change the lifestyle and the mindset to help the officers be healthier and enjoy their lives more, and perform better for the citizens of the county.”

Don’t be surprised if you see me this week if you spend any time during the pre-dawn hours in a parking lot at Berry College watching for Bald Eagles.

Almost any morning, about sunrise, it’s not unusual to find a cluster of folks in the parking lot at the Cage Center on the Berry campus. It’s not an early-morning exercise group, but folks who are intrigued by the pair of bald eagles nesting in such an unusual location.

Typically, eagle nests are found next to a stream or lake. The nest at Berry is adjacent to a parking lot. It’s probably less than a mile away from the Oostanaula River and maybe just a little further to the old Florida Rock quarry off Redmond Circle. It’s a tad further to the Lavender Mountain reservoir and about seven miles, as the eagle flies, from the lakes at the Rocky Mountain hydroelectric plant in Texas Valley.Ozier calls Northwest Georgia the last frontier for bald eagle growth in Georgia.

“We are seeing more growth in the north, and maybe it’s just as other areas fill up they’re looking to expand into some place they may not have gone 10 years ago.”

Other bald eagles on Lake Allatoona and Weiss Lake have produced young around Christmas. Allowing for the 35-day incubation period, that means if the Berry pair is successful, the female should drops eggs any day now.

Mike Huckabee in Albany and Valdosta Saturday

Former Arkansas governor, Fox News commentator and winner of the 2008 Georgia Republican Primary for President candidate Mike Huckabee is scheduled to visit Valdosta Saturday to sign his new book, Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett: A Grandfather’s Thoughts on Faith, Family, and the Things That Matter Most, and meet fans at Books-a-Million stores in Albany and Valdosta.

Mike Huckabee will sign his book, “Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett,” starting at 8 AM at the Books-A-Million at 2601 Dawson Road, Albany, GA 31707.

Later that day, he will appear beginning at 11 AM at Books-A-Million, Promenade Plaza, 1705-C Norman Drive, Valdosta, GA 31601.

You can R.s.v.p. to the signings at his website.

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 DabneyH[email protected], or Stephanie Jones at (404) 849-7211 or [email protected]

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 8, 2012

The “football puppies” are a group of eight Golden Retriever mix puppies who are available for adoption through Angels Among Us Rescue. They were abandoned in an office park and ended up in an animal control shelter. “Texas” is the puppy pictured below. It is primarily rescue organizations like Angels who are able to take an entire litter of puppies, which are distressingly common at shelters. You can donate online or download applications to foster or adopt through this excellently-run organizations.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Pro-tip: runoff candidates are required to file a campaign contribution disclosure six days before the runoff.

Click Here

Here’s the newest three-step runoff move.

Step One: edge your way into a runoff.

Step Two: challenge you opponent to a series of debates.

Step Three: express amazement when the front-runner declines the invitation, and use it to bludgeon him for the rest of the runoff.

Senator Bill Heath kicked off this year’s runoffs by challenging Bill Carruth to a series of “Show the Facts” debates in Haralson, Paulding, and Polk counties.

Heath stated that he has reserved the Paulding Chamber of Commerce in Paulding for Monday, August 6th; the Sewell Mill – Cherry Blossom Room in Haralson for Tuesday, August 7th; and the Rockmart Community Center in Polk for Thursday, August 9th.

“Every single thing I have said during this campaign about myself and my opponent has been 100% true and documented. In stark contrast, Bill Carruth has consistently and intentionally lied and misled the voters about his record and mine. It’s time for Carruth to put up or shut up. I challenge him to meet me at these locations and bring the documentation. I can back up everything I have said and will gladly present it to the public at these debates,” said Heath.

“Let’s see if Carruth has the courage to actually face real scrutiny from public documents standing in front of the voters and the media.”

Carruth replied that he’d gladly debate as long as Heath would first sign the pledge to support a cap on lobbyist gifts and address that pesky ethics complaint filed against Heath

Carruth apparently accepted the challenge Friday evening by email.

“While this is clearly another desperate attempt to deflect attention away from your lackluster record as a State Senator nevertheless, I welcome the opportunity to debate the real issues facing the voters,” Carruth wrote in his response. “I think there are many differences between me and you of which the voters of the 31St Senate District need to be made aware. I look forward to highlighting those differences in a public forum.”

In the runoff election for Cobb County Chair, Bill Byrne skipped step two and is using incumbent Tim Lee’s refusal to participate in a debate sponsored by the East Cobb Civic Association as an excuse to bring up everything Lee has going against him.

On Sunday, Jill Flamm, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, emailed our campaign, telling us that she had cancelled a chairman candidate forum because Lee had refused to participate.

In addition, in a Monday afternoon email to MDJ editorial page editor Joe Kirby, Lee declined to participate in an MDJ-sponsored debate with Byrne next week, which would have been carried live by TV 23.

With unemployment in Cobb County at 16%, foreclosures increasing monthly, Chairman Tim Lee led the effort that raised property taxes by 16%, water rates were increased by 12%, while public safety employees were furloughed in Cobb County for the first time in history. Tim Lee was wrong to raise your property taxes. There were alternatives.

Even after the T-SPLOST was defeated overwhelmingly in Cobb County and the region, Tim Lee is pushing for an additional 1% HOST sales tax for the general budget. But he is misleading Cobb County voters in stating that it will offset 100% of property taxes. It doesn’t. As you know, 67% of property taxes goes to the school board. So now Tim Lee wants an additional sales tax that will force seniors and all taxpayers to pay more for groceries and their prescriptions!

In House District 66, second-place finisher in the Republican primary Mike Miller is accusing former State Rep. Bob Snelling of ducking debates.

Mike Miller,candidate for Ga. State House District 66, called on his opponent Bob Snelling to stop ducking debates after Mr. Snelling was a no-show at Saturday’s scheduled Douglas CountyGOP candidate forum for the House District 66 Run-off.

The PCRE has also learned that Miller further challenged Bob Snelling to three debates on ethics, education, and the economy in the district before the August 21st GOP Primary Run-off.

“I am disappointed that Bob Snelling would duck a scheduled forum for candidates in the House District 66 Run-off hosted by the Douglas County GOP,” said Miller. “The voters of Douglas and Paulding Counties expect candidates to explain their positions and debate their opponents before earning the opportunity to represent them. I challenge Mr. Snelling to a series of debates in the district so that voters can form informative opinions about this race before the Run-off.”

Speaking of HD 66, the GBI has completed its probe into payments to Douglasville officials for attending meetings that sometimes were not actual meetings but conference calls.The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has completed its preliminary investigation into whether some Douglasville elected officials received payments they weren’t entitled to.

GBI officials confirmed Tuesday that there are plans to present the findings of that probe to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade this week, saying that meeting would determine if the investigation would be extended and what comes next.

Unlike every municipality with a similar population in the metro area, where a straight salary is paid to elected officials, the mayor and council members in Douglasville are compensated based on meeting attendance. Council members are paid $125 per meeting with the mayor receiving $313 per meeting. At standard meetings, attendance is taken and submitted, but other meetings are sometimes turned in by individual elected officials. It was those submissions where the issues seem to arise.

Records viewed through an open records request by the Douglas County Sentinel showed that some elected officials often submitted items for payment that didn’t appear to qualify for payment and others that needed legal interpretation to see whether they qualified. Either way, payment for as many as 50 meetings that didn’t appear to fit the statute criteria were paid to some Douglasville elected officials in the last three years.

That ordinance was enacted in 1997 and clarified in 2007 and a provision that reads “In Sections One, Two, Three and Four, ‘attended’ means the elected official’s personal physical presence at more than half the duration of a particular meeting or session; ‘attended’ does not mean or include participation via electronic means.”

In the three years worth of records examined, the Sentinel found that five council members and former Mayor Mickey Thompson had been paid following their requests for payments for some meetings that did not appear to fit within the ordinance, for one reason or another. The former mayor had 20 submissions that fell into that category and two council members had 10 such meetings that were paid. The others had four or fewer during that time period that did not appear to fit into what is proper for compensation.

All the elected officials contacted about the payments by the Sentinel denied any wrongdoing or that they were paid for anything outside the ordinance.

Surprising no one, Todd Johnson’s attempt to qualify for Douglas County Sheriff as an independent failed to produce enough signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.

Johnson intended to run as a Democrat and began his campaign in January of 2011. However, he failed to qualify for the Democratic primary after submitting fingerprints on file with his employer, the Clayton County Police Department. Johnson was supposed to have his fingerprints taken by Douglas County Probate Judge Hal Hamrick, thus the ones he submitted did not suffice.

The Douglas County Board of Elections voted 4-1 to not allow his name on the ballot at a hearing a few days after qualifying ended on May 25. Ingrid Landis-Davis, the board’s only Democrat, voted against the motion.

Johnson then launched the campaign to run as an independent candidate. Getting his name on the ballot would require signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters in Douglas County, or about 3,810 signatures. Unfortunately for Johnson, that did not happen, leaving Democrat Derrick Broughton and incumbent Republican Phil Miller as the candidates who will appear on November’s general election ballot.

Georgia Senator Jason Carter is not running for Rhode Island House District 54, but his platform, in some cases word-for-word, is.

a local teacher who aspires to be the next representative in House District 54 lifted nearly all of his election platform from the website of Jason Carter, a member of the Georgia State Senate.

A North Providence resident and Providence educator, second-time District 54 candidate William “Bill” O’Brien copied approximately 1,000 words of Carter, an incumbent state lawmaker in Georgia and the grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and pasted them onto his own website,www.williamobrien2012.com .

But for a changed word or two here and there, like “North Providence” for “community,” O’Brien attributes almost all of Carter’s words on the two topics of education and jobs, found at www.carterforstatesenate.com , to himself.

www.carterforstatesenate.com/page/jobs

www.carterforstatesenate.com/page/education

* On jobs, statements by O’Brien and Carter reveal exactly the same sentiments:

“As I talk to families throughout the district, it’s clear that our economic struggles remain a major concern for most,” reads one snippet from O’Brien’s site, which remains virtually unchanged from when he ran two years ago.

“Our community is ripe for expansion in two of the nation’s most promising industries: bioresearch and green energy,” reads another statement that is identical on both sites. Carter then adds that his community has the potential to become a “Silicon Valley of the South,” while O’Brien believes his community can become the “Green Valley of the Northeast.”

O’Brien this week defended his decision to take Carter’s campaign statements and use them as his own. The action was not “plagiarism,” O’Brien emphasized, but a case of two “very good friends” and “liberal Democrats” each deciding to run for office two years ago and “coordinating” their “efforts” in doing so based on ideas formulated during their time together in the Peace Corps.

O’Brien said he sees what he did as no different from President Obama offering speeches written by someone else, though he did concede a difference, that the public is aware that Obama uses a speechwriter.

Carter also sees nothing wrong with O’Brien taking his material, especially since the Georgia lawmaker said he could do so in the first place.

“Bill has his permission to use my stuff,” he said. “I know Bill. He certainly didn’t do anything to make me mad, (and this) doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.”

Voting problems that affected 345 voters in HD 56 didn’t prevent Simone Bell from being certified as the winner of the Democratic primary against fellow incumbent Ralph Long.

The final vote count in the Republican Primary for CD12 shows Rick W. Allen and Wright McLeod close enough for McLeod to request a recount.

The final tally certified by Secretary of State Brian Kemp showed Allen edging McLeod by less than 1 percent of the 60,062 votes cast in the east Georgia district now held by Democratic Rep. John Barrow of Augusta. Because of the thin margin, state law guarantees McLeod a recount if he requests it within two business days.

McLeod’s spokeswoman, Holly Croft, said the Augusta attorney would not announce a decision immediately.

State Rep. Lee Anderson of Grovetown emerged as the GOP frontrunner in last week’s four-way primary, finishing with 34 percent of the vote – more than 5,000 votes ahead of his nearest competitor, but far from the majority he needed to avoid a runoff.

That left Allen and McLeod neck-and-neck for the runner-up slot needed to advance to the runoff. Even if McLeod asks for a recount of the vote, the result is unlikely to change. In an era of electronic voting, recounting ballots is much like punching the same numbers into a calculator a second time.

Someone in the Fulton County Board of Elections might want to borrow that calculator to figure out whether a reported 23,300% turnout in a single-voter precinct is plausible. Three other precincts in Fulton County reported turnout greater than 100%.

One precinct reported a 3,300 percent voter turnout. Fulton County said it is aware of the strange numbers and have reached out to the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State. The Secretary of State’s Office said they are also looking into why some of the turnout numbers are so far off.

“How does a precinct have a 154 percent turnout? Thirty-three hundred percent turnout. There’s a glitch somewhere,” [Sheriff candidate Richard] Lankford said.

Fulton County Board of Elections Chairman Rod Edmond said Monday night he is very confident in the results after Monday’s primary results certification.

Fulton County was the last county in the state to certify its election results and could face state fines over the delay.

Louis DeBroux writes that 32.6% voter turnout for the Bartow County Republican Primary is disappointing because the GOP races are de facto general elections.

Congressman Tom Graves endorsed Cindy Jones Mills in the GOP Runoff for Forsyth County Commission district 4.

“Cindy Jones Mills understands what it takes to run a business, create private-sector jobs, balance a budget and meet tough deadlines — that’s key for Forsyth County,” said Congressman Tom Graves. “Cindy Jones Mills will stand up for taxpayers and place principles above politics. She is the right kind of leader for Forsyth County.”

There’s a new Sheriff in town in Fayette County, where Republican primary voters turned out incumbent Wayne Hannah.

[V]oters still have to settle three runoff races on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Two county commission posts and the race for the 63rd District seat in the Georgia House of Representatives remain for the taking since none of those candidates got more than 50 percent of the votes.

That means three more weeks of campaigning for county commission Post 2 candidates Sheila Huddleston and David Barlow and for commission Post 3 candidates Lee Hearn and Randy Ognio. Both races are on the Republican ballot and voters countywide are allowed to weigh in on both posts.

Campaigning is also extended for two Democrats seeking the new 63rd District seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, as the two leading vote-getters will face off: Ronnie Mabra and T.J. Copeland. Not all Fayette residents will vote in this race as the 63rd district is limited to the unincorporated Fayette area north and east of Fayetteville, along with nearly all of Fayetteville.

Voters are reminded that if they voted a Democratic or Republican ballot in the primary, they will have to use the same party’s ballot in the runoff election, said Elections Supervisor Tom Sawyer.

However, voters who chose a non-partisan ballot in the primary will be able to choose a Democrat or Republican ballot in the runoff election.

Call the result in that Sheriff’s race sweet payback for Barry Babb.

Babb and Hannah both worked for Fayette County when they ran against each other in 2008.

In what was seen as controversial move at the time, after winning the election, Hannah demoted Babb from captain to deputy and placed him at the county jail. Babb’s pay was cut as well.

“It was a time of solitude. It was a time of discomfort. It was a time of loneliness,” said Babb.

And speaking of state house candidate Ronnie Mabra, he’s the subject of a complaint for giving free wings to voters, regardles of whom they voted for. According to Andre Walker of Georgia Unfiltered,

O.C.G.A. §21-2-570 states, “Any person who gives or receives, or offers to give or receive, or participates in the giving or receiving of money or gifts for the purpose of registering as a voter, voting, or voting for a particular candidate in any primary or election shall be guilty of a felony.”

It is illegal, in Georgia, to offer incentives to voters for voting.

Chris Harvey, lead investigator in the Secretary of State’s office, acknowledged receiving the complaint and opened an investigation August 6th.

I didn’t ask Andre, but I’m pretty sure this is totally unrelated to the fact that it was Mabra’s law firm that filed suit against Walker on behalf of Democratic Party of Georgia Political Director Rashad Richey.

Tom Crawford writes that the overwhelming passage of the ballot question about limiting lobbyist gifts was a message to Georgia’s elected officials that voters distrust them.

In the Republican primary, the vote was 87-13 percent in favor of “ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts.”

In the Democratic primary, voters approved a similar ballot question by a 73-27 percent margin.

Those votes were a rebuke of House Speaker David Ralston, who took a $17,000 lobbyist-paid trip to Europe with his family in 2010. Ralston has blocked legislation that would limit lobbyist spending, and says the current state law requiring disclosure of expenditures is sufficient.

When he spoke to the Republican Party’s state convention in May, Ralston contended that “liberals” and “media elites” were the only ones pushing for ethics reform – an argument that lost much of its credibility when 87 percent of Republican voters supported the lobbyist spending cap.

Ralston seems to be falling into the same trap as Tom Murphy, who was speaker of the Georgia House for more than 28 years. Murphy became so blinded by the power of his office that he could not see how the political landscape in Georgia was changing.

Republican Insurace Commissioner Ralph Hudgens writes that state health insurance exchanges required by Obamacare are not in the best interests of Georgians.

It is my opinion that the creation of a Georgia exchange is not in our State’s best interest because such an exchange would be subject to the federal law, the mountains of regulations the have been promulgated since its passage, and the regulations that, to this date, have still not been finalized.

I welcome any action by the federal government that truly shifts authority from Washington D.C. back to Georgia and which allows our State to set policy in areas so important to the lives of our citizens. However, as the situation currently exists, the creation of a Georgia exchange would make our State little more than a tool to be used by the Federal Government to implement a law which I believe is misguided. I cannot recommend the creation of an exchange when doing so will not, in any meaningful way, allow our State to make decisions that we believe to be in our own best interest.

Paulding County Commission Chair David Austin is doubling-down on his support of T-SPLOST by criticizing legislators for being insufficiently supportive of the largest tax hike in Georgia history.

“The Legislature abandoned us,” Austin said. “Our own delegation turned their backs on us.”

He said District 31 State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, did little to support the initiative and District 17 State Rep. Howard Maxwell, R-Dallas, “was on the fence” about his support. Heath and Maxwell voted for the bill in 2010 which set the vote this year for the 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects.

“The Legislature never did anything,” Austin said. “I thought they abandoned the governor and the Speaker of the House.”

However, Heath said in an e-mail, “I have consistently opposed raising taxes. I believe that one should live within their means.”

Events

Tomorrow, August 9th at 5:15, Congressman Jack Kingston and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will headline a rally for the Romney campaign at the Charles Morris Center, located at 10 East Broad Street in Savannah, 31401. To R.s.v.p. or for more information, contact Dabney Hollis via email [email protected] or Stephanie Jones [email protected] 404-849-7211.

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.