Casey Cagle a winner from Senate Leadership elections

From Sarah Mueller of the Gainesville Times:

A change of leadership among state Senate Republicans may mean more power for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and lead to more influence for a local senator in the upcoming 2013 session.

The Republican Senate caucus will meet Dec. 15 to decide what responsibilities Cagle will assume in addition to his official duties as president of the Senate.

Cagle had broad powers in 2006, but Senate leaders relieved him of many responsibilities in 2010. With those revolutionary leaders remaining in the Senate but out of the top positions, friends such as Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, may help the second-highest elected official in the state regain some power.

Charles S. Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia, said he thinks Cagle will get some of his power back but not all of it.

“He won’t be just a figurehead,” Bullock said. “But he won’t have the power of his first term or historically.”

The Republican Senate caucus met Nov. 15 to elect leadership positions for the next term, choosing Sen. David Shafer of Duluth as president pro tem and Sen. Ronnie Chance of Tyrone, the governor’s floor leader, as majority leader. Miller was elected caucus chairman.

Miller said he was grateful and encouraged that he was the choice of his fellow colleagues. The caucus chairman for each party helps determine what bills reach the floor and helps directs the caucus on the bills and issues they’ll take up.

“Primarily I will run the meetings and try to keep order and productivity,” he said.

Issues likely to come up next year include water issues, ethics, education, health care and the state budget, Miller said.

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.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 4, 2012

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is October 9, 2012, less than one week from today. Today would be a good day to email five friends with the following information, so they can make sure they’re registered.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012; here’s where and when to vote early in person in your county. More than 10,000 voters are marked as having already voted in the November 6th General Election, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Adoptable Dogs

Tomorrow is “Black Friday” at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, where black or majority-black dogs and cats can be adopted for $30, which is a $60 discount over most days. 27763 above is an adult, female lab mix who surely qualifies. She is large and friendly and will make a great companion.

27778 is a young, male Border Collie mix, and I think he has enough black fur to qualify. The shelter volunteers rave about how good a dog he is.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Not shockingly, Cobb County Republicans who gathered for a debate watching party thought that Governor Romney won last night’s debate.

Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson of east Cobb and Saxby Chambliss of Moultrie, declared Mitt Romney the winner in the first presidential debate between the former Massachusetts governor and President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

“I wanted to see the Romney that I hoped I would see, and I saw him tonight. He was very, very good,” said Isakson, who watched the debate from home.

Isakson said it was clear that Romney bested Obama in the Denver debate.

“Romney was clear in the definition of his vision, clear in what he planned for the future,” Isakson said. “President Obama was defensive on a lot of the issues.”

It was crucial that Romney perform as well as he did, Isakson said.

“I don’t think there was any question there were some questions out there in terms of where he was going to go,” Isakson said. “He was definitive. He was straightforward. He had a grasp of the issues, and I think he took on the president very well.”

Surprisingly, liberal NPR called Romney “dominant”. If you have nothing better to do with your time, here’s a complete transcript of the debate. And here are some experts deconstructing the body language and political communication skills on display by the candidates.

Georgia Democratic Party Chair Mike Berlon disagrees:

Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Mike Berlon releases the following statement regarding the first Presidential debate:

“Tonight’s Presidential debate illustrated the incredible chasm and stark differences that exists between the policies of President Obama and those of Mitt Romney.

“Romney’s tax plan is not only unworkable but is nothing more than an absolute fantasy. His assertions that cutting taxes for the rich somehow equates to increasing revenue and benefits for everyone, including the middle class is simply impossible.

But whether he likes it or not, tax cuts do help create jobs or attract them to Georgia. Governor Deal has said that eliminating the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing helped the state land Baxter International and Caterpillar, two recent economic development triumphs.

Click Here

Campaign contribution disclosures are due today for the period ended September 30th. If you find yourself having filing difficulties, here are some tips for what I would do while I’m waiting for the disclosure system to reload.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens wrote to State School Superintendent John Barge about whether local school boards can publicly oppose the Charter School Amendment. The entire letter is available for viewing as a .pdf file here. Here are the important parts:

Local school boards do not have the legal authority to expend funds or other resources to advocate or oppose the ratification of a constitutional amendment by the voters. They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong.

Counties may not use their resources to persuade voter to support or oppose a ballot question. Such electoral advocacy to voters is not permitted as an exercise of the general power to administer county government or otherwise.

The Georgia School Boards Association fired back:

Angela Palm with the Georgia School Boards Association says she wants more clarification from the Attorney General and is concerned the opinion could be in violation of the first amendment.

“If the intent of the letter is to say, no, you can’t talk about this in any way, then I think that’s a definite problem. If the intent is of the letter is to reinforce existing statute that says you can’t use public resources, okay we knew that, but thank you for the reminder, and it doesn’t change anything.”

 Maybe Ms. Palm didn’t read the letter, which addresses the First Amendment issue:
The [Georgia Supreme]Court acknowledged that [local elected officials] have the right, in their individual capacities, to support the adoption of [a] Constitutional Amendment,’ however they had no constitutional right of free speech to speak at county expense.

Republican state legislators will find themselves in a familiar place when they convene in January: caught between Grover Norquist’s no tax hike pledge that many signed, and local hospitals, who say that renewing the bed tax they pay is actually a good thing because the proceeds plus a federal match are used to pay for Medicaid patients.

Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform, recently told the Republican-dominated General Assembly in a letter that renewing the Hospital Provider Payment Program would violate the anti-tax pledges of about four dozen lawmakers.

Lawmakers adopted the tax in 2010 as state tax collections tanked because of the Great Recession. It uses tax money paid by the hospitals to generate an even larger pot of state and federal health care money that then flows back to the hospitals.

Hospitals with a large share of poor patients get more back in increased Medicaid payments – a government insurance program that covers the poor – than they pay in hospital taxes. Hospitals with a larger share of patients covered by Medicare or private insurance get fewer benefits than they pay out in taxes. Still, those hospitals get an indirect benefit. They don’t have to directly bear the costs of caring for the poor because the tax helps stabilize the budgets of hospitals serving poorer populations.

This may also present a leadership challenge for the new Senate leadership, as the 2010 bed tax vote is cited as a reason for the long-running feud between Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and the incumbent Senate leadership management.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs, who chairs the MARTA Oversight Committee, says that the MARTA Board failed to comply with open meetings laws, and is trying to derail an investigation by the Attorney General’s office.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, said he has evidence from other MARTA board members that director Barbara Babbit Kaufman falsified an affidavit he requested to show compliance with the Open Meetings Act during the search for a new General Manager.

“The problem is I’m being furnished documents that are false — they are being made up as they go along,” said Jacobs, who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA. “I’m pretty red-faced angry about it. I’m dealing with a board that wants to create false documents to satisfy an oversight committee.”

Kaufman said she did not intentionally violate any law.

Jacobs wrote state Attorney General Sam Olens Wednesday to amend his initial complaint about possible MARTA board violations of open meetings, which focused on an email in which Kaufman asked board members to send her their “vote” on a new GM. Jacobs had also said the board’s search committee, chaired by Kaufman, failed to meet required procedures for meeting in private.

The Open Meetings Act requires a vote for a board to go into non-public session. It also requires a notarized affidavit by the committee chairperson stating the legitimate reason for the closure, such as to discuss candidates for a high-profile public job.

Jacobs’ latest letter to Olens essentially says Kaufman created that paperwork only after he complained.

Washington County State Court Judge Robert Wommack Jr. was privately reprimanded by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission after a March 2012 guilty plea to charges of DUI and excessive speed.

In March, Wommack entered a guilty plea in Laurens County Probate Court. Wommack was sentenced at that time to 12 months probation and ordered to pay a $945 fine, according to the JQC report. His driver’s license was suspended for 120 days, and he was ordered to attend a DUI/risk reduction course, participate for 40 hours in an Alcohol Anonymous program and serve 22 hours of community service, the JQC report said.

It also said Wommack had promptly reported his arrest to the JQC and voluntarily disqualified himself from all cases involving DUIs that were then pending in state court. According to the JQC report, Wommack also discussed with the JQC the facts of his arrest and the resolution of the charges.

The Macon-Bibb County consolidation transition team is recommending that joint operations begin two weeks earlier than originally planned.

Macon and Bibb County governments were scheduled to cease to exist on Jan. 13, 2014, before the new merged government takes effect the next day, Jan. 14. But the committee unanimously decided Wednesday to recommend to the task force that the new government instead go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, said Laura Mathis, deputy director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission. If the task force agrees, the state legislative delegation would be asked to legally change the official start date, she said.

Bibb County Commissioner Elmo Richardson, who made the motion for the earlier start, said waiting nearly two weeks into a calendar year to put the new government into effect could cause unnecessary inconveniences with everything from payroll, to accounting and insurance.

“From an accounting standpoint, it would be a nightmare,” Richardson said. “It’s just not a clean cut when you’re going to start the government on Jan. 14.”

Media inquiries prompted Augusta City Commissioner Grady Smith to pull a bid on providing plumbing services to the Sheriff’s department.

Smith, Super District 10 commissioner, said his company was building on a long-standing relationship with Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength when Smith Bros. Mechanical made a $24,000 bid last month to do plumbing work at the substation in south Augusta.

The move violated the city’s ethics code, which prohibits commissioners from substantially benefitting from city procurement contracts, unless they apply for an exception.

Smith said his company’s bid was the lowest by $12,000 and that he had an application for the exception on Monday’s finance committee agenda but withdrew the request Wednesday.

Savannah City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney is resigning, according to Mayor Edna Jackson.

Jackson asked for the resignation Sept. 25 after a flurry of management issues that included a $6 million backlog and complete staff turnover of buyers in Purchasing, a botched bid that could have led to a lawsuit and the termination of the emergency management director, a business associate of the city manager. Wednesday about noon, her supporters, dwindling but vocal, gathered for an impromptu press conference outside City Hall.

Chester Dunham, one of her more ardent supporters, said a “reliable source” had told him Small-Toney’s resignation would happen “before 5 o’clock.”

Dunham described Small-Toney as being “railroaded,” and supporter Marilyn Jackson said, “They just beat her down.”

Chatham County Democratic District Attorney Larry Chisolm and Republican challenger Meg Heap took questions from the audience at a joint appearance yesterday.

Heap cited an exodus of as many as 50 employees and the elimination of the elder-abuse prosecutor position as evidence that Chisolm does not deserve a second term. Instead, said the former prosecutor who worked under longtime DA Spencer Lawton, voters should choose her because of her passion for “bringing justice to people who have been victimized by crime.”

Chisolm — who said turnover in his office has been comparable to that of his predecessor’s and that there were not enough elder abuse cases to deserve a single prosecutor — said voters should reelect him because he’s drastically cut down a backlog of cases and has achieved very high rates of felony convictions at trial.

Ends & Pieces

The Augusta Chronicle’s Editorial Board brings us the shocking news that liberal mainstream media edit what they say to present their views as backed-up by facts, and to make Republicans look bad.

Democratic pollster Pat Caddell recently said the media have made themselves “a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion … the enemy of the American people.

“And it is a threat to the very future of this country if we allow this stuff to go on. We have crossed a whole new and frightening slide on the slippery slope this last two weeks, and it needs to be talked about.”

Democrat commentator Kirsten Powers, speaking on the Obama administration’s oddly changing stories on who was behind the U.S. embassy attacks – and the media’s relative disinterest in the scandal – says: “In this case, lack of curiosity on the part of the American media very well may kill more Americans.” How? By letting the Obama administration off the hook vis-a-vis questions on security.

Retired newspaper publisher Sam Griffin of Bainbridge, Ga., writes of today’s mainstream media: “Through acts and omissions both subtle and overt, they continually tell us what is fact and what is not, what is important and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not, who won and who lost in every instance of the political day – the aggregate effect of which is an attempt to create self-fulfilling prophecies.”

As we near the one-year anniversary of the spectacular failure that was Occupy Atlanta, some hippies in Savannah held an Occupy Savannah rally that attracted one dude in a dour black dress.

Florida wants more water from Lake Lanier to protect its Gulf Coast oyster industry. Maybe they’ll go in with us on the invasion of Tennessee to get more of our water back.

Local NPR affiliate WABE has the firsthand story of an Atlanta attorney who who put her now-19 year old son up for adoption through an open process and the relationship they now have. It’s an excellent was to spend six minutes.

An historical marker was recently unveiled commemorating the the Second Atlanta International Pop Festival at Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron. A documentary called “Alex Cooley Presents Time Has Come Today” includes footage of that event and two others produced by Atlanta’s Cooley. Another film called Hotlanta, The Great Lost Rock Festival made a debut screening recently and we look forward to seeing it in wider release.

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Schrader for Judge Banner

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

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

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

Northway resigned July 12 and has declined to comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cochran says that never happened.

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

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

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

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