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.

State Rep. Ron Stephens on Ethics: Strengthen the Commission

From the Savannah Morning News story by Larry Peterson:

Stephens says he has a plan to restore the effectiveness of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The Savannah Republican and others are gearing up to make political ethics a hot topic at the 2013 legislative session.

“I think he’s onto something,” said Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint. “I think a lot of what’s he’s saying make perfect sense.”

The commission’s weakness was cited this summer in a national study that found Georgia the state most at-risk for political corruption.

A report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity flunked Georgia in — among other categories — “ethics enforcement agencies.”

[The Commission's] budget is more than 40 percent lower than in 2008. And the number of cases of alleged violations it’s handled has declined even more.

Meanwhile, the legislature has stripped it of its authority to make rules.

Lawmakers also saddled it with riding herd on compliance by thousands of candidates for local offices. That, news accounts say, is a chore commission staffers have acknowledged mostly isn’t getting done.

Such candidates must cope with the commission’s over-extended staff and computer systems. They often find it impossible to file their reports on time or find anyone who can answer their questions.

“If you don’t match responsibility with means,” Stephens said, “the folks at the commission can’t do the right thing.”

Accordingly, he said, he’ll propose giving the panel back its rule-making powers and restoring its budget to about its 2008 level — $1.9 million.

Stephens said he might propose barring lobbyists from making campaign donations to the legislative caucuses or political parties while the legislature is session.

He says the practice is an end run around the current ban on legislators accepting campaign cash during the session.

“And if some of the money a special interest gives gets spent on a legislator,” he said, “we don’t know where it came from.”

Stephens said he’ll attach his ideas as amendments to a bill due to be carried by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.

It would limit the value of lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100.

Governor: ‘Worthwhile discussion’

Gov. Nathan Deal seems open to considering Stephens’ ideas.

Deal said last week in an interview that he included an additional $260,000 commission budget this year.

He also acknowledged widespread concerns about the panel’s attempts to monitor local-level candidates.

But he said any law giving it back its rule-making powers must be worded to make sure it stays “within the confines of its jurisdiction.”

House and Senate leaders are mulling over ideas such as Stephens’ and McKoon’s, he said.

“I think it’s a worthwhile discussion,” he said. “And I look forward to it moving forward.”

Much will depend on House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who likely can stop anything he’s strongly against.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 1, 2012

In honor of the University of Georgia’s defeat of Tennessee, surely a precursor to our invading them and taking back our water from the Tennessee river, you might consider adopting this English Bulldog, 27718, from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Or you might take pity on the vanquished and adopt one of the Volunteer state’s symbolic coonhounds. These seven puppies are all available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter beginning Thursday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

In order to vote in the November 6th General Election, you must be registered by October 9th. Advanced voting begins October 15th, and mail-in ballots are on their way to voters who requested them. To date, more than 76,000 absentee ballots have been requested.

Candidates on the November ballot have a campaign contribution disclosure report due between now and October 5th. Plan early in case the Commission’s website is having problems yet again as the grace period closes.

After Democratic State Representative Rick Crawford announced that if reeelected, he will switch to the Republican Party, Speaker David Ralston made clear that the GOP will continue to back its nominee, Trey Kelley.

“I am fully committed to making sure Trey Kelley is elected to the House. He is an outstanding candidate who is working hard and is consistent,” Ralston said this morning. “While I respect Rick Crawford and appreciate his dilemma, the truth is that the [Democratic] Party didn’t just suddenly become liberal. It has been, is, and will continue to be a party that is far to the left of the great majority of Georgians.”

Also not impressed with Crawford’s claimed change of heart, the Georgia Democratic Party, which will seek Crawford’s removal as their nominee. Georgia Dems met via a teleconference of their leadership, who voted to:

a) Accept Crawford’s resignation from the party. (Crawford has submitted nothing in writing, but had communicated his change of allegiance in conversations with several Democrats;

b) Withdraw its support from Crawford; and

c) Authorize party Chairman Mike Berlon to seek Crawford’s removal from the ballot.

It’s the last item that’s news – or could be. We don’t know that it’s ever been done. Look for Berlon to quickly petition Secretary of State Brian Kemp for Crawford’s dismissal as the Democratic nominee for House District 16 in west Georgia.

Could Democrats replace Crawford? Good question, for which we don’t have an immediate answer. If they can’t, Republican Trey Kelley, a 25-year-old manufacturer’s rep, would be the automatic winner in the race come Nov. 6.

Georgia Republican Party Chair Sue Everhart told Georgia Tipsheet the Crawford will receive no assistance from the GOP.

Trey Kelley is the only Republican that will appear on the ballot in HD 16, and the Georgia Republican Party will proceed accordingly,” Everhart, through a spokesman, told Tipsheet. “We are excited to work with Trey over the next 40 days, and are looking forward to electing a Republican to represent Georgia’s 16th State House District on November 6th.”

What’s got the incumbent Democrat so worried? Maybe the shellacking that Kelley’s about to unload on him. GaPundit’s parent company ran a poll of likely voters in HD 16 over the weekend, and it shows that Kelley leads Crawford by a decisive margin of 61 to 31.5 with a margin of error of +/- 5.2 points.

Last week, I told Winston Jones of the (Carrollton) Times-Georgian newspaper that State Rep. Bill Hembree is the hands-on favorite in the Senate District 30 Special Republican Primary Election held the same day as the General Election.

“I think, realistically, you have to consider Hembree and (former House Speaker Glenn) Richardson to be the major candidates,” said Rehm, who publishes the GaPundit.com political column. “Hembree has a solid career in the state House and is widely thought of very well. Richardson has his supporters and detractors.”

Hembree resigned his House seat this month to campaign for the Senate seat.

“What jumped out at me from the poll was that Hembree has good support,” Rehm said. “It’s not a majority, but a commanding plurality. He has a lot he can brag about accomplishing and he’s not going to have a downside that Richardson has. Unless something shakes up the race in a major way, I’d expect Hembree to win. The question is whether the race has to go through a runoff. There’s a good chance of a runoff and then it’s really a jump ball. Anything can happen in a runoff.”

Rehm noted that 55 percent of the district’s electorate live in Carroll County. But, he said, neither of the Carroll candidates are “real politicians.”

“One of the candidates from Carrollton could make himself a major candidate, but I haven’t seen it yet,” he said.

We also ran a poll this weekend on the Senate District 30 race. We’ll post full details tomorrow on the website and email, but suffice it to say, nothing has happened to cause me to change my prediction of a Hembree win in November. Media writing for deadline can email me for an early copy.

Walter Jones writes that Librarian Libertarian candidates for Public Service Commission may tap into anti-incumbent sentiment this year.

the party has candidates in the only two statewide races, both for the Public Service Commission. In one, Libertarian David Staples is the only alternative to Republican incumbent Stan Wise. In the other, the Libertarians have nominated an openly gay telecommunications consultant, Brad Ploeger, who is drawing new voters to the fold in his bid to best GOP Commissioner Chuck Eaton and Democrat Steve Oppenheimer. For different reasons, both contests offer hope to the Libertarian Party in Georgia, which normally only claims 2 percent to 4 percent of the vote.

“This year, the anti-incumbent sentiment, even among those most closely associated with the majority party, makes both of our candidates in the Public Service Commission races even stronger,” notes Brett Bittner, chairman of the Georgia Libertarian Party. “Ethics issues have dogged both Republican incumbents as primary challengers, the various tea party groups, and ethics watchdogs turned their attention to that area of elected officials’ job performance.”

For many voters, Staples’ main advantage is not being Wise. “While some would prefer to vote for a major-party candidate, there isn’t one in this case. The choice is a vote for someone who looks to be bought and paid for by the industries he is supposed to regulate, or someone who is running on principle,” wrote The Albany Journal in its endorsement of Staples.

The Libertarians are hoping to break the 33 percent won when their nominee John Monds was the only challenger on the 2008 ballot against GOP incumbent Doug Everett. While that left Everett with a landslide, it still gave the Libertarians their best showing ever.

Also working to the party’s advantage, according to [PSC candidate Brad] Ploeger, is the likelihood that GOP nominee Mitt Romney will easily prevail in Georgia’s presidential voting. That frees up Republicans and Democrats with libertarian leanings to vote their preference without fear that doing so will help a candidate they don’t want to win.

Unfortunately, the national campaign has drawn many local parties and activists into support the Romney-Ryan ticket by ignoring state races, instead making phone calls into Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina. This has the potential to risk local races and even force a runoff for Republican Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton, who is seeking reelection, if GOP voters fail to turn out because of perceptions that Georgia is not in play nationally.

Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms, who was not arrested despite driving with a .083 blood alcohol level, may face charges and his judicial career may be in peril.

If a Bibb County Sheriff’s Office internal investigation confirms the judge’s blood alcohol was 0.083 on the night of Sept. 22, deputies will talk with the county solicitor to determine whether criminal charges will be filed.

Set to be complete by Monday, the results of that investigation will be released to the public after Sheriff Jerry Modena has a chance to review the findings, Chief Deputy David Davis said.

Whether Simms is arrested, his career is likely in the hands of the State Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Simms has notified the commission of the traffic stop and his plan to enter an in-patient alcohol treatment facility, according to a statement he issued Tuesday.

The commission is the only agency with the power to remove judges from office, said commission Chairman John Allen, a Superior Court judge from Columbus.

Allen said he can only remember three judges being removed from office in the past 20 years.

“Very rarely is a judge removed,” he said.

Commission statistics show that 21 judges with a complaint filed against them have resigned from office since 2005.

In May, Governor Nathan Deal removed the entire Miller County School Board. On Friday, Deal named new members to serve out the terms of the removed members.

Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan, a Republican, has changed his mind and will seek reelection in 2014.

The south side of Augusta is the key to Republican success in the Richmond County Sheriff election, according to GOP nominee Freddie Sanders.

“That’s the battleground area of Richmond County,” said Sanders, who is running as a Re­publican in a county still dominated by Democratic politics.

“The south side is more integrated than the west side or the east side,” he said, explaining that he can likely count on strong support in “more Re­publican, more conservative” west Augusta.

His opponent, Richmond County schools Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree, will have distinct advantages in east Augusta and the city’s urban center, he said.

Voting in Richmond Coun­ty has a history of falling along racial lines. About 53 percent of registered voters are black and about 37 percent are white, according to Board of Elections statistics. Generally, the majority of blacks tend to support Democratic candidates.

Sanders said he understands that is the pattern, but not necessarily a rule.

“There are some black people who will only vote for a black candidate and there are some white people who will only vote for a white candidate, but those are the fringes,” he said. “Everyone else is in the middle.”

He thinks a large portion of that “middle” can be found in the neighborhoods south of Gordon Highway – primarily commission districts 5, 6 and 8 – where there is a more diverse mix of voters.

The election for Augusta Commission Super District 9, which represents half the city, will see a head-to-head matchup between two former local elected officials and seasoned politicians in the General election.

the Augusta Com­mission Super District 9 election pits former Richmond Coun­ty State Court Solicitor Harold V. Jones against former two-term Com­missioner Marion Wil­liams, probably one of Augusta’s most recognizable politicians.

Williams, 64, got on the commission by beating former Com­missioner Freddie Han­dy by a slim margin in a 1999 runoff for District 2, then beat him again in 2003 for a second term.

Term-limited, Williams set his sights on the Senate Dis­trict 22 seat in 2008 but lost in the Dem­ocratic primary to Ed Tarver, now a U.S. attorney. He lost again in a 2010 effort to unseat District 2 Com­mis­sioner Corey Johnson.

Jones is far from inexperienced in Augusta politics and won nearly 60 percent of votes against Ben “Swain” McElmurray for State Court solicitor in 2004. He had lost an earlier bid for office, a 2002 state House race to Rep. Quincy Murphy..

Now 43 and practicing mostly criminal law with She­pard, Plunkett, Hamilton & Boudreaux, Jones remains active in politics. He had a hand in the voter turnout efforts that led to Richard Round­tree’s upset victory over Scott Peebles in the Democratic primary runoff for sheriff.

Unopposed for a second term as solicitor in 2008, Jones resigned the next year to run for state Senate against Hardie Davis. Davis won District 22, boosted by success in many white precincts, but Jones outpolled him in the 71 percent black District 9 portion of the Senate district by 1,132 votes.

The DeKalb County Republican Party invites you to “An Evening with Chris Boedeker,” the GOP nominee for State House District 81, currently held by Democrat Scott Holcomb. The reception will be held on Thursday, October 4th from 6 to 7:30 PM at DeKalb GOP HQ, located at 3583 Chamblee-Tucker Road, Atlanta, GA 30341. If you are attending, please R.s.v.p. to Linda Smith at 770-451-4174.

Coastal Georgia can look forward to a new $100 million resort that includes an adventure park, and 800 new jobs, if a developer is successful in plans for 575 acres near Kingsland, Georgia.