Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 16, 2012


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 16, 2012

28667 (above) is a young, female black Lab Mix
, and because it’s Friday, she and all other black or majority black dogs and cats are available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter for $30 instead of the normal $90.

28666 (above) is a mostly-black, Lab mix who is also at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

48722 is a young, black-and-white female who is available for adoption from DeKalb County Animal Shelter, who also has a “Black Friday” sale for a $40 adoption fee.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Before we get into politics, I’m going to tell you what I had for dessert last night because I can’t stop thinking about it.

That right there is a large chocolate sphere, about nine inches in diameter, that I like to think of as the “Chocolate Death Star.” Three of them were placed on the table. Then hot caramel tie fighters attacked was poured over the top, which collapsed revealing scoops of vanilla ice cream. Click on the photo below to see it happen. The dessert was served as part of the “Kitchen Table” at Park 75 in the Four Season Hotel in downtown Atlanta. I don’t know how often that’s the dessert there.

Yesterday, the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus elected new leadership. Senator David Shafer (Duluth) was elected President Pro Tem of the Senate, succeeding Sen. Tommie Williams (Lyons). I believe this technically makes him the Republican nominee for President Pro Tem, an office elected by the entire Senate; absent a revolt by enough Republicans to make a deal with Democrats to sell us all out elect someone else, this is a technicality and Shafer will serve in the office during the 2013 Session.

“I am humbled by the support shown by my Senate colleagues in today’s election,” Shafer said in a statement. “With the upcoming legislative session less than two months away and with several critical issues needing immediate attention, it is imperative that we begin work now.”

It remains to be seen how power will be split within the Senate. Sen. Ross Tolleson said Thursday that the Senate caucus may discuss the chamber’s internal rules, which define how power is split up, during a second caucus session today. It was not immediately clear when or if the Republicans would vote on the issue.

“I think what you’ll probably see is a real balance of the lieutenant governor having some of the authority and the floor having some of the authority,” Tolleson said. “I think people want a balance.”

Senator Ronnie Chance (Tyrone) was elected Majority Leader; a Floor Leader for Governor Deal, Chance’s election should open a slot there. Senator Cecil Staton (Macon) remains as Majority Whip. The rest of the GOP Senate leadership team will be:

Butch Miller (Gainesville) – Caucus Chair
Judson Hill (Marietta) – Caucus Vice-Chair
Steve Gooch (Dahlonega) – Caucus Secretary

Senator Chip Rogers officially withdrew his candidacy to remain as Majority Leader, but a Cherokee Tribune article suggests a different take.

Rogers said in [yesterday's press] release. “I am honored to have served four years in leading the Republican majority. After months of consideration I ultimately decided that the toll of serving my caucus was taking too much from my family. While I had no challengers for the position of majority leader, the decision was still clear to me. Leadership positions should never become permanent and I am very supportive of our new majority leader and my good friend, Sen. Chance.” A source familiar with the situation, however, told the Cherokee Tribune that it was not a case of Rogers stepping down.

According to the source: “The press release implies that Chip had decided he wasn’t going to run for majority leader, which opened up a seat and Ronnie Chance decided in the last two minutes that he would graciously put his name in because somebody has to be majority leader. It didn’t play out that way. … The handwriting was on the wall that Chip wasn’t going to get re-elected. There’s a lot of issues, internally and externally, you’ve read about some of them in the campaign. … The current leadership did not continue to have the support of the majority of the Republican Caucus, so they’ve stepped aside to allow a new group of leaders to lead the state moving forward.”

Rogers’ spokesperson, Robert Trim, said that the senator wanted time to coach his 12-year-old son’s traveling basketball team.

“He is absolutely ecstatic to go coach his son’s team,” Trim said. “It’s been something he’s been considering … he hadn’t made a final decision until probably last night. It is something that has been a conversation for some time now.”

The change in Rogers’ status at the Capitol also comes three days after a video of him holding a meeting about Agenda 21 surfaced.

“We are pleased to see that Georgia Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on crazy,” said Bryan Long, executive director for Better Georgia, the group that released the tape. “We have serious, real problems facing Georgia next year, and we are encouraged that Georgia Republicans will start working on them in earnest. We need our elected officials focusing on issues that actually exist.”

Dave Williams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle writes that the election of Shafer and Chance may help mend fences within the caucus and between the caucus and Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle.

Thursday’s votes will send two Cagle allies into leadership.

“I congratulate Sen. David Shafer on being nominated by the Republican Caucus for president pro tempore,” Cagle said in a prepared statement. “[I] have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the common-sense conservative agenda. … This is a united team.”

Shafer and Chance have served most recently as chairmen of Senate committees that deal with business issues. During the last two years, Shafer was chairman of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, while Chance headed the Economic Development Committee.

The GOP’s hold on the U.S. House of Representatives may be due to geography as much as demography.

Some political experts believe there’s an easier explanation, and perhaps a tougher one for Democrats to overcome: Voters supporting Republican House candidates, they say, are spread over more congressional districts than those who support Democrats. It’s that simple. It’s merely a matter of geography.

Democratic voters tend to be concentrated in fewer areas on the map relative to Republicans, according to these experts.

“What’s so striking to me is that nonwhite voters are sufficient to allow Democrats to win statewide races increasingly. And we elect both the Senate and president on statewide races. But nonwhite voters are so clustered in so few congressional districts around the country that Republicans have a built-in advantage to win the House,” said David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, in a post-election panel discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

“It’s not an accident, it’s not random, that the presidency and the Senate stayed in Democratic control and the House stayed so strongly Republican,” said Wasserman.

If I lived outside the perimeter on the Northside, I’d avoid I-285 this weekend as repaving will surely snarl traffic. Construction will be underway from 9 PM tonight through 5 AM Monday. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Speaking of which, Russell McMurry has been named the new Chief Engineer for Georgia DOT.

Emory University will offer both free online courses available for viewing by anyone, as well as paid, for-credit courses available to students enrolled as undergraduates elsewhere. If they put up any of Dr. Merle Black‘s political science classes, I’ll probably check those out as Black was one of three people who influenced the way I think about politics when I was younger.

Millard Grimes writes that John Barrow ought to be at the top of the Democratic Party of Georgia’s wish list for the statewide elections in 2014.

Barrow now has won elections in three Georgia congressional districts, and four of the districts where he hasn’t had to run are heavily Democratic (the metro Atlanta districts and the west Georgia district that includes Albany and most of Columbus, which re-elected Sanford Bishop by a surprisingly large margin after his narrow victory in 2010).

Those districts provide Barrow a base for a credible statewide race in 2014, when Gov. Nathan Deal and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss will be up for re-election.

When you look around the state, there are no Democratic hopefuls with Barrow’s record of consistently winning under trying conditions — and in four elections without his real home county of Athens-Clarke, a heavily Democratic county.

Gwinnett County’s new Probate Judge Chris Ballar will boost his pay by $7500 by accepting payment for birth and death certificates processed through his office; Ballar’s predecessor waived the fees. Look for a challenge to Ballar when he’s up for reelection.

“Gwinnett is a huge county, and being the vital records custodian is more than a part-time aspect,” Ballar said.

His decision, however, doesn’t sit well with the woman who challenged Ballar in the election. Marlene Duwell, who has served as chief clerk of the Probate Court since 1997, said it appears as though Ballar is looking for a raise before he even takes office.

“You have somebody who has no judicial experience walking in before he’s done any sort of public service and saying ‘I want this compensation increase which amounts to $30,000 over four years,’ ” Duwell said. “All our other judges who have been sitting long-term have gone without pay increases for years.”

The probate judge is entitled to be compensated $2 for signing each death or birth certificate and $1 for recording and indexing the certificates. In a large suburban county, those tasks could potentially generate a substantial amount of revenue to the probate judge on top of his usual salary.

But since counties pay for storage, copying and staffing support for vital records, state lawmakers in 1997 passed a law that allowed county commissioners to cap fees that a probate judge can retain at $7,500 a year, with the remainder going to the county. Gwinnett County commissioners voted last week to impose the cap beginning Jan. 1, when Ballar’s tenure starts.

Also to file under “not making friends in the court system” is Marietta’s Chief Magistrate Frank Cox, who has suggested that a vacant Cobb State Court seat be eliminated.

Cox wants [Cobb County Chair Tim] Lee to ask Gov. Nathan Deal to hold off on replacing State Court Judge Rob Leonard while the county reviews its finances and caseloads to see if the position is indeed still warranted.

Lee said in a statement that he has a lot of respect for both Cox and Prodgers and he “appreciates their perspectives on the issue.”

“Since judgeships are created by the state legislature and appointments are made by the Governor, I am going to rely on their judgment,” Lee said.

In Columbus, threats have been made against Superior Court Judge Bobby G. Peters and prosecutor Mark Post.

Court officials say the hand-written letter, purportedly signed by convicted Talbot County murderer Roger Lee Baker Jr., is among the most vitriolic threats they’ve received in recent memory. The author accuses Peters of framing him for the 2007 murder of Calvin Ellison and promises to find the judge upon his release from state prison.

“I plan to cause you unbelievable pain,” the letter warns. “I will find you and hit you directly in your face and pray it break every (expletive) bone in that corrupted face of yours. I’ll take your buddy, Mark C. Post, and do the exact same. I want to hurt both of you dearly, and I will soon.”

“It’s potentially a crime,” said Post, who alerted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to the letter. “You can’t go around threatening anybody. Unfortunately in our line of work, it’s not completely out of the ordinary.”

Agent Wayne Smith of the GBI said his agency is evaluating the threat. “As you can imagine, public officials receive threats from inmates fairly often, and we have a fairly good process for threat assessment when this occurs,” he wrote in an email. “We will investigate as a potential terroristic threat from a criminal standpoint.”

Post, who recently lost his bid to unseat District Attorney Julia Slater, said he had no reason to believe the letter was related to a bullet fired through a window of his campaign office less than a week before the General Election. Campaign officials had determined the shooting was a random incident.

Apparently, leaves are turning different colors in Rome, Georgia, and falling off the trees. Who knew?

Quote of the Day goes to Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan, speaking at yesterday’s work session with the Gainesville City Council.

“The only way we’re going to get more jobs going is for those Bozos…in Washington (to) unite and come together for the good of the people of the United States, instead of for their stupid party,” said Mayor Danny Dunagan.

“I’m so fed up with our federal government and the way that they do business, (it) is ridiculous,” Dunagan said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke in Atlanta yesterday.

Bernanke’s speech was aimed at an international audience but was particularly appropriate in Atlanta, which is still recovering from the collapse of the housing market. The Federal Reserve chairman told those at the summit that rising home prices and an increase in housing sales are positive signs for the U.S. housing market, but he says the nation is not out of the woods yet.

“About 20 percent of mortgage borrowers remain underwater, that is they owe more than their houses are worth, and despite marked improvements in mortgage quality 7 percent are either more than 90 days overdue or in foreclosure.”

Usher’s preferential treatment by election workers has gone national.

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