Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 7, 2015

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May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 7, 2015

George Washington attended the first inaugural ball on May 7, 1789 on Broadway near Wall Street in New York.

Washington arrived at the ball in the company of other American statesmen and their wives. That evening he danced with many of New York’s society ladies. Vice President John Adams, members of Congress and visiting French and Spanish dignitaries, as well their wives and daughters, joined in the festivities. Eliza Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, recorded her impressions of the ball in her memoirs, noting that the president liked to dance the minuet, a dance she thought was suited to his dignity and gravity.

On May 7, 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant disengaged his Army of the Potomac from fighting against General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, ending the Battle of the Wilderness.

Although the Wilderness is usually described as a draw, it could be called a tactical Confederate victory, but a strategic victory for the Union army. Lee inflicted heavy numerical casualties (see estimates below) on Grant, but as a percentage of Grant’s forces they were smaller than the percentage of casualties suffered by Lee’s smaller army. And, unlike Grant, Lee had very little opportunity to replenish his losses. Understanding this disparity, part of Grant’s strategy was to grind down the Confederate army by waging a war of attrition. The only way that Lee could escape from the trap that Grant had set was to destroy the Army of the Potomac while he still had sufficient force to do so, but Grant was too skilled to allow that to happen. Thus, the Overland Campaign, initiated by the crossing of the Rappahannock, and opening with this battle, set in motion the eventual destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Therefore, even though Grant withdrew at the end of the battle (which is usually the action of the defeated side), unlike his predecessors since 1861, Grant continued his campaign instead of retreating to the safety of Washington, D.C. The significance of Grant’s advance was noted by James M. McPherson:

[I]nstead of heading north, they turned south. A mental sunburst brightened their minds. It was not another “Chancellorsville … another skedaddle” after all. “Our spirits rose,” recalled one veteran who remembered this moment as a turning point in the war. Despite the terrors of the past three days and those to come, “we marched free. The men began to sing.” For the first time in a Virginia campaign the Army of the Potomac stayed on the offensive after its initial battle.

Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center have produced a series called 37 Weeks, which chronicles serially Sherman’s March to the Sea through Georgia in 1864. This is week three of the series, with episodes clocking in at under two minutes. If you enjoy learning about Georgia’s history, it’s great watching.

May 7, 1864 saw some of the first fighting in the Atlanta campaign, northwest of Dalton, Georgia.

Keith Richards recorded the first version of the guitar riff that would become “Satisfaction” early in the morning of May 7, 1965 before passing out.

On May 7, 1996, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell responded to the FBI Report that ranked Atlanta the most violent city in the nation. Campbell would succed in replacing headlines about Atlanta’s violent crime by substituting headlines about official corruption.

Jimmy Carter’s Presidential campaign received a boost on May 7, 1976 when he received the personal endorsement of the President of the United Auto Workers.

Happy Birthday to Bill Kreutzman, one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead. On Kreutzman’s 31st birthday, the Dead played at Boston Garden. The next night was the legendary Cornell show.

This past weekend, the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, GA hosted a reunion of veterans who served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam. Attendees remembered Milton Lee Olive, III, the first African-American recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam war and who served with the 173rd.

Upcoming Elections

Here’s a run-down of elections to be held June 16, 2015

State House District 55 in Fulton County

Tyrone Brooks Jr. (D)
Alysia Brown (D)
John Franklin Guest Jr. (I)
Marie R. Metze (D)
Michael B. Fitzgerald (D)
Raghu R. Raju (D)
Shelitha Renee Robertson (D)

State House District 146 in Houston County

Shaw Blackmon (R)
Larry Walker, III (R)

We are likely to see an additional State House Special Election for District 48. Quite possibly others will follow.

The City of Adel, Georgia will hold a June 16, 2015 Special Election for Mayor to fill the unexpired term of Richard C. Barr, who resigned.

Voters will go to the polls on June 16 in a Special Election to fill the Locust Grove City Council seat vacated by the passing of James S. Rosser.

In Lake City, a Special Election will fill the City Council seat formerly held by Yvonne Kelly.

Wayne County Commission District Three was made vacant when Thomas M. Proudfoot, Jr. died and voters will fill the seat by Special Election on June 16.

R.I.P. Harry Geisinger

State Rep. Harry Geisinger will be remembered at a family visitation on Friday, May 8 from 6 PM to 8 PM and memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 9 at 2 PM at the Northside Chapel, 12050 Crabapple Road in Roswell.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to your local blood bank.

Public service and politics were Harry’s two greatest passions in life. He embraced and combined them when he successfully ran for the Georgia State House of Representatives – District 72 (Doraville, Chamblee, Dunwoody) in 1968.

Geisinger was one of 24 Republicans serving at the time in the Democratic Deep South. He used to joke that their caucus meetings could be held in one room. He was also elected the House Minority Whip in 1970. He was one of 50 legislators in 1972 nominated by the press and selected by Rutgers University to attend the prestigious Eagleton Institute of Politics. Geisinger resigned his seat in 1974 to run as “the Common Sense Candidate” for governor.

He loved serving as the Georgia state campaign manager for Phil Crane’s presidential bid in 2004 and working closely on Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential bid in Georgia.

In 1980, Geisinger was appointed to the Southeastern Power Administration as Administrator with the Department of Energy under President Ronald Reagan. He held that position until 1988. During his stewardship, the Southeastern Power Administration thrived; Geisinger had the honor to address the U.S. Congress more than once, and was always thrilled to have breakfast at the White House while visiting D.C.

In 2004, when then Governor Sonny Perdue tapped Rep. Tom Campbell for an opening on the Fulton County Superior Court, Geisinger was asked to run for Campbell’s open seat in House District 48 (Sandy Springs, Roswell, Dunwoody). Geisinger has been the District 48 Representative these past 10 years and was serving his sixth term when he passed this week.

State Rep. Stacey Abrams, who leads the House Democratic Caucus, remembered Geisinger on Facebook in a touching tribute from across the aisle.

As the 2015 legislative session neared its close, I received a surprise call from Rep. Harry Geisinger. He had no pending legislation that I was privy to, no urgent issue that I could aid. But as anyone who has worked with Harry Geisinger will tell you, he quickly cut to the heart of the matter. He brusquely explained that he was in the hospital receiving treatment for his leukemia, and that he had a favor to ask of me. His nurse had a daughter who was interested in politics, and he wondered if I would be willing to meet with her.

This past Tuesday I met with the young woman, and she was surprised by the willingness Harry had shown to connect her with me – a person of differing political persuasion. I told her that while the call surprised me, the request did not. During the nine years I was privileged to serve with him, the Honorable Harry Geisinger consistently earned the title. He was a man of terse words but deep meaning, one who believed in doing what he saw as right and devil take the hindmost. He showed an abiding faith in the capacity of Georgia’s elected leaders to earn their place beneath the Gold Dome. With my colleagues and with our state, I mourn the passing of Rep. Harry Geisinger and offer my sincerest condolences to his family. He will be missed.

The Dunwoody Crier brings us another view of Geisinger’s service and highlights a consistent theme of his service from the 1970s to the new century.

Geisinger was a pioneering Georgia Republican, having served two separate stints in the state House. His first was from 1969 to 1974. Those terms were best remembered for his 1971 effort to create a city of Dunwoody by referendum.

After he retired from his federal post, Geisinger, by then a Roswell resident, made his return to politics, winning a state House seat in 2005 a part of a new Republican majority.

Through it all he was an advocate for the new cities, especially Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.

Georgia Politics

State Senator P.K. Martin passed another legislative milestone with the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal on Martin’s first legislation to pass both houses of the General Assembly.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed Martin’s Senate Bill 108 during a ceremony at the governor’s office. The new law sets up assistance for insurers by requiring them to keep risk management agendas.

“The signing of SB 108 will provide support and guidance for larger Georgia insurers while holding them accountable for risk management planning,” said Sen. Martin. “I am thankful for Governor Deal and my colleague’s support on this bill and look forward to working toward creating and passing legislation that will protect and keep the best interests of Georgians.”

Under the law, insurers must complete confidential Own Risk and Solvency Assessments once a year. It is also set up to offer them guidance on how to fill out the report and file it with state Insurance Commissioner’s office.

Congratulations to the many state judges who will receive raises under legislation signed by Gov. Deal, and to the lower court judges and prosecutors whose salaries are tied to judicial pay.

Under HB 279, Supreme Court justices and Appeals Court judges will get 5 percent raises, boosting their pay to $175,600 and $174,500, respectively.

Superior Court judges, district attorneys and public defenders will receive 5 percent raises, too. In addition, under a proposal Deal made, those officials in circuits with accountability courts — a majority of the circuits — will see an additional $6,000.

Accountability courts, backed by Deal, require defendants to go to work, stay sober and get treatment. Most offenders enter the programs to stay out of prison and, if they graduate, get their charges dismissed. Judges say they perform accountability court work in addition to their regular duties.

The measure will bump up the pay of some Superior Court judges in places such as Marietta, Augusta and Savannah to above or near $200,000 year.

Supporters of HB 279 say the big raises are needed to make sure top lawyers seek out judgeships when there are openings.

Gov. Deal also signed legislation that gives favorable car tag tax treatment for Georgia-based employees of Mercedes Benz who lease cars as part of their employment.

Under the bill, the last to gain passage during this year’s General Assembly session, Mercedes will be allowed to lease cars to its employees without paying a title fee. The tax break will cost $1.3 million a year in lost tax revenue.

The provision was added at the end of the session to underlying legislation that will improve homeowners’ rights to appeal their property tax assessments, prompting one Democratic leader to complain about “last-minute shenanigans” being perpetrated by majority Republicans.

But some GOP lawmakers also opposed the tax break as an unfair special favor to reward Mercedes for coming to Georgia.

Deal also signed legislation regulating ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Surrounded by young Uber drivers in black T-shirts and Lyft drivers wearing pink, Deal signed into law House Bill 225, sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, and House Bill 190, by Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna.

Starting July 1, Deal said, the bills will protect riders as well as drivers and fill “gaps” in state law regarding insurance coverage and passenger safety in the for-hire industry, which includes taxis and limousines.

The bills also require ride-hailing companies to register with the Georgia Department of Public Safety.

Georgia lawmakers approved the bills in the recent session but sponsors didn’t get all they wanted, such as mandatory fingerprinting of drivers to ensure they don’t have criminal records.

Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing firms do their own background checks of drivers using private investigating companies that do not require driver fingerprints.

Powell has said repeatedly that no background check, regardless of its thoroughness, is good enough unless drivers are fingerprinted. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and taxi and limousine associations also have taken that position.

Georgia Power has added 32 Chevrolet Volts to its corporate fleet. The vehicles are driven by electric motors, but include a small gasoline engine as a backup electric generator to provide greater range. They don’t qualify as fully-electric in Georgia.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer editorializes that the 2015 legislative commitment to children’s welfare paid off for citizens.

The most significant among them is probably Senate Bill 8, which establishes a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund. It’s an issue to which Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, has been trying to draw political attention (and funding) for the last six years, because Georgia — specifically Atlanta — has become appallingly active in terms of child sex trafficking.

Another piece of child-focused legislation approved this year was a bill Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, co-sponsored with Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, which would guarantee small children with autism $30,000 in medical insurance coverage.

Other “Year of the Child” bills included a requirement for suicide prevention training in the state’s school systems. This legislation doubly beneficial in that it is intended to save young lives, and the program it mandates is funded from a foundation and thus requires no public money.

House Bill 131, sponsored by Rep. Pam Dickerson, D-Conyers, adds electronic and social media communications to the state’s anti-bullying laws. (Tragic stories involving social media and email bullying have become far too familiar.)

Taken as a whole, these child-friendly laws are both well intentioned and well crafted. In this context, the General Assembly earns a curtain call.

In Warner Robins, nine-year old Brett Williams met with Mayor Randy Toms to ask about the job, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Warner Robins City Council rejected an ordinance to allow backyard chickens, but the issue is likely to return.

In Macon, Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms compared gang members to “terrorists on the streets” when sentencing a convicted murderer.

State Rep. Allen Peake spoke to a joint meeting of the North Cobb, Marietta, East Cobb and Chattahoochee Civitan clubs.

Peake gave a presentation about his legislation to about 40 members of the Civitan clubs, beginning with how he became involved in the issue. Peake said he was introduced to Haleigh Cox, a 5-year-old girl who was hospitalized because of her uncontrolled seizures.

“When I looked into Haleigh’s eyes, at that very moment — I’m not trying to spiritualize or dramatize it — but I’m telling you, when I looked at her, it hit me, the question that each of us has to ask: ‘What would I do if this were my child?’ That set the wheels in motion for me.”

Peake’s bill, signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal last month, decriminalizes possession of cannabis oil with a maximum of 5 percent THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana, provided the oil was obtained legally.

The oil must also be used to treat one of eight conditions approved by the Legislature: cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell disease.

Additionally, the law requires a state registry for patients treated by cannabis oil. Peake said the registry is ready, but hasn’t gone “live” yet.

However, there are some Georgia families that have been given temporary registration cards so they can begin treatments with the oil, he said.

Congressman Barry Loudermilk spoke to the Marietta Daily Journal from Berlin, addressing Middle East events and policy.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s trip to the Middle East as part of a Congressional delegation reminds him somewhat of running for office.

“The intensity is very much like a campaign,” the Cassville Republican said. “The last couple of stops, we hadn’t even totally unpacked all of our bags. … It’s one meeting after the next after the next, (then) get on a plane to the next stop.”

“It’s pretty amazing when you walk into a room and you’re meeting with the prime minister of a nation or you’re meeting with the general secretary of a nation’s defense or the head of their homeland security — the key decision makers of Middle Eastern and European nations — you stop and you think for a minute, you know, this is the real world here,” he said. “What we say and do makes a difference.”

Loudermilk said the purpose of the trip, his first to the Middle East as a congressman, is to learn about the issues involving fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State as well as terrorist organizations moving through the Middle East, Europe and possibly to the United States. The key to this issue is Turkey, Loudermilk said.

Victor Hill Perp Walks

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill was on the wrong end of a perp walk when he turned himself in to his Gwinnett County colleagues, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill turned himself in Wednesday night on a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct in the Lawrenceville-area shooting that left a friend critically injured.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said the decision to charge Hill came when he learned of statements that can be heard being made by the victim in the background of a 911 call before she slipped out of consciousness Sunday afternoon.

The sheriff, who has reportedly declined to cooperate with police, arrived at the Gwinnett jail before 8 p.m. wearing a silver sport coat; he posted bond of $2,950 before 8:40 p.m. He entered and exited the side booking entrance of the Lawrenceville jail, keeping out of view of reporters who assembled and then watched him drive away.

Prior to surrendering, “Hill was afforded the opportunity to provide a statement about the incident but he declined to comment,” Cpl. Deon Washington, spokesman for Gwinnett police said in a news release. Washington added that the district attorney’s office would be responsible for “the final outcome of the case.”

Wednesday’s brief visit was Hill’s second to the Gwinnett County jail.

The controversial sheriff was also housed there on charges in a public corruption case that he beat in 2013. While facing indictment on charges including racketeering and theft, he won a new term in office in 2012, after serving previously from 2005 to 2008.

Whether he is convicted of the new charge or not will not necessarily affect his position, because it’s a misdemeanor. Georgia law details a process for removal from office on felonies only.

Porter said the evidence he’s seen so far doesn’t call for felony charges.

“You have to have an intent to injure,” he said. “This is what the law calls gross negligence.”

Specifically, the warrant, obtained by the Daily Post, accuses Hill of “consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that his tactical practice could harm someone in the model home, which is a publicly-open place of business.

Porsche News

Porsche Cars North America will open its new headquarters, located at One Porsche Drive, at 11:30 and celebrate past midnight.

The opening comes on the heels of the company’s first ever month of selling more than 5000 vehicles in the United States.

“This is the first time in PCNA history that we celebrate exceeding 5,000 units in one month – a milestone record,” said Detlev von Platen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Porsche Cars North America, Inc. “The U.S. market continues to show increased demand and passion for Porsche.”

April 2015 sales were led by the Cayenne model line, with 1,773 units sold. Macan had its strongest month yet with over 1,500 units delivered, while nearly 900 sales were recorded for the 911. For the year, 16,647 Porsches have been sold, an increase of 17 percent compared to the first four months of 2014.

Porsche Approved Certified Pre-Owned vehicle sales in the U.S. were 1,206 for April 2015, up 18.8 percent compared to April 2014. This month also sets the record for Porsche CPO sales in one month.

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