Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 12, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 12, 2015

On May 12, 1740, Georgia forces under James Oglethorpe took Fort Diego in Florida from the Spanish and mocked the defenders jean shorts.

The worst American defeat of the Revolutionary War occurred at Charleston, South Carolina on May 12, 1780. American Major General Benjamin Lincoln, who surrendered that day would later accept the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia.

On May 12, 1789, the Society of St. Tammany was founded in New York and would grow to a dominant home for political bosses. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics (Signet Classics) remains one of the best historical versions of how political machines worked.

George Washington visited Georgia on May 12, 1791. From Purysburg, South Carolina, Georgia officials escorted Washington on a barge twenty-five miles down the Savannah River to Savannah, where he would stay four days.

On May 12, 1864, Confederate General Joseph Johnston pulled his Army of Tennessee and Georgia back to Resaca, Georgia. In Virginia, Major General John B. Gordon saved the life, or prevented the capture of General Robert E. Lee at Spotsylvania. After the war, Gordon would serve as Governor of Georgia and United States Senator.

On May 12, 1865, the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets awoke in Staunton, where they had marched from Lexington 18 miles the previous day; after another 19 miles headed north up the Shenandoah Valley, the would make camp at Mt. Crawford, near Harrisonburg. The cadets ranged in age from fifteen to twenty-five years.

On May 12, 1970, Georgia National Guard troops were mobilized to end race riots that had broken out the night before in Augusta. On that same day, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, my father’s favorite player as a youth, hit his 500th home run.

Georgia Politics

Congratulations and condolences to State Rep. Jon Burns (R-Newington) who was elected State House Majority Leader yesterday by his colleagues in the Republican Caucus. The following is from the press release issued by House Communications,

The House Republican Caucus elected Georgia State Representative Jon Burns (R-Newington) as the House Majority Leader during a caucus election on Monday, May 11, 2015. In this position, Rep. Burns will be responsible for leading the 117 member House Republican Caucus.

“I am humbled and honored to accept the position of House Majority Leader and am privileged to continue my public service and my service to the House Majority Caucus with this new leadership role,” said House Majority Leader Burns. “We have seen many years of success within this party, and I expect nothing less in the days ahead as we continue to build upon our conservative principles to improve the lives of the citizens of this state and make Georgians proud. I look forward to working with every member of our caucus to bring our body together, problem solve, and unify our caucus through the common principles that bind this party together.”

“I am proud to congratulate Rep. Jon Burns on his election as Majority Leader,” said Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “Jon is a great asset to our leadership team, and I know he will serve our members well in this important role. The Republican caucus is fortunate to have a deep bench of talented leaders and I know Rep. Allen Peake will continue to help us move our caucus and this state forward.”

This is Rep. Burns’ sixth term in the Georgia House of Representatives and his first as House Majority Leader.

Representative Jon Burns represents the citizens of District 159, which includes portions of Bulloch, Effingham, and Screven counties. He was first elected into the House of Representatives in 2006 and is currently the Chairman of the Game, Fish, & Parks Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Agriculture & Consumer Affairs, Economic Development & Tourism, Rules, State Properties, and Transportation committees

State Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) was elected Secretary/Treasurer of the Caucus, the position being vacated by State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), who ran for Majority Leader and came in second. Peake will pack up his office from the Capitol, as he no longer merits a space in the GOP Leadership suite and make his way over to the Coverdell Legislative Office Building in less-convenient digs. Those of us who have been around for a while will remember when David Ralston lost his race for Speaker after challenging then-reigning Glenn Richardson. Losing a house leadership race is in no way a death sentence to a political career. Like the ancient Israelites in the wilderness, your ultimate destination may still lie over the mountains.

Rep. Peake spoke to Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph.

Peake said he was disappointed with the outcome.

“This one hurts,” he said. “I fought as hard as I could. … This was a vote by my colleagues, so there’s always a sense of rejection when you lose.”

Burns, first elected in 2004, had the support of House Speaker David Ralston.

“Clearly, that made a difference in the election,” Peake said.

Peake said his loss could have an impact on the midstate, since only caucus Chairman Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, is currently among the GOP’s leadership.

“I think it was important when you had Larry O’Neal in a position for Middle Georgia,” Peake said. “It could leave a vacuum in the (party’s) leadership for Middle Georgia, for sure.”

State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming) announced yesterday he was resigning from the State House effective 5 PM to accept a job out of state.

Hamilton made the announcement, which ended several days of speculation that he might step down, in an email to friends and supporters.

In it, the high-ranking Republican from Cumming, who has held various leadership positions during his House tenure, wrote that the decision came with “mixed emotions and feelings.”

“I announced earlier today to my House colleagues at the Capitol that I am resigning my position and I then delivered my official notice to Governor [Nathan] Deal’s office per state law,” Hamilton wrote.

“I have truly enjoyed serving the citizens of Georgia and representing the citizens of Cumming and Forsyth County … I do not take this honor lightly, and it is difficult for me to leave this duty and to acknowledge that I will no longer have that honor.”

Hamilton went on to note that he and his wife, Sandy, arrived at the decision “after much prayer and family discussion” and were looking forward to job opportunity that requires him to relocate to Nashville.

To keep track of upcoming elections for the State House, we have the following to be decided this year by voters:

• House District 55, formerly held by Tyrone Brooks, Sr., who resigned and pled guilty to federal charges – scheduled June 16, 2015

• House District 48 (Roswell), vacated by the death of State Rep. Harry Geisinger

• House District 155 (Ocilla), vacated by the appointment of State Rep. Jay Roberts as Transportation Planner

• House District 24 (Cumming) vacated by the resignation of State Rep. Mark Hamilton

• House District 146 (Houston County) vacated by the appointment of State Rep. Larry O’Neal to the Tax Tribunal

Meanwhile, Gov. Deal spent yesterday on a fly-around to hold ceremonial signing of the FY2016 budget across the state.

“Our decisions on what to fund each year carry a great deal of weight,” Deal said. “I commend the General Assembly for working with me to produce a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our agencies and the people of this great state.”

The final product includes the following key items:

•  An increase of over half a billion dollars in funding for K-12 education, much of which will be used by local school districts to continue to restore instructional days, eliminate furlough days and raise teachers’ salaries

•  Funding for the continued development of the Georgia Film Academy to ensure the state has the workforce needed to sustain its thriving film industry

•  An expansion of the number of strategic industries for which the full cost of tuition is covered for Georgia’s technical college students — an effort to help meet demand for available workers

•  Another $36 million for services for Georgia’s children in need, including funding for additional caseworkers and money to implement the Child Welfare Reform Council’s recommendations, which promote the safety and effectiveness of caseworkers

•  Funding for tools needed to make the new “hub and spoke” model for rural hospitals a success, which will help ensure citizens in these rural areas have access to needed care

•  An additional $19.7 million to continue the state’s criminal justice reforms, which utilize community alternatives to sentencing, educational initiatives and reentry support to enhance the safety of Georgians through wise stewardship of tax dollars

DeKalb County

We have heard that mailers announcing that Vaughn Irons is running for DeKalb County Commission District 5, vacated by Lee May, who serves as iCEO of DeKalb, were in mailboxes on Saturday. To make that happen they probably would have had to have been mailed no later than Thursday, the day before May announced.

This is the same Vaughn Irons who won $1.5 million in DeKalb County contracts after an apparently forged Ethics Board letter cleared the way for Irons to bid on projects while chairing the DeKalb County Development Authority. The same Vaughn Irons who Lee May himself apparently wanted to remove from the Development Authority. The same Vaughn Irons who tried to sneak a video gaming casino past the DeKalb County Commission and who has DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson on payroll as a consultant to the casino project. The same Vaughn Irons who is suing DeKalb County over his company’s casino project.

As it turns out, it was the lack of a Commission member from District Five that rendered the Commission vote on the casino invalid. An absence that could be cured by Vaughn Irons himself being elected to the District Five Commission Seat. Of course Irons would likely be required to recuse himself from voting on that project if elected to the Commission.

Speaking of DeKalb County, former Commissioner Elaine Boyer began her 14-month stay at Club Feb by checking in to a prison camp in Florida.

Speaking of Corruption

Former Monroe, Georgia Public Works director Steve Worley faces a federal indictment and resigned his seat on the Barrow County Commission.

Don Cole on Huckabee’s Announcement

In case you missed our friend Brian Donegan’s first-hand reporting from the Mike Huckabee Presidential campaign announcement, Don Cole has his own take on the former Governor of Arkansas.

Mike Huckabee is the first candidate to announce who has also served as a Governor. He held his announcement on May 5 in his home town of Hope, Arkansas. The theme of the event was titled, “From Hope to Higher Ground.” It was not only a reference to humble beginnings in small town America but also a platform to contrast the false hope of Obama to real hope. The entire event lasted a little over an hour with his speech lasting about 30 minutes.

I could detect that he had one of those welling up of emotion moments which brings a lump in the throat. It was barely noticeable. Some use the phrase, “fire in his belly” to describe if a candidate really means what he says and is really committed to the task ahead.

There was no question. Mike Huckabee has the fire in his belly.

Governor Huckabee’s speech has been the lengthiest of speeches thus far. His was the first of the announcement speeches that pointed out differences with some of the other announced candidates.

He hit all the traditional conservative points – American exceptionalism, Obama, Veterans, dysfunction in Washington, big government, national security, friendship wtih Israel, right to life, traditional marriage, religious liberty.

In 2008 Huckabee was the identified evangelical candidate and he won Iowa and several states with a strong evangelical base. In 2016 there are several other candidates who have significant support from that same base. The announcement speeches of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson all presented a strong faith based theme.

Drone Wars

Last week we noted that Georgia Power added 32 electric vehicle to its existing fleet. Now, Georgia Power’s corporate parents, Southern Company, is working on integrating aerial drones into its operations, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

The company (NYSE: SO), which announced May 7 that it will begin investigating how to use drones, says in comments filed with the Federal Aviation Administration that “small-UAS [unmanned-aircraft systems] applications provide electric utilities exciting new capabilities that can dramatically enhance the safety and reliability of energy systems by reducing exposure to electric-infrastructure hazards, accelerating restoration and repair of damaged electric infrastructure, increasing system reliability, and bolstering security of power-generation and transmission facilities.”

Southern, which serves more than 4.5 million customers in the Southeast, is asking the FAA to allow use of drones “beyond line of sight” and close to power-generation and transmission facilities.

The company is also asking the FAA to allow drones to carry things.

“The ability of small UAS to carry property and tow lines is significant to the electric-utility industry, having many potential applications,” the company says in its comments. “For example, small UAS with this capability can be used to set climbing protection and fall ropes to protect workers on elevated surfaces. They can also be used for conductor stringing, which is normally conducted across treacherous terrain and bodies of water. Another application is carrying tools to workers on transmission towers or around a natural disaster area. These applications increase safety and efficiency. They also benefit the public through increased power reliability and faster recovery from disasters and outages.”

Southern also wants to be able to operate drones during nighttime. “The ability to conduct nighttime small-UAS operations is especially important to Southern Company,” it says. “Small-UAS operations at night can assist line workers in identifying damaged assets faster while reducing worker exposure to environmental and electrical hazards. This can result in faster power restoration to affected communities and reduced public exposure to electrical hazards.”

In addition, Southern says drones should be able to be used from moving land vehicles, adding, “operations from moving land vehicles make small UAS viable for long-distance power-line inspections and other utility maintenance and operations activities…Operation from moving land vehicles also makes small UAS viable for power-plant security surveillance, which protects the nation’s power supply and mitigates risk to electric-generation facilities.”

This is how SkyNet started. No word on whether the drones will carry surveillance cameras or take commands from the smart meters attached to many homes.

Last week, the Washington Post reported on what are believed to be FBI surveillance planes that circled over Baltimore during the recent unpleasantness there.

As Benjamin Shayne settled into his back yard to listen to the Orioles game on the radio Saturday night, he noticed a small plane looping low and tight over West Baltimore — almost exactly above where rioting had erupted several days earlier, in the aftermath of the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, injured in police custody.

The plane appeared to be a small Cessna, but little else was clear. The sun had already set, making traditional visual surveillance difficult. So, perplexed, Shayne tweeted: “Anyone know who has been flying the light plane in circles above the city for the last few nights?”

That was 9:14 p.m. Seven minutes later came a startling reply. One of Shayne’s nearly 600 followers tweeted back a screen shot of the Cessna 182T’s exact flight path and also the registered owner of the plane: NG Research, based in Bristow, Va.

What Shayne’s online rumination helped unveil was a previously secret, multi-day campaign of overhead surveillance by city and federal authorities during a period of historic political protest and unrest.

Discovery of the flights — which involved at least two airplanes and the assistance of the FBI — has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to demand answers about the legal authority for the operations and the reach of the technology used. Planes armed with the latest surveillance systems can monitor larger areas than police helicopters and stay overhead longer, raising novel civil liberties issues that have so far gotten little scrutiny from courts.

Civil libertarians have particular concern about surveillance technology that can quietly gather images across dozens of city blocks — in some cases even square miles at a time — inevitably capturing the movements of people under no suspicion of criminal activity into a government dragnet. The ACLU plans to file information requests with federal agencies on Wednesday, officials said.

“A lot of these technologies sweep very, very broadly, and, at a minimum, the public should have a right to know what’s going on,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU specializing in privacy and technology issues.

Rich Galen on Polling

After last year, we had an extended discussion on whether polling can be done accurately any more, and Rich Galen’s most recent column touches on some important points in the context of polling failures to predict the outcome of parliamentary elections in the UK.

•  One thing that has not changed in all the years I’ve been doing its is the warning: “Polls are not predictive; they are a snapshot of what respondents were saying on the day(s) the poll was taken.”

•  Nevertheless, nearly every day we are treated to a new poll showing Jeb Bush has gained or lost two percentage points to Scott Walker and/or Marco Rubio which is breathlessly reported on the cable news shows until the next day when the next poll is released.

•  As we have said before and will say again: There’s a reason they hold an actual election.

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