Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 1, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 1, 2015

Benjamin Franklin became Georgia’s agent in England on June 1, 1768, making him also Georgia’s first lobbyist.

On June 1, 1775, Georgia patriots sent a care package to their brethren in Massachusetts comprising 63 barrels of rice and £122 after the battles at Lexington and Concord.

The court martial of Benedict Arnold convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 1, 1779.

Arnold negotiated his defection to the British and the subversion of West Point over several months. The British already held control of New York City and believed that by taking West Point they could effectively cut off the American’s New England forces from the rest of the fledgling nation.

In August 1780, Sir Henry Clinton offered Arnold £20,000 for delivering West Point and 3,000 troops. Arnold told General Washington that West Point was adequately prepared for an attack even though he was busy making sure that that it really wasn’t. He even tried to set up General Washington’s capture as a bonus. His plan might have been successful but his message was delivered too late and Washington escaped. The West Point surrender was also foiled when an American colonel ignored Arnold’s order not to fire on an approaching British ship.

Arnold’s defection was revealed to the Americans when British officer John André, acting as a messenger, was robbed by AWOL Americans working as pirates in the woods north of New York City. The notes revealing Arnold’s traitorous agreement were stashed in his boots.

Big Ben began telling the time on May 31, 1859 in London, England. When Parliament is in session, a light above Big Ben is illuminated.

On June 1, 1942, a Polish newspaper first published information about the gassing of Jews at Nazi concentration camps in Poland.

The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1, 1967. The album is listed as #1 on the Rolling Stone top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song’s regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of “A Day in the Life,” the 13 tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

Issued in Britain on June 1st, 1967, and a day later in America, Sgt. Pepper is also rock’s ultimate declaration of change. For the Beatles, it was a decisive goodbye to matching suits, world tours and assembly-line record-making. “We were fed up with being Beatles,” McCartney said decades later, in Many Years From Now, Barry Miles’ McCartney biography. “We were not boys, we were men… artists rather than performers.

“It was a peak,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970, describing both the album and his collaborative relationship with McCartney. “Paul and I were definitely working together,” Lennon said….
Rolling Stone should stick to writing about music.

A summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev ended on May 31, 1988. Four years later, in 1992, Gorbachev was dancing for dollars in the United States, including the keynote address at Emory University’s graduation.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Yesterday, the Cobb County Republican Party sent an email stating that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be having an event in Buckhead this afternoon. The AJC Political Insider also is reporting the Governor’s trip.

According to the Republican’s campaign-in-waiting, Walker will “will meet with local elected officials, party leaders and activists,” today before heading to Florida for Tuesday’s candidate cattle call in Orlando. This likely will include fundraising discussions.

This appears to be Walker’s second Georgia trip of the election cycle. He also stopped by Sea Island in March for the ultra-private American Enterprise Institute World Forum. Walker will be back in August for the RedState Gathering in Atlanta.

In early May, Walker said he would not make an announcement of whether he’s running for President until after signing his state budget, which is due in late June or early July.

Also early last month, Walker visited South Carolina, where he previewed some themes that might emerge in a Presidential campaign.

In his address to the Freedom Summit here sponsored by Citizens United, Mr. Walker ran through an extended list of his accomplishments as governor of Wisconsin. “We did some pretty big things,” he said.

He recalled how he survived a recall election, lowered his state’s unemployment rate, and passed gun-friendly legislation and voter identification laws. And he spoke often of his wife and children.

“The reason I tell you that all here is not to brag — well not much,” he joked, before making the case that his actions in Wisconsin could translate to national stage.

But he seemed to really capture the crowd when he spoke about national security, or, as Mr. Walker described it, “safety.”

“National security is something you hear about,” Mr. Walker said. “Safety is something you feel.”

He framed the debate in personal terms, describing a fear that “it is not a matter of if” but when another “attempt is made on American soil.” And then he launched into the line that got him his biggest standing ovation of the day: “I want a leader who is willing to take the fight to them before they take the fight to us.”

If you had the opportunity to ask Scott Walker a question today, what would you ask?

A new poll in Iowa by Bloomberg and the Des Moines Register shows Walker leading the pack in the GOP Presidential primary.

[M]ore than a third of likely Republican caucus participants say they would never vote for Bush—one factor in a new index to assess candidate strength in such a crowded field. Forty-three percent view him favorably, compared to 45 percent who view him unfavorably.

Walker is backed by 17 percent as the state enters a busy summer of candidate visits, a planned straw poll, and campaigning at the Iowa State Fair. Tied for second are Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 10 percent, with Bush and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee next at 9 percent each.

They’re followed at 6 percent by Rubio and 2012 Iowa caucuses winner Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania. With eight months to go before the 2016 caucuses, there’s plenty of time for movement.

“Scott Walker’s momentum puts him solidly in first place,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “For the time being, he’s doing the right things to make the right first impression.”

In the previous Iowa Poll, taken in January, Walker stood atop the field at 15 percent.

Four years ago, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and then-Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann sat atop the Iowa Poll at 23 percent and 22 percent. Romney ultimately finished a close second in Iowa, while Bachmann ended up sixth and exited the race the following morning.

Walter Jones of Morris News writes about increasingly high expectations for the “SEC Primary” conceived of by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Republican operative Eric Tanenblatt said Georgia’s timing could be as critical in the current election cycle.

“Campaigns are about momentum. Early primary wins show momentum. The more attention they pay to Georgia, the more knowledgeable they become of the state. This can only help in the future,” he said. “A critical win at the right time can make a big difference.”

There will be a handful of states also conducting primaries March 1, but there are likely to be more and bigger states having theirs March 15 when Republican rules allow winners of each state to capture all of the available convention delegates. That winner-take-all traffic jam makes it vital to have momentum ahead of time.

“If it continues to play out like this, the race is certainly going to come through Georgia and the South, the road to the White House will,” said Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the official empowered to pick the date of Georgia’s primary. “The candidates will have to be aware of what’s going on in Georgia. People are going to be able to ask them about what their ideas are, but I think they’ll also learn about the state.”

One state-specific concern that came up often in interviews is the continued funding for deepening of the Savannah River’s shipping channel, now that the state has put up its share of the money. Trade policy that keeps that port and the one in Brunswick humming is also important.

Among those exports are farm products, making agricultural policy critical to many voters. Agriculture is the state’s largest economic sector, even if it’s not the only sector. That also makes immigration significant because it is the prime source of workers on farms and food processors as well as in the construction and carpet industries, Dorfman notes.

At the same time, there are many Georgians opposed to relaxing immigration enforcement, according to Swint.

Whatever the candidates wind up promising, Georgia is certain to benefit in some other ways.

For one, homegrown consultants and volunteers will be onboard with the various campaigns, gaining big-league experience and connections, Kemp says. That will pay off for them as well as the state down the road.

“A few of our folks, I don’t know who it is yet, are going to pick that right horse. That’s going to be good from the state,” he said.

Next door in the Palmetto State, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham will announce today his run for President.

While other candidates are ceding no ground to Graham, who has been in the Senate since 2003 and Congress since 1995, he has managed to freeze a lot of money and political talent in the state. He has requested allies to keep their powder dry until after the New Hampshire primary — and many are heeding his request — even as Graham’s bid remains a severe long shot premised on his hawkish foreign policy views.

But if Graham, a raconteur and staple of Sunday morning news shows, expects his many challengers for the GOP nomination to cede the Palmetto State to a native son, he’s mistaken, Republican activists and political observers in South Carolina said.

“He’s going to have his opportunity to kind of show himself to other states,” said Taylor Mason, the third vice chairman of the South Carolina GOP. “We like him in South Carolina enough to make him a pretty long-term senator. (But) I don’t know how he’s going to go over with the entire GOP primary base.”

Despite his national profile and the ease with which he has consistently won in November, Graham remains something of an anomaly (he would prefer the term “maverick”) among Southern Republicans. Two easy examples: He once said he’d be willing to raise taxes to save Social Security and he supports changes in immigration law that would allow some immigrants living in the country illegally to stay.

Asked whether Graham would force other candidates to leave South Carolina for him, Dona Ayers, a veteran Republican operative in South Carolina, was direct.

“Do I think they’re going to step aside for Lindsey? Absolutely not,” Ayers said. “I think South Carolina is very much in play.”

Non-Presidential Politics

Jury selection begins this morning in the retrial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.

Last October, a jury failed to reach unanimous verdicts on any of the 13 counts of extortion, theft, perjury and bribery filed against Ellis.

Last week, prosecutors dropped four of the counts. DeKalb District Attorney Robert James decided not to move forward with charges alleging Ellis ordered county employees to create lists of contractors that he then used to solicit campaign contributions.

Ellis is accused of running a pay-for-play scheme in which contractors were pressured to donate to his 2012 re-election campaign under the threat of losing work.

Perhaps we’ll see ethics charges against a state representative accused of walking right up to the ethical line by the AJC.

A state lawmaker with a $1.1 million business contract on the line may have violated ethical standards when he used his elected office as a bargaining chip while negotiating a renewal of the contract with Atlanta Public Schools.

In an email sent April 15, state Rep. Mike Glanton, D-Jonesboro, attempted to get a meeting with APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen to discuss a contract between the district and teacher recruiting firm Global Teachers Research and Resources. Glanton is Global’s chief operating officer and is responsible for negotiating contracts with school districts across Georgia and in other states. But it was his legislative resume that he emphasized to the district’s top official.

“My purpose for meeting with you is three-fold,” Glanton wrote. “First, to make an introduction, second, to discuss our (APS/Global) partnership, and thirdly to assess what potential legislative goals you might have now or in the future as it relates to education in Georgia.”

Glanton also listed his assignments to the House Education Committee and the House Appropriation Committee’s Education Subcommittee, which helps set the state budget for public education. He also mentioned his appointments to a Common Core study committee and Gov. Nathan Deal’s education reform commission.

William Perry, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia, said the overt manner in which Glanton conflated his public and private roles represents “a very troublesome abuse of legislative authority.”

“He doesn’t come right out and make a threat, but he walks right up to the line, as close as you can get without stepping over it,” he said. “He gets very specific over some really important aspects of this superintendent’s job.”

Early voting continues in the Special Elections for House District 55 and House District 24.

Starting on Tuesday, local residents could vote early for vacant seats in both state House District 24 and Cumming City Council Post 1. Perhaps due to high school graduations and Memorial Day, the first week of voting started out a bit weak.

“The total for the administration building this week is 92. The total for city hall for this week is 98. That makes the grand total for this week 190,” said county Elections Supervisor Mandi Smith. “The first week of early voting has been fairly comparable in both locations, no major hiccups, turnout is pretty light so far, based on the total.”

Voting was held from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at Cumming City Hall and the Forsyth County Administration for the first week of advance voting, and will follow suit next week.

June 6 will be the only Saturday voting, and will be open at city hall, the administration building and the Midway Park Community building. The final week of advance voting, June 8-12, the three locations will be open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. June 8, 9 and 10, and from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. on June 11 and 12.

The City Council election is open only to city residents, and those in the city are also able to vote in the District 24 race, as the city lies in the district.

The field includes: Roger Crow, a past president of the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce; former Forsyth County Commissioner Linda Ledbetter; Julie Tressler, a real estate agent and small business owner; and Cumming banker Chuck Welch.

The winner of the election will fill the remaining 18 months on Rupert Sexton’s term, and no run off will be held in that race. Sexton, who had held the post since 1971, announced on April 21 that he would be stepping down to enjoy retirement. His last day with the city was April 30.

In next month’s Special Election for House District 155, early voting begins later this month.

Sandi Fallin, election supervisor for the Tift County Board of Elections and Registration, said early voting begins June 22. Voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at Election Central, located at 222 Chesnutt Ave., Building B. Early voting will end at 5 p.m. July 10.

Fallin said the office will be closed July 3 in observance of Independence Day, but will be open July 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (the second Saturday prior to the election, the office has to be open). There will be no voting July 13. On election day, July 14, only five precincts will be open. Voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fallin said this election only affects the upper portion of Tift County. Since it only covers a portion of the county, the following five precincts will be open: Brighton, Chula, Ty Ty, Northwest and the Lodge. Fallin noted due to construction at the Leroy Rogers Senior Center, the Northwest precinct will be temporarily moved to the Tift County Recreation Department, located at 401 N. Victory Drive.

Fallin said the State House District 155 seat will be the only race on the ballot. This district covers Ben Hill, Coffee, Irwin, Tift and Turner counties.

In Savannah, dredging of the channel will begin in December.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the [Corps of Engineers'] commanding general, toured the port Thursday and spoke with reporters. After being asked when dredging might start, Bostick consulted his local project leaders and said the soonest would be December. That’s because the contractor plans to use large hopper dredges, which the Corps has agreed to keep out of the river channel until late fall to avoid harming sea turtles during their nesting season. The outer harbor will only be open to dredging from December through March.

“The environmental windows have a lot to do with when we can dredge,” Bostick said. “That’s the primary delay in when we can start.”

Savannah homeowners want to change the short-term rental ban in effect.

Rabbi Arnold Belzer, an Ardsley Park resident, has been promoting an online petition calling for a one-year moratorium on enforcement of the ordinance.

He said the prohibition against the renting of properties for 30 days or less is unfair to homeowners outside the mixed-use zoning districts where such short-term rentals are now allowed.

The Macon-Bibb County Blight Task Force has proposed a plan for collecting information on blighted areas to target for $14 million in bond funds.

Portable electronics are now banned in the Houston County Courthouse, though elected officials, courthouse employees, attorneys and the media may still carry their Game Boys.

Added to the concerns about today’s world of terrorism and violence is the ability to manufacture guns that look like cellphones or detonate bombs from cellphones. Spires said the ban was long overdue.

Cellphones have long been prohibited in courtrooms, but the ban now extends to the entire building, which houses other county offices where people may go to buy vehicle tags, file divorce papers or obtain a copy of birth or death certificates.

Monroe County Superintendent Anthony Pack has agreed with the School Board to give up his post after grinding negotiations.

The family of a World War II veteran will be reunited with the flag that draped his coffin after the Gwinnett County Veterans Memorial Museum was given the flag, which was bought from a thrift store.

Snellville’s City Council voted to appeal an award of attorney’s fees to Mayor Kelly Kautz stemming from a lawsuit over a policy dispute.

Attorney Kevin Tallant, who the council has agreed to pay up to $20,000, filed paperwork with the Georgia Court of Appeals on Wednesday afternoon, asking the court to consider Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Warren Davis’ ruling.

Davis in late April ordered the city to pay Mayor Kelly Kautz’s three-attorney team more than $88,000, a rate slashed from the $220,000-plus initially requested, stemming from her 2014 lawsuit based largely on dispute over the authorities of her office. Kautz’s bill is on top of the $115,000 one from City Attorney Tony Powell’s team for defending the council in the litigation.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts, who has announced plans to run for mayor in November and has strong support on the council, issued a statement that he said was “the official statement from the Snellville City Council” on the issue.

“After consulting with the city attorney and independent legal counsel, we have been advised that the order compelling the city to pay the attorney fees requested by the Mayor is flawed…,” the statement read in part. “We are supporting this appeal because we cannot allow the Mayor’s baseless, politically motivated lawsuits to be rewarded by having Snellville taxpayers foot the bill for her legal fees. More importantly, we cannot allow a precedent to be set that would encourage more reckless lawsuits.”

The Cobb County Board of Education has updated its cyberbullying policy and added to the list of banned websites.

The policy revisions, which were adopted Thursday, broadened the school district’s definition of bullying to include cyberbullying that originates from both on and off school campuses.

Changes also included the replacement of MySpace on the district’s list of banned social media sites with Instagram and Snapchat, both social media sites which have gained popularity in the last year.

The changes were made based on the passage of House Bill 131, according to Darryl York, Cobb School’s executive director of policy, planning and student support.

House Bill 131, also known as “The End to Cyberbullying Act,” broadens the state’s definition of bullying to include cyberbullying. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill into law May 6.

York said the upcoming school year, will be the first year the school district addresses cyberbullying that occurs off school campuses.

“In the past, we’ve dealt with behaviors that only occur on campus, but now we will be dealing with that,” he said. “Under that state law, we’ll take a look at the impact that cyberbullying is having on a child at school and the consequences of the “bully” according to our code of conduct. The consequences are progressive in nature so that the first offense isn’t as harsh as the second or third.”

This year’s peach crop in Middle Georgia is producing good fruit, according to local producers.

“I think people are going to be really excited about the quality they are going to see this year and the availability,” said Cynde Dickey, co-owner of Dickey Farms in Musella. “And I think they are going to be very pleased with the overall crop this year.”

Peaches need a certain amount of cold weather as the trees move in and out of dormancy. The amount of cold they need is called “chill hours” — the number of hours below 45 degrees the tree receives. This year, peach trees got the average number of chill hours needed, Dario Chavez, a University of Georgia scientist, said in a May report by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The winter was wet at times but everything was OK until late March, when “we had that little dip in cold weather,” Dickey said.

Dickey Farms, which has about 1,000 acres of peach trees in Crawford County, is busily picking its early varieties, Carored and Gold Prince and about to begin picking Ruby Prince.

The early varieties are cling or semi-cling peaches — which means the peach clings to the center pit or stone — and the later varieties are freestone, she said.

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