Category: America

3
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 3, 2014

Racetrack cover

In 137 days, the Primary Elections for federal offices will be held in Georgia, with the General Assembly likely to move state Primary Elections to the same date. It is also likely that the first ballots will be cast in a little over three months from today, as early voting will likely begin in April this year. Welcome to the starting line.

On January 3, 1766, the British crown sent its first taxation representative to Georgia to administer the Stamp Act, which required each piece of paper, including business and legal documents, to bear an embossed stamp to show that tax had been paid. Georgia’s royal Governor had to have the agent protected with armed troops and he left two weeks later. Georgia merchants agreed to pay the tax in order to allow ships to be unloaded (which required a written bill of lading, hence the tax requirement). Georgia was the only colony in which taxes were actually collected under the Stamp Act, earning the enmity of other states. Thus, our current disdain for taxation has an historical precendent.

On January 3, 1861, Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown ordered volunteer militia to seize Fort Pulaski, then controlled by the federal government, though Georgia then remained part of the United States. In spring 1862, the feds, with new rifled cannon, seized Pulaski back and cut off traffic on the Savannah River to the Port of Savannah.

On January 3, 1947 Helen Douglas Mankin ended her only term in Congress from Georgia. She is often cited as the first female member of Congress from Georgia, though Florence Gibbs actually holds that distinction. Mankin was elected in a 1945 Special Election and defeated for reelection in 1946.

On January 3, 1956, Iris Faircloth Blitch was sworn in to Congress from Georgia’s Eighth District, becoming the first woman elected in a regular election who would serve a full term in Congress from Georgia.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young became the first Black Member of Congress from Georgia since reconstruction, serving the Fifth District until his appointment in 1977 by fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Saturday is the 53d birthday of Michale Stipe, born at Fort McPherson, Georgia in 1960.

On January 4, 1995, Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, becoming the third Georgian to hold that office after Congressmen Charles Crisp (1892-1896) and Howell Cobb (1850-1851).

On January 4, 1999, Alvin T. “Al” Wong was sworn in as Judge of the DeKalb State Court, and took the bench as the first Asian-American judge in the Southeastern United States.

On January 5, 1868, General George Meade took command of the Third Military District, beginning the Reconstruction in Georgia.

On January 5, 1926, Hosea Williams was born in Attapulgus, Georgia.

In these three days, we see illustrated the sweep of Georgia’s history as a state. From the Colonial period, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, the movement of women into political leadership, followed by African-Americans, the ascendance of the Republican Party in Georgia and as the dominant Southern party, to the first steps of Asian-Americans and other minorities into roles of political leadership.

Speaking of Asian-Americans

First of all, I am one. My grandfather was Japanese. Also, two Asian-Americans were elected in Georgia in 2013, including Morrow City Councilwoman Hang Tran.

Five candidates may not sound like many, but previous election cycles typically saw just one or two, said Helen Ho, executive director of the Asian-American Legal Advocacy Center of Georgia.

“I kind of feel the snowball is finally getting bigger,” said Ho, whose organization is working to get Asian-Americans to vote. “There seems to be some momentum.”

Tran, who works as a chemist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the absence of Asian-Americans in local government motivated her to run. “I just thought there wasn’t enough representation,” she said.

This year, the name of Eugene Chin Yu, an Augusta businessman of Korean ancestry, will appear on the statewide ballot among candidates for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Still, conversations with a half dozen Asian-Americans reveals a wide spectrum of political engagement — well short of a definitive groundswell. And even community leaders acknowledge the challenges of mobilizing a group that includes many disparate cultures and languages, as well as, among some immigrants, a fear of government instilled by repressive regimes in their countries of origin.

Daewon Hwang said his Korean church congregation in Cumming is a blank slate when it comes to political interest.

The reason? “The language problem,” the pastor said as he shopped in a Korean supermarket in Duluth, where 22 percent of residents are Asian-American.

Down the road in a Chinese supermarket, Yanfeng Li said he sees stirrings of engagement: websites that express political views, even some calls for candidates.

Edward Chu, an interpreter who lives in Lilburn, votes, but does not take an active interest in local politics. He’d like to see someone from the Chinese community elected to local office, but he would not support a candidate simply because of his or her heritage.

“I’d have to agree with them,” he said.

Behind the scenes, there’s a push under way to nudge Asian-Americans toward the voting booth.

Asian-American groups have canvassed door-to-door to register voters, made robo-calls before elections and brought in candidates for forums and dinners. For this year’s elections, they are targeting high-concentration areas such as Norcross, Clarkston, Duluth, Lawrenceville and John’s Creek.

Ho’s group has created a statewide database of Asian-Americans and other immigrants to track who is registered and who has voted. According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, the number of Asian-Americans who are active voters grew by about 10,000 from 2008 to 2012 to stand at more than 72,000.

“We cannot just have other community members making important decisions,” said Travis Kim, who served as president for the past two years of the Korean American Association of Greater Atlanta. “We have to be involved.”

State Rep. B.J. Pak (R-Gwinnett) is the only Asian-American member of the Georgia General Assembly, and he wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution urging our fellow Asian-Americans to vote.

While Georgia’s AAPI voter rolls increased approximately 230 percent from 2004 to 2012, the actual turnout percentage has decreased. In Georgia, only 54.7 percent of Asian-Americans registered to vote voted in the 2012 presidential election.

In Gwinnett, where AAPIs comprise roughly 12 percent of the population — the highest percentage in the state — the turnout was even lower, at 51 percent. Despite having the highest percentage of those with college degrees among all groups, Asian-Americans had the lowest turnout percentage of all racial/ethnic groups.

AAPI statewide turnout percentage actually declined significantly during the last three presidential election cycles – from 65.7 percent in 2004 to 58 percent in 2008 and 54.7 percent in 2012. These percentages would shrink even more, if we were to include in the denominator the number of Asian-Americans who were eligible but not registered..

So, what might be causing lower turnout and perceived apathy? Based on my observations, some general themes emerge.

First, many first-generation AAPIs indicated they were unable to make it the polls on Election Day because they own and operate small businesses. Although several alternatives to in-person voting on Election Day exist, many of these voters simply were not familiar with the availability of early and absentee voting.

Second, the structure of government in the U.S. is complex. Many find it difficult to fully comprehend the functions of each political office for which they are voting. Many also find it intimidating to vote because they are not fluent in English. Ballots and instructions are in English.

Third, the AAPI population is diverse. Attitudes regarding civic involvement vary in light of their past experiences with their birth country. Some simply believe they cannot have a relationship with their elected officials, that their votes would not matter, or that they cannot make a difference in government.

Lastly, when AAPI parents do not vote, their children are less likely to be involved civically.

How do we reverse the trend? At the very least, it requires combined efforts by government officials, candidates for office, and community leaders.

Perhaps some folks would like to help Rep. Pak get his op-ed translated and published in some of the Asian-language newspapers and newsletters that appear in our communities. Sounds like a great way for the Georgia Republican Party to start outreach to groups of voters some of whom are likely to be sympathetic to conservative ideology if we reach out to them.

Helen Kim Ho, who is mentioned in the first article above, makes such a point in another Op-ed in the AJC.

Any political party interested in expanding its base in Georgia must engage immigrant voters or those who have come to this country recently and become naturalized citizens.

Take Gwinnett County, with 4.5 percent Asian, 4.8 percent Latino and 25 percent African-American active voters. While voter turnout as a whole went down between the last two presidential elections at both state and county levels, voter turnout in Gwinnett increased among immigrants.

In the 2012 Duluth House district race, state Rep. Pedro Marin — the Democratic incumbent who was redistricted to a majority Republican district running through New Koreatown — won in large part due to Asian-American voters. He also won by a larger margin there than in his former majority-Democratic district.

What can be deduced from Marin’s race is that while many Asian-Americans identify as Republican — slightly more than 50 percent, based on an exit poll we conducted in 2010 — they vote ultimately on issues. A voter survey we conducted this year of hundreds of voters in Gwinnett found 20 percent saying they voted based on party loyalty.

The percentage of white voters in Georgia is on the decline. Georgia is growing more urban and less rural. Counting on the vote of avowed Democrats in the state won’t win or influence larger elections. And token, last-minute pleas to immigrant voters with top-down messaging don’t work.

That’s where knowledge of what issues catalyze immigrant civic participation can help win votes. Our 2013 Voter Survey, which included a majority of Asian respondents, asked respondents to select their top priorities from a list of 11 issues. The top three issues were public education, economic equity/small business and access to health care. Immigration was also important, but as a secondary issue alongside transportation and public safety.

Georgia Republicans now have a challenge squarely in front of us. Who’s willing to work on this project? I very rarely say nice things about the AJC, though their reporting on APS cheating scandals was world-class, but I want to thank them for paying attention to this issue.

Allen West calls out Georgia Democrats for opposing a Georgia Democrat

Allen West has called out some Georgia Democrats who are opposing the nomination of DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Civil rights leaders are showing their “true colors” again in my home state of Georgia over judicial appointments.

According to Politico,

President Barack Obama has upset Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and other civil rights leaders by ignoring their input in picking four nominees to fill vacancies on the federal bench in Georgia’s Northern District.

Lewis and fellow Presidential Medal of Freedom winners Joseph Lowery and C.T. Vivian are expected to ask Obama to withdraw his nominees — a demand that is unlikely to be met — amid concerns about the judges’ records and convictions on matters of importance to African-Americans.

The three appointments in question are:

Mark Cohen — the lead defense attorney in challenges to Georgia’s voter ID law.
Michael Boggs – a state judge who, as a member of the state Legislature, once voted to keep in place the Confederate-themed Georgia state flag
Eleanor Ross – a female state judge who is black and (gasp) a REPUBLICAN

The fourth nominee (not being specifically contested by Lewis) is Leigh Martin May – a female trial lawyer who is white — but a Democrat.

Why is Ross such a troublesome choice for Lewis? According to Joe Saunders, writing for BizPac Review,

U.S. Rep. John L. Lewis (D-Ga) is accusing the president of selling out his political base by naming Eleanor Ross as a federal judge. She is, literally, not politically correct enough. Since most black women are Democrats, Lewis reasons, any black woman Obama appoints should be Democrat, too.

This case also clearly demonstrates who is raging the real “war on women.” The Democrats want to keep black women in their place, on the political plantation.

The irony in this all is that I’m not aware, as a DeKalb Republican, of any evidence that Eleanor Ross is a Republican, other than Democrats simply stating it. Here’s Judge Ross’s voting history, from PoliticalDataSystems.com:

Eleanor Ross Voting Record3

Her voting record above shows Democratic Primary elections and General Elections. She served as an Assistant District Attorney in Fulton County and Assistant Solicitor in DeKalb under elected Democrats. A search of the Ethics Commission website shows no Republican donations. The only Republican tie of which I am aware is that Governor Nathan Deal appointed Ross to the DeKalb State Court.

I reject the contention that Eleanor Ross is a Republican as being based solely on the facts that Governor Deal appointed her to a nonpartisan position in DeKalb County and that her nomination to the federal bench is apparently supported by Georgia’s Republican United States Senators, without which any nomination is doomed.

And speaking of Allen West, he will be the featured speaker at the Bridging the Gap Lincoln Day Dinner on February 27, 2014 in Leesburg, Georgia. From an email I received:

Bridging The Gap of Georgia is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization created to assist veterans with their transition home.  Many of the veterans we serve suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Combat Stress and are homeless. We utilize a mentorship program to enable veterans to function as productive members of our society by addressing their housing, job placement, and health needs.

For the 1st Annual Lincoln Day Dinner, our featured speaker is LTC. Allen West who will share with the audience his extensive knowledge and experience, as well as provide insight on the support systems needed to enhance services to veterans. Attendees will get valuable information about Bridging The Gap of Georgia and initiatives that can address the needs and issues of veterans in their local community.

Please find detailed information about the event below.

1st Annual Lincoln Day Dinner
February 27, 2014  Time to be announced
Featured Speaker: LTC. Allen West
The Bindery at Oakland Library & Event Center
445 Oakland Parkway, West
Leesburg, GA 31763
$50.00 per person (includes dinner)
Proceeds to benefit Bridging The Gap of Georgia
Sponsored by the Lee County Republican Party

LTC. Allen West is a Georgia native, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Fox News contributor and served in both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.  His book, “Guardian of the Republic” is due to be released in April 2014.  Throughout his years leading troops, raising a loving family, serving as Congressman in Florida’s 22nd district, and emerging as one of the most authentic voices in conservative politics, LTC. West has never compromised the core values on which he was raised: family, faith, tradition, service, honor, fiscal responsibility, courage, and freedom.

You can reserve your seat for the Lincoln Day Dinner by visiting Bridging the Gap on their website.

Nancy Jester visits Spalding County GOP

Last night, Nancy Jester, Republican candidate for State School Superintendent, visited the Spalding County Republican Party.

Jester Noble

Saturday, Jester will speak to the Gwinnett County Republican Party monthly meeting at 550 Trackside in Lawrenceville. Karen Handel will also be addressing the meeting.

County party organizations or other conservative groups who would like to hear Nancy Jester’s conservative message about how to get better educational results for our children through conservative fiscal management and “more classroom, less bureaucracy,” please email her at Nancy@NancyJester.com.

Greg Williams handicaps the Senate race

Our friend Greg Williams has his take on the starting positions in the Senate race. My own analogy is that we’re at the point where the candidates have been training and are now settling into the blocks. Like the picture at the top, they all start from the same starting line, but some will have an inside track. We’re in the middle distance phase of the race now, where you need both stamina, and endurance. Greg, of course, prefers a football metaphor.

Greg’s List is proud to provide our version of Georgia’s Best Conservative Senator rankings beginning Week One 2014. Our rankings will be comprised of scientific polling data, objective interviews, subjective analysis, and generalities drawn from an amalgamation of traditional media, social media and new media reactions to the individual candidates…In other words, we will provide the proverbial “Educated Guess”…or, “Enlightened Prediction” as we grassroot melo-dramatists prefer..
So, without further adieu, we present our “inaugural” rankings of 2014: 1. Jack Kingston–There’s no such thing as bad press and Kingston recovered nicely from his verbal fumble regarding childhood cafeteria sweeping aka Work Ethic in public schools. Kingston is the Senior member of Congress out of the three announced House of Representative candidates and has significant support from Coastal and Southern Georgia. Appearances on Bill Maher’s show and other national networks has enhanced his name ID in Metro Atlanta and he leads the pack in fundraising…
2. Karen Handel–With her grassroots apparatus from previous state wide races intact, Handel is a formidable competitor in the Senate race…On a purely subjective basis, Handel has the luxury of combining passionate and articulate volunteers that show up en masse for every state-side grassroot event.
3. David Perdue–Money, money, money…And lack of a voting record…Both are Boons to a prospective Senate candidate, and his last name won’t alienate him to voters, despite the wistful predictions from the anti-Sonny crowd…
4. Phil Gingrey–Clumsy defense of Todd Akin’s insanity regarding “legitimate rape” questions his ability to articulate Conservative principles…Has money though, and a large network due to his previous Congressional Geographic coverage…

5. Paul Broun–Fundraising and lamentable Social Conservative strict Biblical interpretations hold this candidacy back…The passion of his supporters could elevate him to run-off status but many things would have to fall into place and its too early to predict their manifestation..

Bill Byrne announces for Cobb Commission District 1

Byrne served as Chairman of the Cobb County Commission from 1992 to 2002 and is running for the district seat being vacated by Helen Goreham, who is not seeking reelection. From his pre-announcement:

As of December 30, 2013, I am announcing that I am a Republican candidate for Commission District 1, of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners.

My campaign will focus on the following issues facing Cobb County:

GOVERNING RESPONSIBILITY:
Decisions by Government, at all levels, must be fundamentally based on the principles of the Constitution and be limited, focused and based on the WILL OF THE PEOPLE being served.

PUBLIC SAFETY:
The primary responsibility of Government, at all levels, must always be Public Safety.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:
I am committed to work with the cities of Acworth, Kennesaw and Marietta to bring new companies and business opportunities to those urban centers of Cobb County.

15
Sep

Bald Eagle over the Chattahoochee River in Downtown Columbus, Georgia

11
Aug

Worst-kept secret in American politics confirmed

From the Romney campaign this morning:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Romney Press Office
August 11, 2012
857-288-3610

MITT ROMNEY & PAUL RYAN: AMERICA’S COMEBACK TEAM

Boston, MA – Mitt Romney today announced Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate. Below is Congressman Ryan’s biography:

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is in his seventh term in Congress representing Wisconsin’s First Congressional District. He is Chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has worked tirelessly leading the effort to reign in federal spending and increase accountability to taxpayers. He also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, where he has focused on simplifying the tax code and making health care more affordable and accessible.

In January 2010, Ryan gained attention nationwide after unveiling his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a proposal to eliminate the federal deficit, reform the tax code, and preserve entitlements for future generations.

Representative Ryan was born in Janesville, Wisconsin on January 29, 1970. A fifth-generation Wisconsin native, Ryan was the youngest of four children born to Paul Ryan Sr., who worked as an attorney, and Betty, a stay-at-home mom.

In April 2000, Ryan proposed to Janna Little, a native Oklahoman, at one of his favorite fishing spots, Big St. Germain Lake in Wisconsin. Later that year, the two were married in Oklahoma City.

The Ryans reside in Janesville with their three children, Liza, Charlie and Sam. The family are parishioners at St. John Vianney Catholic Church.

Upon entering Congress in January of 1999, Ryan was the youngest member of the freshmen class at the age of 28. Prior to running for Congress, Ryan served as an aide to Republican Senators Robert Kasten Jr. and Sam Brownback, former U.S. Rep. and Vice Presidential Candidate Jack Kemp, and as a speechwriter for Education Secretary William Bennett.

Ryan is a graduate of Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville and earned degrees in economics and political science from Miami University in Ohio. He is an avid outdoorsman and is a member is of his local archery association, the Janesville Bowmen.

###

8
Aug

Gratuitous photo of an awesome Trans Am

Aside from protecting democracy and freedom, winning back-to-back world wars, and destroying the Soviet Union, this has to rank as one of the great contributions of the United States of America.

Is it any coincidence that America’s awesomeness as a producer of muscle cars peaked during Ronald Reagan’s time in the White House?

10
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 10, 2012

These puppies are among the dogs and cats available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. It would be nice if I could tell you that the $30 special Gwinnett County Animal Shelter is running on adoptions is because their services are no longer needed and they’re going out of business. But the sad truth is that like countless shelters across the state, they’re receiving more animals than they can care for.

Last week in Bibb County, 15 dogs were euthanized when the shelter went over its state-approved limit. Bibb has had some problems over the last year, and continues to struggle, as Commissioners are investigating the recent euthanizations that some advocates are saying were “unconscionable.”

15 dogs were euthanized last week after the shelter temporarily went over its state-mandated 80-dog limit and remained well over its practical capacity of about 55 dogs.
When the animal shelter opened Monday morning, it had 61 dogs. A litter of nine puppies, three captured strays and one surrendered dog brought the count to 74 in just four hours

If you are unable to adopt a dog or cat, you might consider fostering through a reputable animal rescue group or donating to help them continue saving dogs and cats. We recommend Angels Among Us as having a sterling reputation among people who know who have worked with them.

In positive news for dogs, the Army held retirement ceremonies last week for two Military Working Dogs who are entering the private sector and being adopted by soldiers.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The grace period for filing campaign disclosures for the period ending June 30th closed yesterday, and predictably, the Campaign Finance Commission website was running slower than molasses most of yesterday. A candidate reported trying 45 minutes to enter a single expense and have it accepted. If you were able to file timely, congratulations. If not, you might consider your next step: seeking a waiver of the fine. The Campaign Finance Commission is aware of the problems, which we’ve documented on our blog for at least a week. Should you find yourself in need of assistance in dealing with this issue, you can contact me for recommendations for who I would hire if it were me.

Click Here

Secretary of State Brian Kemp told Jim Galloway that the General Assembly may have to consider eliminating runoff elections in order to comply with federal voting laws.

Ballot requirements insisted on by the U.S. Justice Department and upheld by the court last week all but invalidate a current state law requiring that winners in all general elections receive 50 percent plus one vote, Kemp said – given that federal runoffs in those contests would have to be delayed until late December.

“We’d be voting during Christmas. There may be people getting certified while other people are getting sworn in. It’s really a logistical nightmare,” Kemp said.

Primary calendars may also need to be changed if runoff elections are to be preserved in those contests, Kemp said. This year’s primary balloting will occur on July 31. To comply with the federal court ruling, Kemp this year has agreed to allow runoff ballots from overseas to be collected and counted for 10 days beyond the Aug. 21 voting date.

“We could do away with runoffs in federal elections, which is what Florida does. You get the most votes, you’re going to Congress,” Kemp said. If the Legislature wants to preserve primary runoffs, then the date of Georgia’s mid-summer primary would have to be pushed into mid-June. Which would require qualifying – the period in which candidates declare themselves – to be held in April instead of May.

Runoffs in elections for state or local offices aren’t affected by the federal judge’s ruling, but the costs of the extra balloting could tempt county election boards to press for similar treatment.

As a professional campaign consultant, I can tell you that eliminating runoff elections is part of President Obama’s plot to destroy our federal system of government and replace it with a single benevolent level of government, which is just a waypoint on the road to Communism.

Early voting has started for the July 31 party primary elections and nonpartisan elections. Gwinnett County reported more than 200 people casting ballots yesterday.

That is a big number for the first day, [Elections director Lynn] Ledford said, but she noted that a 2012 law change means that people can begin voting in person 21 days before the July 31 primary instead of the 45 days in previous years.

At this point in the previous cycle, she said, 200 voters would not seem like a lot.

For the next three weeks, registered voters can cast ballots for any reason during normal business hours at the county office, located on Grayson Highway. Voters must show a photo ID.

Bibb County reported “dozens” of voters on the first day.

Besides local, state and congressional races this year, Bibb County voters will also have their say on whether to consolidate Macon and Bibb County governments.

Bibb County residents can cast an early vote at the Board of Elections office, located at 2445 Pio Nono Ave.

The consolidation of Bibb County and the City of Macon governments continues to be controversial among some,

Race is a big factor in the July 31 Macon-Bibb County consolidation vote, despite a proposed countywide map that leaves a majority of the consolidated-government districts with voting-age populations that are at least 61 percent black.

Blacks should comprise a majority of voters who turn out for those elections, making them fairly safe for black candidates, said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor.

Bullock said resistance to consolidation may come from politicians who fear losing their seats. Bibb County likely will continue to be represented by a thin black majority, he said.

“What it will mean is you go from 11 African-Americans holding elected office down to five, and that’s the concern,” Bullock said. He said current officeholders realize there won’t be seats on a consolidated commission board for all of them.

Four of the nine consolidated commission districts are predicted to have white voting-age populations of between 62 and 71 percent. Whites are now in two of the commission seats, seven of the City Council seats and the mayor’s office.

Rather than being an issue of race, couldn’t it be more of a case of no sitting politican wanting to be left standing up in the political musical chairs that will ensue? Elaine Lucas doesn’t think so:

Councilwoman Elaine Lucas said the consolidation plan would dilute the voting strength of blacks and others.

“The way the lines are drawn, the Republicans would hold an advantage, and they are anti-black, anti-women and anti-Democrat,” said Lucas, who is black.

She said some of the loss of representation comes from reducing the number of representatives from 21 to 10.

“When you reduce, you of course get rid of some of your Democratic officials. It’s about party, then it’s about policy and it’s about a dilution of black voting strength.”

Lucas refused to say how Republicans would have a majority.

And Professor Bullock suggests that racial politics might actually work the other way:

Bullock said voters nationwide aren’t color blind, though the pattern of voting has changed.

“What you generally see these days is that whites are generally more likely to vote for a black candidate than blacks are willing to vote for a white candidate,” Bullock said. “It used to be the other way around.”

We also learned from Jim Galloway and Ariel Hart at the AJC that Toby Carr was unanimously confirmed by the Georgia Senate Transportation Committee as State Transportation Planning Director. The House Transportation Committee will hold hearings on the nomination after the primary elections. Congratulations to Toby and to Gov. Deal on the progress. Having worked in transportation planning under a Republican Governor of Virginia, I can tell you that the position is unlikely to involve any engineering or routing such as would require a degree in engineering. It is more likely to entail ensuring that the Governor’s policy preferences are followed, such as ensuring that projects are analyzed for their cost:benefit ratio, and that reducing traffic remains a priority.

Fulton County’s Board of Elections is advised to spellcheck documents after sample ballots for the Republican Primary misspelled “incumbent” under Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton’s name.


Whoever laid out the sample ballot spelled incumbent correctly 22 times on the first page of a three-page ballot.

The Speaker of the Georgia House is touring the state with Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones and Majority Leader Larry O’Neal. They stopped in Rome on Sunday, hit Dalton, Columbus, and Valdosta yesterday, Brunswick and Augusta today, and Cobb McCollum Airport tomorrow.

A Fulton County code enforcement officer was arrested for stealing campaign signs in Douglas County.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Investigator Trent Wilson told Channel 2 that he was out with his family Saturday when he saw a youngster jump out of a truck [Marnita Jonta] Ballard was driving, grab a campaign sign from the side of the road and toss it in the back of the vehicle.

The signs were for the re-election of Wilson’s boss, Douglas County Sheriff Phil Miller.

The DeKalb County school board voted to raise the property tax rate and member Paul Womack introduced a motion to ask the Governor to investigate the system’s Finance and Human Resources departments, but the motion failed.

The Cartersville Board of Education also voted to raise their millage rate.

Today is the second and last day of re-qualifying for Bibb County school board seats after a federal court ordered the primary election moved to August 21 and re-opened qualifying.

As a paid door-to-door beggar canvasser for the Georgia Democratic Party, Savannah’s Andrea Conrad happened last week to knock on the door of Republican County Commission candidate Eddie DeLoach.

Conrad, 25, is the only neighborhood canvasser the party has in Savannah; there are about 20 in Atlanta.

“It’s been great,” she said. “People are almost always nice. They’re generally thankful that I’m out there. They appreciate being contacted personally.”

She’s met artists, a feminist author, former state Rep. Tom Bordeaux, and the parents of state Sen. Lester Jackson.

“I’ve made some good friends,” she said. “I even make friends with dogs. Some are not too happy to see me. That’s why I carry the treats.

“No two streets are alike. No two days are alike. Every day there is something unexpected and exciting.”

In Houston County, Solicitor Amy Smith faces a challenge in her nonpartisan special election that follows her appointment to the seat last year. Superior Court Judge George F. Nunn faces a follow-up challenge by the same candidate he whipped in 2008; Nunn has served for 26 years on the bench.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has released its candidate surveys on their website.

The Georgia League of Women Voters also released its online voter guide.

Events

The Whitfield County Republican Party’s “Conservative Roundtable” will hear from candidates for state and local offices tonight at 6 PM at their headquarters, located at 415 E. Walnut Ave., Suite 310. For more information, contact Dianne Putnam, chair of the Whitfield County Republican Party, at (706) 278-2933, or by email. You may also go to their website.

North Fulton Tea Party hosts a battle royale tonight, when Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers debates challenger Brandon Beach. The event is from 7 to 9 PM at the Crooked Creek Homeowners Association Club House. Directions are  the group’s website.

6
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 6, 2012

The yellow dog above is seeking private placement into a foster or adoptive home. A friend of mine saw him running through the streets of her town, with someone encouraging his sons to stomp and shout at the dog to scare it, and another jackwagon trying to hit the dog with his truck as the dog ran through an intersection.

The dog is safe at her home now, but she can’t keep him, as she is already raising five dogs of her own plus a son. Please email me if you’re interested in fostering or adopting this dog, or if you’d like to donate toward its care until a home is found. The dog’s savior says he’s well-behaved inside, and a sweet, big, affectionate lap dog.

Savannah-area animal shelters are reporting record numbers of dogs and cats:

Just a few weeks ago, the number of animal surrenders created an “unprecedented” situation at the Humane Society of Greater Savannah when 31 pets were brought in a single day.

“The influx of dogs, particularly the concentration of them, that is to say so many in a three-week period, is something we have not seen before,” said Executive Director Lynn Gensamer.

The society is accepting monetary and non-monetary — such as high-efficiency liquid laundry detergent – donations to help it cope with the influx of surrendered animals.

Gensamer encouraged people to go to www.humanesocietysav.org to find out how they can help with a specific amount of money. She said the society could always use monetary donations because they pay a staff to take care of the animals. Nearly two-thirds of the budget is payroll-related, she said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Next week we will resume our normal schedule of publishing around 7 AM.

On Monday, July 9th, early and advanced voting begins for the July 31st elections. Visit Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website to check your voter registration, new district lines, and find out about early and advanced voting times and locations for your county.

Use the MVP system and sign in with your name, county and birthdate to see your registration information and a sample ballot. Once you’re signed in, click the link titled “Click here for early voting locations and times” and your county’s information will be displayed.

Errin Haines of the Associated Press writes that a federal judge has ordered Secretary of State Brian Kemp to extend the period for accepting mail-in ballots from overseas service members, families, and other Georgians.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered Georgia’s secretary of state to extend the deadline to accept absentee ballots from military service members, their families and citizens living overseas in the event of a primary runoff election on Aug. 21.

U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones says “it is beyond dispute” that the state will violate election rules under the current system.

Federal prosecutors argued that Georgia’s procedures are “inadequate to ensure that its eligible military and overseas voters can participate fully” in the runoff, should one be necessary.

The order extends the deadline for receipt of absentee ballots by one week to Aug. 31 and orders the secretary of state’s office to send absentee ballots to any eligible overseas voter who requests one by express mail. Those voters would be allowed to return their ballot either by e-mail, fax, or express mail at no cost to them.

My initial thought is that last part scares me. Read it again. “eligible overseas … voters would be allowed to return their ballot either by e-mail, fax, or express mail at no cost to them.”  How is allowing ballots to be returned by email or fax not an invitation to vote fraud? Or am I missing something?

Secretary of State Brian Kemp responded this morning:

Last night we received the ruling from Judge Steve Jones in response to the DOJs lawsuit against the State of Georgia regarding our run-off election calendar.  While we suggest it would have been more responsible for the DOJ to have voiced their issues with Georgia’s system in any of the past 3 election cycles we have used this calendar rather than in a lawsuit weeks before our Primary Election, our Office will continue to be on the forefront of military and overseas citizen voting access.

As Secretary of State, I have committed our Office to the service of our brave men and women in uniform and have implemented numerous programs, from Electronic Ballot Delivery to the MOVE Act, in this spirit.  In the coming weeks we will be in full compliance with this order and work with the Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate leadership to prepare a legislative package that will continue our efforts to make sure Georgia has the most safe and accessible voting system in the nation.

Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida visited Lawrenceville for a book signing yesterday. We have an extra signed copy of his book An American Son: A Memoir, and will give it away next week as soon as we figure out what hoops we’re going to ask y’all to jump through to get your signed copy.

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story about the spread of private probation companies and some of the unintended consequences.

Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.

When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.

For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence.

It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system.

The Times article also profiles a Georgia-based private probation company and the growth of private probation in Georgia:

William M. Dawson, a Birmingham lawyer and Democratic Party activist, has filed a lawsuit for Mr. Garrett and others against the local authorities and the probation company,Judicial Correction Services, which is based in Georgia.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that it is unconstitutional to jail people just because they can’t pay a fine,” Mr. Dawson said in an interview.

In Georgia, three dozen for-profit probation companies operate in hundreds of courts, and there have been similar lawsuits. In one, Randy Miller, 39, an Iraq war veteran who had lost his job, was jailed after failing to make child support payments of $860 a month. In another, Hills McGee, with a monthly income of $243 in veterans benefits, was charged with public drunkenness, assessed $270 by a court and put on probation through a private company. The company added a $15 enrollment fee and $39 in monthly fees. That put his total for a year above $700, which Mr. McGee, 53, struggled to meet before being jailed for failing to pay it all.

“These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay, he is going to jail,” said John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Ga., who is taking the issue to a federal appeals court this fall. “There are things like garbage collection where private companies are O.K. No one’s liberty is affected. The closer you get to locking someone up, the closer you get to a constitutional issue.”

The company says that it provides a service to local governments and has increased compliance with court fines:

In a joint telephone interview, two senior officials of Judicial Correction Services, Robert H. McMichael, its chief executive, and Kevin Egan, its chief marketing officer, rejected the lawsuit’s accusations. They said that the company does try to help those in need, but that the authority to determine who is indigent rests with the court, not the company.

“We hear a lot of ‘I can’t pay the fee,’ ” Mr. Egan said. “It is not our job to figure that out. Only the judge can make that determination.” Mr. Egan said his company had doubled the number of completed sentences where it is employed to more than two-thirds, from about one-third, and that this serves the company, the towns and the defendant. “Our job is to keep people out of jail,” he said. “We have a financial interest in getting them to comply. If they don’t pay, we don’t get paid.”

Private probation companies have come under increasing scrutiny in Gwinnett County, with a lawsuit by former Chairman Charles Bannister against Sheriff Butch Conway.

In a federal lawsuit filed this week against Sheriff Butch Conway claiming the arrest was politically motivated, Bannister also says Conway and his wife, State Court Judge Carla Brown, steered a county contract to a probation company partly owned by [Gwinnett County developer Wayne] Mason.

Moreover, in the suit he claims he was approached by Mason shortly after taking office in 2005. The suit says Mason “made it clear, explicitly, that if Bannister would use his position as commission chairman to Mason’s advantage, Bannister would be made wealthy.”

Such incendiary claims, leveled in a lawsuit aimed at someone else, did not sit well with Mason.

“Those allegations are a complete falsehood from an individual who left public office to avoid prosecution for perjury before a special grand jury,” Mason e-mailed when asked for a response by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Mason’s company did get the contract with Gwinnett County, but the former holder of that contract has asked the County to rebid it after a county commissioner was indicted for accepting a bribe in a zoning case.

Professional Probation Services (PPS) provided misdemeanor probation services for a decade until the contract was awarded to another company in 2010. PPS sent the county a letter June 7 claiming  Gwinnett CountyState Court judges improperly skirted the sealed-bid  process when they switched to a company with connections to developer and former County Commission Chairman Wayne Mason.

The accusations come amid a backdrop of political scandal and corruption in Gwinnett that has resulted in departures of three sitting commissioners in less than two years.

Clay Cox, who is CEO of PPS, said Gwinnett County should terminate its current contract with Southeast Corrections.

“What is becoming more and more clear is that this was a time period of misbehavior,” said Cox. “It makes good sense for the county to say we’re going to put this back out for bid and eliminate any possible appearances of impropriety.”

The job of supervising misdemeanor probationers is worth about $150,000 a month, according to Cox. The probationers pay supervision fees to the company. PPS alleges that the judges awarded the job to Southeast Corrections because they had personal relationships with Mason.

Against this backdrop, Tracey Mason Blasi, who is Wayne Mason’s niece, is currently running for Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett County. Blasi was appointed by former Mayor Shirley Fanning Lasseter as a Duluth Municipal Court Judge to deal only with zoning issues. Small world in Gwinnett County, isn’t it.

Georgia looks to buck the prediction by the National Conference of State Legislatures that a majority of state legislators after this year’s election will have fewer than two years experience. According to GPB, approximately one quarter of state house members are in currently in their first term, and 24 house seats will have new occupants. That would mean 69 members with two years or less, significantly less than half the 180-member chamber.

It’s also worth noting that at least three legislative veterans are seeking a return to the house after an absence. After running unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Insurance Commissioner in 2010, former State Rep. Tom Knox is attempting a comeback this year.

Former State Rep. Clint Smith of Dawsonville served four terms in the State House, serving as the State Rep. for then-Congressman Nathan Deal, before leaving after the 2002 Roy Barnes-led redistricting; he is attempting a return in house district 9.

Finally, Bob Snelling is a Republican state house veteran who retired after being redistricted into a seat with a GOP colleague in 2002; he is running for house district 66 in the Republican primary.

Click Here

There are three days for candidates to file campaign disclosures forms for the period ending June 30th. According to R. Thompson & Associates, an ethics and compliance consulting firm, five of the top ten most-common mistakes made on campaign disclosures are:

10. Not filing at the required times after the election
9. Not properly reporting credit card transactions
8. Not properly listing end recipients for reimbursements
7. Not properly reporting dates checks are received
6. Not balancing disclosures with bank accounts

We’ll bring you items 1 through 5 on Monday.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Any candidate in the July 31st election receiving a contribution of $1,000 or more, between July 1 and July 31st MUST report the contribution electronically or by facsimile within two business days of receipt to the Campaign Finance Commission. There is no grace period for late filing. [Campaign Finance Act §21-5-34(c)(2)(C).]

After Scott Peebles announced an endorsement by local law enforcement members of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), he was forced to walk it back, as the national group said that the officers endorsing Peebles were not members, and in any case, the organization does not make campaign endorsements.

Peebles replied:

“I appreciate these law enforcement executives showing courage and conviction in standing on their (principles) and endorsing me for sheriff,” Peebles said in a statement.

Chief Alfonzo Williams and Sgt. David Hannah, of the Waynesboro Police Department, sent a letter of apology to Peebles that said they still intended to endorse him as individual police officers. Williams explained Tuesday that the men were active members of the Georgia chapter but were unaware of the prohibition against endorsements. They were working to gain membership status with the national organization.

Now, supporters of fellow candidate Richard Roundtree are criticizing the individual officers involved:

“This controversy is not about race,” said Charles Lyons, a lawyer and Roundtree supporter. “This is about five guys coming to Augusta from Waynesboro on city time to make a bogus endorsement.”

On Monday, five Waynesboro police officers, including Chief Alfonzo Williams, issued a news release saying that Peebles, who is white, had the endorsement of a regional chapter of the national black law enforcement group.

Asked to respond, Peebles said that “there was no conspiracy on the part of my campaign to falsely represent an endorsement from any organization” and that he believed the Waynesboro officers’ claims that they were “acting in good faith” and appreciated their individual support.

Roundtree recently praised the work of Williams in Waynesboro, so when the officers endorsed Peebles instead, Roundtree turned on them, Peebles said.

“Roundtree is determined to make an example of them by attempting to defame them and tarnish their reputations,” he said.

Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter reported more than $40,000 cash on hand and $25,000 in debt from previous campaigns; he will meet Republican challenger Cary Cooper in the November General Election.

Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell, who was first elected as a Democrat but switched to the Republican Party, faces Jeff Stowe in the Republian Primary.

In fact, the only Democrat who will appear on Hall’s primary ballot July 31 is Jody Cooley, running for the U.S. House 9th District seat.

What makes District 4 unique, and perhaps what kept it in Democratic hands for so long, is its diversity; 44 percent of the population is Hispanic and 16 percent is black.

District 4’s boundary includes most of the city of Gainesville, areas east of Atlanta Highway down to Poplar Springs Road, neighborhoods along Gaines Mill Road and those from Riverside Drive to Black and Cooley drives.

“My district as a whole is the most diverse out of the commission districts,” Bell said.

Still, Bell said he thinks District 4 is actually “a pretty conservative community,” pointing to Republican John McCain’s success in the district during the 2008 presidential election.

Emory Turner, a Gainesville resident and civic participant in the black community, said a lot of people are still upset about Bell’s party switch. That could lead some of those voters to stay home.

But the Democratic-leaning Turner sees it differently. He points to Bell’s 2010 party switch as just the latest in a long line of defections following those of Gov. Nathan Deal, the former 9th District U.S. Rep., and state Rep. Carl Rogers, who also switched to the Republican Party.

“It’s beginning to be par for the course,” Turner said. “You vote for someone and they switch parties.”

Turner predicts that in the end, the race won’t be along racial lines but on the issues.

Beyond this election, though, Turner isn’t sure District 4 will stay red. Given the large population of Hispanic residents, he said the future of the community could hinge on their participation.

The Cherokee Ledger-News continues its coverage of forums between competing candidates sponsored by the Cherokee County Republican Party with notes from county commission district 3.

The candidates also were in agreement that the transportation referendum on the July 31 ballot spelled trouble for Cherokee County if passed.

“I absolutely don’t support the TSPLOST,” Poole said. “It’s not about traffic relief; it’s about economic development.”

He said he couldn’t support levying any more taxes on the citizens.

“(Traffic) is a regional problem and it needs to be corrected, but I don’t think it needs to be done with T-SPLOST because of the project list,” Hampton said.

Jared Thomas, spokesman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp reminds us that intelligence is not a requirement to qualify for some offices:

“The qualifications are night and day,” said Jared Thomas, spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. “You don’t even have to be able to read to be county commissioner.”

The Georgia Immigration Review Board is investigating whether the City of Vidalia is harboring illegal immigrants.

An Emmanuel County man says, Vidalia allows illegal immigrants to live and work in the city.

The complaint revolves around how police treat undocumented migrants stopped for minor violations.

Board member Phil Kent says, such complaints are exactly why the panel was created.

“Let me just stress that this is a preliminary investigation to see if there should be an investigation,” Kent says. ”So, we had a back and forth if this was worthwhile, but in the end, all of us on the panel agreed.“

Republican Events

Gwinnett County Republicans will hear both sides of the T-SPLOST debate on Saturday as former Suwanee Mayor Dave Williams and Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown speak about the tax increase on the July 31st ballot. The monthly breakfast is held at 550 Trackside, 550 North Clayton Street in Lawrenceville. Doors open at 7:45 for breakfast and networking, and the program begins at 8:30. Breakfast is $8, or get coffee and juice for $2.

Greater Gwinnett Republican Women will hold a straw poll on the T-SPLOST at the meeting.

The Fayette County Republican Party’s Breakfast will feature Republican Public Service Commissioners Stan Wise and Chuck Eaton at the IHOP Restaurant at 705 Jeff Davis Drive in Fayetteville, beginning at 9 AM.

Also on Saturday, from 10:30 to 11:30 AM, syndicated columnist Dick Yarbrough will moderate a forum among Josh Belinfante, Drew Ellenburg, and Hunter Hill, the candidates for the Republican nomination for state senate district 6. The forum will be held in the lobby of the 200 Galleria building at the Cobb Galleria.

Bits & Pieces

Dalton carpet magnate Carl Bouckaert, who founded Beaulieu Group, will represent Belgium in equestrian events at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The Federal Aviation Administration raised concerns that Gulfstream’s new $25 million G280 could be hacked due to increased network connectivity designed to feed the onboard entertainment systems

Stay out of the Ogeechee River, after Effingham County officials issued a warning against swimming or fishing.

Effingham County emergency manager Ed Myrick says, this week’s blistered fish died of the same bacteria that caused the previous two fish kills.

“If last year wouldn’t have happened, if none of this had been going on, and a fish would have popped up with blisters on it, I would have had some concerns about that,” Myrick says. “However, with everything that’s been going on, we know there’s a problem with the Ogeechee River and there has been now for over a year. So, with this coming up, it was obviously a concern and we needed to shut it down.”

“At this time, it was based just on those blisters,” he says. “And the reason we did it so quickly was that if nothing would have happened last year or if nothing would have happened in May, it would have been different.”

Officials say, the bacteria are always present in the water but become a problem when the fish are stressed by other factors.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 29, 2012

Lovers of small dogs should head directly to the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter as they have a large number of little guys and girls, including a half-dozen Chihuahua and chi-mixes, a Dachshund, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Maltese, and a Yorkie, among others.

“25222” is one of the chi-mixes and is said to be playful and friendly. Every dog adopted these days is a life saved, as shelters across Georgia are filled with dogs and are being forced to euthanize healthy dogs and cats.

The Humane Society held workshops for employees at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter focused on improving the care of animals; staff members from DeKalb also attended.

Officer Joey Brooks with Gwinnett County Animal Control said some of the key points hit on during the courses included “animal handling and sanitation, proper care … what we’re looking for when stray animals come into the shelter … disease-wise.”

The tour aimed to educate shelter staff in a variety of areas.

Brooks said he and fellow attendees also discussed the warm weather approaching this weekend.

“It’s worse this year,” Brooks said. “The biggest thing right now is, as hot as it is right now, animals should not be left inside of vehicles. They can get dehydrated in a matter of minutes with this kind of heat. … Even if you leave your window down, an animal can die.”

Supreme Court decision and reactions

I won’t belabor yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, as there is plenty of analysis out there, but I’ll hit a few high points and some Georgia reactions.

SCOTUSblog solidified its place as the premier source for timely information on Supreme Court decisions, while larger players CNN and Fox News ran stories that initially misstated the result. Their plain English review is a good starting point for developing a good understanding of what happened.

Dave Kopel argues that the decision is a strong statement limiting Congressional powers:

“The States are separate and independent sovereigns.” So affirms the Court today by a 7-2 vote, in the most important decision ever defining the limits of Congress’s power under the Spending Clause.

While the constitutional implications are tremendous, the practical effect on state budgets may be even greater. Today (and from now on!), states do not need to provide Medicaid to able-bodied childless adults. Likewise, states today have discretion about whether to provide Medicaid to middle-class parents. Undoubtedly, some states will choose to participate in the ACA’s massive expansion of medical welfare, but fiscally responsible states now have the choice not to.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens came to the opposite conclusion:

Olens said the ruling carries with it the strong implication that, contrary to the text of the Constitution and the vision of this country’s Founding Fathers, there is no longer any meaningful limit to the power of the federal government.

As Georgia’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Sam Olens has led the state’s legal fight against the president’s health care reform law. Immediately following his swearing-in as attorney general in January 2011, Olens joined the multistate lawsuit against the law. He has steadfastly defended Georgia’s interests throughout every phase of the litigation.

“I disagree with this decision. Congress explicitly said this was not a tax,” said Olens. “I call on Congress to act swiftly, repeal the law and replace it with real reform that respects the Constitution as written.”

“Governor Deal and I are grateful to the outside lawyers who have served Georgia in this lawsuit as special assistant attorneys general at no cost to the state: Frank C. Jones, Jason Alloy, Josh Belinfante, Pitts Carr, Ben Mathis, David Oedel, John Parker, Mike Russ, and former team member and Supreme Court Justice-designate Keith Blackwell,” Olens said. “Their pro bono efforts have ensured that Georgia could participate fully in this vital lawsuit at minimal cost to taxpayers.”

Governor Nathan Deal said:

“My battle with Obamacare didn’t start when I was elected as governor of Georgia,” said DeaI. “I wear with pride my bruises and scars from the fight against its passage in the U.S. House. Today, the highest court in the country let the American people down.

“While we recognize this is a huge setback for fiscal sanity and personal liberty, we are not giving up. Georgians and the American people deserve high-quality, sustainable health care. Congress must now work steadfastly on repealing this law and replacing it with reforms that help taxpayers instead of hurt them.”

Deal also said that Georgia will hold off on taking action required to implement Obamacare until after November’s election.

“We are probably just going to be in a holding pattern until such time as we see what the events of November bring us,” Deal told reporters during a Capitol news conference.

While the nation’s top court generally found in favor of the law, it faces staunch resistance from Republican state officials tasked with turning that law into reality.

“The medical system was broken before, and now it’s broke,” said Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville.

Rogers said he liked pieces of the bill, including a provision that keeps insurance companies from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions. But he likened the requirements the law puts on states to a hostage situation.

“I’ve always felt that the health care companies, especially on individual coverage, they were looking at the special specimen of an individual and if you had anything and everything wrong, they would turn you down,” Rogers said.

“I’d like him to say I’m not going to follow it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Debbie Whelchel, 49, of Suwanee, an opponent of the law who joined a small tea party rally at the Capitol just before the court ruled. “That’s what I would like to see happen. Honestly, I’m so disappointed.”

Sen. Butch Miller, a Republican from Flowery Branch, said lawmakers are still trying to get their “arms around” the specific impacts of the ruling.

“I am clearly disappointed in the court’s ruling,” Miller said. “In my view, it just goes against everything that I believe is the proper role of government. Since when did Congress require or mandate that the American public buy a particular product and then penalize you if you didn’t buy it?”

But he said lawmakers have already done some work toward implementing the exchanges.

Deal was noncommittal on whether Georgia would expand its Medicaid program, a government-funded health care system that serves the needy, aged, blind, disabled and poor families with children.

The Supreme Court’s ruling struck down part of the law that required states to expand the program or lose their federal Medicaid funding.

Now that choice is voluntary. If Georgia makes such an expansion, Deal’s administration estimates 620,000 people would join the government-run health plan in 2014. Over a decade, it would cost the state an estimated $4.5 billion in additional expenses.

Rep. Jack Kingston wrote on Twitter to rebuke Chief Justice John Roberts, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush. Roberts voted with the majority to back the law.

“I feel like I just lost two great friends: America and Justice Roberts,” Kingston said.

Democratic Rep. John Barrow, who voted against the health care law, is running for re-election and walked a middle-of-the-road line.

“We have to cut spending and cut health costs, but its starts with rejecting the false choice being offered by both parties, that it’s all or nothing,” Barrow said.

Others like 9th District Rep. Tom Graves asked their supporters for political donations, saying only the ballot box can undo the court’s ruling.

“A full repeal of this law is now our only option, but that can only happen if we elect more conservatives to the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and Mitt Romney as the President of the United States,” Graves told supporters in an email.

And like Deal, state Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Oakwood, placed hopes in the election of a Republican president in November.

“Romney, if he wins, will have to repeal it or at least try,” Dunahoo said.

Georgia Democrats predictably celebrated the decision:

Sens. Vincent Fort and Horacena Tate, both Atlanta Democrats, said Thursday that the GOP-controlled General Assembly should now act to expand Medicaid and create the health care exchanges called for in the federal health care law.

The Supreme Court’s ruling said states may choose not to expand Medicaid eligibility without losing all federal funding as the federal law had originally threatened.

“Be responsible,” Fort said.

While Tea Party activists vowed to continue fighting Obamacare:

“We’re going to use it as a stepping stone to get Republicans and conservatives elected and get this thing turned around and repeal it,” Julianne Thompson, co-leader of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, said.

Debbie Dooley, the other leader of the group, said she was “disasppointed” in Chief Justice John Roberts, whom she likened to former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, another Republican pick who disappointed conservatives with decisions from the bench.

Dooley said the decision would energize the GOP.

“This is going to be our rallying cry for the November election: Repeal Obamacare,” Dooley said.

Debbie Dooley told the Gwinnett Daily Post,

Debbie Dooley, the Dacula woman who is a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, said the part of the decision concerning Medicaid actually gave the states a victory.

The ruling that the federal government can’t punish states that decide against implement federal provisions could set a precedent for other regulations, like the federal No Child Left Behind Act, she said.

“Everyone’s still analyzing everything, but (if the interpretation stands) tea party activists statewide are going to contact Gov. Deal and his lawmakers to get them to opt out of the Medicaid expansion,” she said. “It could have far-reaching implications.”

As far as the Medicaid expansion that is part of Obamacare,

many of the law’s opponents are taking solace in the fact that the Supreme Court struck down a key provision that forced states to expand its Medicaid rolls. Under the law, the federal government could have stripped states of all Medicaid funding if they didn’t agree to expand. The justices, by a 7-2 vote, said that was overly coercive.

“This is the first time that the Court has held that an act of Congress has exceeded its powers under the Spending Clause,” said Nels Peterson of the state attorney general’s office. He helped develop Georgia’s lawsuit against the health reform law.

“There’s going to be a lot of policy calls for the policymakers to make as a result of this decision.”

State leaders estimate the expansion will cover an additional 600,000 to 700,000 Georgians. From 2014 to 2020, it’s expected to cost the state $2-3 billion.

Greensboro Republican Mickey Channell, chair of the powerful House Ways and Means committee, said Medicaid is already $300 million in deficit for the upcoming year. He said lawmakers should take a serious look at opting out of the expansion.

“It becomes a policy question – policy based on available funds and where we can spend those funds,” said Channell. “I think certainly that the state of Georgia will take a long hard look at where we are  now.”

Americans for Prosperity Georgia will rally against Obamacare at the State Capitol this afternoon from 3 to 3:45 PM

Speakers will include State Attorney General Sam Olens, AFP-GA State Director Virginia Galloway, Docs4PatientCare’s Dr. Brian Hill, Atlanta Tea Party Patriots President Julianne Thompson and Georgia Tech Professor of Economics Dr. Christine Ries among others.

Virginia Galloway said, “This decision will go down in history as one of the most momentous ever made in regards to economic freedom. We want our friends who have fought with us against this outrageous government overreach to have a chance to share their responses to this decision.”

The Macon Telegraph reviews midstate reactions to the decision, the Ledger-Enquirer covers reactions around Columbus, and the Marietta Daily Journal talks to Cobb County lawmakers, party officials, and private employers.

Georgia Chamber of Commerce President Chris Clark released a statement:

“We are greatly disappointed in the decision rendered today by the Supreme Court and believe that the path on which our nation is being forced to move forward will be detrimental to both employers and employees throughout the nation as a result of increased costs and new regulations.  Businesses will be forced to make difficult decisions that will likely result in employees losing their employer-provided coverage.   Our organization will look forward to working with the Governor and other leaders at the state and federal level to implement the law in a way that takes into account the important role businesses play by providing this important benefit and the overall impact on our economy.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The first results from the July 31st elections are in, as attorney Beth Hilscher was the only candidate to qualify for the Suwanee City Council seat vacated by Jace Brooks, who is running for County Commission.

Elvira Rogers, administrative services director… said the city’s charter states that if only one candidate qualifies, an election is not needed.

Rogers said city officials would discuss when Hilscher would be appointed, but she expected a called meeting would be in July to make it official. Hilscher could potentially sit at the July City Council Workshop, Rogers said.

Upson County will hold a special election for District 3 County Commissioner on July 31st to fill the term of the incumbent who stepped down to run for Commission Chair.

According to the Registrar’s Office, Norman Allen, Sylvia Chapman, Brandon Creamer and Ralph Ellington all qualified as Republican candidates and Joel Pitts qualified as a Democratic candidate. However, due to it being a special election, all the candidates will be on one ballot in the July 31 election, with the candidate receiving the majority of the votes being the winner. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the two candidates with the most votes will face off in a Runoff Election on August 21.

The special election is being on July 31 in conjunction with the Primary Election. However, those who live in District 3 will have to vote on two separate ballots, as the commission seat will be on a different ballot than the rest of the candidates for the primary.

In the Hall County Commission races, the level of county debt will be an issue.

At last week’s candidate forum, sponsored by the South Hall Republican Club, former Sheriff Dick Mecum declared that the county government was facing a $90 million debt problem.

“We’ve got a Barack Obama, liberalistic-style government that’s going on and spending us into a situation,” Mecum said.

“If we don’t save us some money and pay off this debt, it’s going to bite us big time in three years,” he said.

The statements were quickly challenged by incumbent Chairman Tom Oliver, who said the county’s finances were in “great shape.”

Voters in Varnell will decide on Sunday retail sales of beer and wine at the July 31st election.

Former Taylorsville Mayor Cary Wayne Rhodes pled guilty to computer and electronic child exploitation and was sentenced to two years in prison, ten years on probation, $2000 fine, and 240 hours of community service, as well as restrictions on interacting with minors.

Grovetown City Council member Sonny McDowell will plead not guilty to Alabama bribery charges and insists he is innocent.

“I am not guilty,” McDowell said. “I intend to defend myself through this process with everything that I have. … I have tremendous confidence in this country’s justice system for the most part. I’m going to defend myself and I fully expect, at the end of this, to be cleared.”

McDowell will remain on the council because the indictment is only an accusation. If he is convicted of or pleads guilty to charges, he’ll be removed from the council, James said.

The Democratic Party of Georgia’s finances improved enough over the last quarter to allow them to reward recidivist Political Director Rashad Richey with a $2500 bonus. That will make a nice down payment on the nearly $25k that blogger Andre Walker is seeking from Richey for legal fees related to Richey’s now-dropped lawsuit against Walker and two Democratic party activists.

In they May disclosure, the DPG revealed that, but for a $10k bailout from the DNC, they would have spent more than they took in, which may meet the criteria for “cash-flow insolvency.”

DPG spokesperson Eric Gray said

“For what it’s worth,” party spokesman Eric Gray added Monday, “our former treasurer suggested we had less than 30 days of operating funds in February. He was wrong.”

[The DPG's] most recent monthly report showed income of $139,932 and expenses of $130,454.

Meanwhile, the state GOP filed a report with the FEC saying it had nearly $933,000 in the bank, up from about $826,000 at the end of April.

Fulton County’s elections board appears to have its hands full with a proposed cleanup of county voter rolls.

Fulton County may have more than 1,200 registered voters with empty lots for addresses, but that hasn’t impacted any recent elections, a key county official told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“It appears that none of those people voted,” Registration and Elections Board Vice Chair Stan Matarazzo said, “so that’s a good sign.”

Detractors, however, want proof. The county plans to purge ineligible voters from its rolls, and the clampdown has raised questions about the integrity of the elections process, as well as the prospect of disenfranchising low-income, minority voters, during a busy campaign season.

Matarazzo, one of the elections board’s Republican Party appointees, is firing back, saying the department is following a process laid out by state law to clean up voter rolls. Staff members have visited addresses to make sure demolition records are accurate, he said.

Though staffers have assured him that none of the 1,200 voted recently, he could not say how far back that’s the case. Fulton’s elections department hasn’t responded to questions about votes from the 1,200 possibly cast in prior elections, and the Secretary of State’s Office declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

The Savannah Morning News review how many times Effingham County candidates voted in the past five years, but does not discuss whether they voted in Democratic or Republican primaries.

Reverend Joseph Lowery denounced Democratic Congressman John Barrow, calling him “a Republican hiding in Democrat’s clothing,”  after Barrow voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, which is probably good news for Barrow’s campaign. No word on whether Lowery would prefer Democrat Republican Wright McLeod.

Records show real estate attorney Wright McLeod and construction company owner Rick W. Allen have both given money to and voted for Democrats in the past decade.

Voting records show McLeod, of Augusta, has voted in five Democratic primary elections since 2002 — including the 2008 presidential primary that featured then-Sens. Obama and Hillary Clinton. In 2010, the GOP candidate and his wife contributed to the campaign of one of McLeod’s law school friends, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Georgia attorney general.

“Based on his voting record, he probably should have gotten some advice before he put his name in the hat to run for this district,” said Allen, who began attacking McLeod for his crossover voting record weeks ago.

However, voting records from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office show that Allen also cast Democratic ballots in state primaries from 1998 and 2004. In 2001, he gave $1,000 to Charles “Champ” Walker Jr., a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the same House seat that Allen is campaigning for as a Republican.

“He’s a tremendous hypocrite,” McLeod said of Allen. “He’s slinging mud and if it means anything to voters— and I don’t know that it does — that mud should be sticking to him as well.”

McLeod insists he cast his 2008 presidential primary vote for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richard, not for Obama or Clinton. He said he voted in four other Democratic primaries to support candidates for local office such as sheriff — the exact same reason Allen said he voted Democratic twice since 1998. Allen said he gave Walker money in 2001 after they became friends leading a men’s Bible study together.

Georgia Public Broadcasting has a nearly-fifteen minute interview with Republican Congressional Candidate Maria Sheffield, whom they call the race’s “Grassroots Conservative.”

Power Station

Southern Nuclear, the Southern Company subsidiary that is building reactors 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle announced that minor changes to the foundation “mudmat” will proceed after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission made no objection. Changes to the rebar to bring it into compliance with plans for the reactor construction also will begin.

Mainstream media stories have played up a dispute over whether $3.2 million dollars that was contested before the Public Service Commission met the criteria for being disallowed, but failed to mention that it totalled less than half-a-percent of the more than half-billion dollars in savings to ratepayers that was at issue in before the PSC. We won’t link to the stories.

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Praying for Peace – June 24th, 2012