Category: Brian Kemp

19
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2012

Patsy (F) and Parker (M) are 2-3 month old puppies weighing in at about 11 pounds each. The are available for adoption for $40 each from Walton County Animal Services and have been vaccinated and de-wormed and will come with vouchers for discounted spay/neuter.

Gwinnett Urgent Care and Suwanee Station Dentistry in Gwinnett County have a therapy dog named Ruckus.

Ruckus, who will be 7 in July, is a chocolate spaniel who serves as a therapy dog for both sides of the office. The Perrys believe having Ruckus around fosters a more comfortable and family atmosphere that calms the nerves of anxious patients.

“When people come in they don’t feel well, that’s why they’re here, they’re sick,” Ron said. “If Ruckus will come in the room, their whole face just lightens up. They suddenly just start feeling a bit better.”

Gift, and her mother, Ashley, agree.

“He probably helps them feel better because they have somebody to talk to,” Myla said. “It makes it more fun that there’s an animal friend.”

Ashley Gift said Ruckus makes it easier for her daughter to visit the doctor’s office.

“She doesn’t dread coming here, she knows she gets to see him,” Ashley said. “It makes it more fun. She asks for him every time we come.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Beginning next week, satellite early voting stations open in some jurisdictions, and this Saturday is the only Saturday early voting for the July 31st elections.

The Secretary of State’s website has “My Voter Page” where you can sign in and find advanced and early voting information, as well as your new districts for State House, Senate, County Commission and other offices. This page will help you find contact information for your county board of elections if you have questions.

Governor Nathan Deal stated his support for Chuck Eaton in his reelection to the Public Service Commission. Deal said:

“During his tenure on the Public Service Commission, Chuck Eaton has assisted my efforts  for economic development and job creation in Georgia. Chuck Eaton shares my top priority to make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business. By working to repeal of the tax on energy used for manufacturing, Chuck’s strong, conservative record helps make this goal a reality.”

Attorney General Sam Olens and Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Tom Price discussed the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s ObamaCare ruling with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club.

In Senate District 21, direct mail purportedly paid for by TrafficTruth.net is targeting Brandon Beach, the challenger to Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, while signs that say “Boot Chip – Are you better off than you were eight years ago” appear to have been paid for by Neighbors for A Better Cherokee.

Also in Cherokee County, the anonymous robocalls against Janet Read have continued, obviously paid for by a coward.

Pro-tip: putting flyers of any kind on mailboxes is illegal.

A group circulating a flier against Cherokee County District 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard is in violation of U.S. Postal Service rules, postal officials say.

The flier was found taped onto mailboxes in the communities, which violates U.S. Postal Service rules, according to postal officials.

Postal Service spokesperson Michael Miles said it’s against postal policy to place anything on or inside mailboxes.

U.S. Code Section 1725 prohibits the distribution or mailing of items without paying postage.

“Many people are not aware that it is a violation of USPS policy and law to place items on or in a mailbox,” Miles said. “When this is brought to their attention, they usually refrain from this behavior and there is no need for further USPS action.”

If the violations persist, Miles said the postal service can then collect the mailers and determine how much postage is due to the service.

Once they are able to determine a cost, Miles said they can actually bill the originator for the postage.

Democrat Lesli Messinger, who is running for Congress from the First District issued a press release stating that she is “The only woman running for a national office this election season in Georgia, she’s a lone  coastal Democrat amid the state’s Congressional candidates.” Maria Sheffield (R-12) and Martha Zoller (R-9) might take issue with that, but I can see how the names “Maria” and “Martha” might be confusing on that point.

The Republican candidates in the Twelfth Congressional District met in a debate last night.

UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock appears to be predicting defeat for the T-SPLOST.

“So although tons of money is being spent to encourage voting for the T-SPLOST and thesupport of the Chamber of Commerce, it looks like it will go down to defeat,” Bullock said in an analysis emailed to Patch. “We have the interesting phenomenon of disagreement between many GOP leaders and a group usually closely associated with the GOP (the Chamber).”

Bullock concluded: “With GOP leadership unwilling to step forward and reassure conservative, anti-tax voters that the projects to be funded with the T-SPLOST are meritorious, there is scant prospect for approval.”

Gun store owners might start lobbying for elections every year, as gun sales appear to be rising in advance of this year’s elections.

Gun sales are soaring nationwide and retailers say that’s not unusual to see during a presidential election year. “Basically the situation you have now is 2008 all over again,” said Steven B. Drew, Owner of Georgia Gun and Loan.

Analysts say the 2008 spike came from fear that new gun control legislation would make it more difficult to acquire firearms. “People were uncertain what the new President and the new administration was going to do so there tends to be a upsurge in fire arm sales in general,” said Drew.

Four seats on the DeKalb County School Board are up for election this year, and all seats will be up in 2014. All twelve candidates for those seats will be at a forum tonight from 6:45 to 8:30 PM in the  Arabia Mountain High School auditorium, at 6610 Browns Mill Road in Lithonia. RSVP to ptsa@arabiaptsa.org or 770-875-0213.

In Cobb County, school board candidate Linda Hanson has accused incumbent David Banks of invading her childrens’ privacy.

Banks distributed his e-newsletter, David’s Grapevine, in which he wrote: “This week one of my opponents made it known through the Marietta Daily Journal that the Cobb County Associations (sic) of Educators had given their endorsement based on my opponents ‘activity’ in education. To determine the validity of this claim, I personally contacted the schools where their children had either attended or were presently attending and in no instance could I validate or substantiate any participation in school activities or organizations by either of my opponents.”

Hanson said she was “very concerned and most disturbed” by the newsletter.

“For him to go to my children’s schools for information for political gain is highly unethical and way beyond the realm of what a board member should be doing,” she said. “The parents in Cobb County Schools deserve better than to feel like their information, privacy is being encroached upon, regardless if it’s a board member or just someone off the street.”

Banks, meanwhile, called her concerns “silly” and insisted he did nothing inappropriate. Banks said he did not receive any records about Hanson’s children.

Gwinnett County developer Dan O’Leary still believes the casino gambling ballot question on Republican ballots will fail, and continues trying to distance his proposal for “video lottery terminals” in a casino-gambling style setting.

O’Leary believes the vote is destined to fail because of the ballot’s wording, and he’s been quietly working business crowds and boardrooms to uncouple his proposal with the outcome of the vote. His plan, he tells them, doesn’t involve a casino but video lottery terminals, which resemble a slot machine but would be operated by the lottery board.

“God as my witness, I had nothing to do with that question,” he said, arms held aloft, at a recent meeting of Gwinnett County business leaders in a cramped office across the street from the proposed site of the gambling resort.

Republican chairwoman Sue Everhart, who said she put the question on the ballot after years of urging from some GOP heavyweights, said the vote will measure the appetite for expanded gambling among Republicans.

If it passes by a clear margin, she said, it will force lawmakers to “seriously” consider the prospect of video lottery terminals. But if it fails, an outcome she expects, “it would send the message that Georgians don’t want gambling.”

“At some point the question has to be answered, and I think this will answer it,” Everhart said. “This will settle it so we can move forward.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle would like to appoint Clark Howard to the citizen review panel if T-SPLOST passes, but Howard has said he might not have time for the commitment.

Cagle had hoped Howard’s membership on the panel would assuage worries about the money being spent properly. The state is divided into 12 regions for the referendum; each has its own project list for voters to consider, and each would have its own citizen review panel.

“Voters should have as much information as possible, and the citizen oversight committee is a key part of this process,” Cagle said.

Former Cobb County Commission Chair Bill Byrne picked up the endorsement of D.A. King and the Cobb Taxpayers Association in his quest to unseat incumbent Tim Lee.

D.A. King says he’s backing Bill Byrne for county chairman. King said his original intention was to remain neutral in the chairman’s race.

“When it became clear to me that the BOC was not going to move forward on saving jobs for American workers on taxpayer funded projects by taking the next logical step with the IMAGE certification, I voted for Bill Byrne for chairman by absentee ballot and proudly support him,” King said. “Bill, an old friend, was the only candidate to reach out to me and promise, without condition, to require all public contractors and subcontractors to become IMAGE certified. I believe him when he says that he understands that illegal immigration is not a separate issue from jobs, taxes, health care and education.

“Frankly, I haven’t heard anything from the other challengers. The current chairman, who I like very much, has been dealing with the IMAGE certification issue for at least 18 months and pronounced it a great move for Cobb when he signed the IMAGE agreement. The concept that the same requirement for public contractors needs more study time strikes me as absurd and transparent. State legislation, much of which I have worked on myself over the years is written, vetted and signed into law in a three month window.”

In House District 66 (Douglas and Paulding counties), Republican Mike Miller has out-raised and out-spent both his opponents.

Bryant Cochran, the third-term incumbent Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge, and challenger Dwayne Hooper, are profiled in the Dalton Daily News.

Dr. Bernice Brooks is back on the ballot, running for reelection to the Carroll County Board of Education.

Coweta Circuit Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby signed the order, saying it would be “unjust” to leave the 12-year school board member off the ballot.

“Clearly this was an error, simply a mistake that was made,” Kirby said. “It would be incredibly unjust for Ms. Brooks to be knocked off the ballot.”

Kirby called the error a “scrivener’s error,” a clerical error made in legal documents. The hearing to address Brooks’ writ of certiorari, or appeal, was Tuesday afternoon at the Coweta County Justice Center.

Brooks was unanimously disqualified by the Board of Elections and Registration in a special hearing last Tuesday after it was discovered her house is in a different district that the district she is running to represent. While the majority of Brooks’ Villa Rica property can be found in District 1, her home and street address are actually in District 3 because of a technical error.

Computer problems aren’t the only problem facing the State Campaign Finance Commission and voters seeking to learn where candidates raised money.

whereas statewide candidates are required to file electronically, local candidates are allowed to file paper reports, and a processing backlog means they can be delayed indefinitely.

Kennesaw State University political science professor and former secretary of state advisory board member David Shock said it all spells out a “huge disservice” to voters with many contributing factors.

“The biggest reason is that, a year or so ago, a new state law kicked in that requires candidates to file with the state ethics commission. I think there’s still a lot of confusion among local candidates on what they need to do,” he said.

Many of the candidates who hadn’t filed their PFD as of last week said they thought the report had already been filed.

Before 2011, local candidates filed reports with their local election board. Shock said he believes the change was made to standardize the process, however, the increased workload on the ethics commission has stretched its resources and caused the backlog.

Other causes in the high number of late filers may be a lack of drive in collecting fines. Initial late fees have increased from $25 to $125, but may go uncollected for long periods of time.

“Voters deserve to know who is funding their candidates,” Shock said. “I don’t know what the solution is. There needs to be more people reviewing the reports. There is probably a need for more education as well for candidates on what needs to be done.”

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President Obama announced the administration’s commitment to completing federal reviews for the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project, intended to increase river access to the Port of Savannah by dredging portions of the Savannah River. In fact, the commitment is that federal review will be finished by November 2012, just in time for Congressman John Barrow to take credit for it.

16
Jul

Ron Mabra tossed from the ballot? Well, that’s karma.

Word on the street has it that Ron Mabra, whose law firm represented Georgia Democratic Party Political Director in his SLAPP lawsuit against our friends and colleagues at Georgia Unfiltered and Blog for Democracy, has been disqualified from running for the State House of Representatives.

It’s not an actual done-deal qualification, but a recommendation to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will make the final determination.

Usually, I expect karma to take a little bit longer.

In related news, another state Administrative Law Judge recommended to Kemp that candidate Clarence Johnson, who qualified for Fulton County Superior Court, be disqualified.

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.

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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.

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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.

5
Jul

Federal judge extends runoff balloting for overseas citizens

From Errin Haines at the Associated Press (via Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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?

28
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 28, 2012

“25422” is a black lab mix who will be available for adoption beginning Monday, July 2d from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. He is a medium-sized, friendly boy.

His odds aren’t very good, as it’s the time of year when shelters are full and euthanasia may be a daily occurrence. He also suffers from “black dog syndrome,” which means that black-coated dogs are often passed over for adoption and end up euthanized.

Not everyone can adopt or foster a dog, but many of us can donate money, time, or dog items to the rescues that work every day to save dogs from public animal shelters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Because I have psychic abilities when it comes to Georgia politics, I can tell you that the biggest political news of today will come sometime after 10 AM and will originate in Washington, DC.

The Supreme Court is widely expected to release its opinion or opinions in the Obamacare case today. Starting around 10 AM, I’ll be hanging out at the SCOTUSblog live blog to get the news as soon as it’s available.

In anticipation of the decision, the SCOTUSblog main site has a plain English summary of the issues in the case. The Wall Street Journal has a good discussion of what’s at stake in the case.

If you have some free time this morning and want to await the decision with others, the Atlanta Tea Party will hold a “Countdown to Obamacare Decision” at the State Capitol on the Washington Street side on Thursday, June 28th from 9:30 AM to Noon. Tea party supporters are asked to join and bring signs, but signs must not have wooden or wire stakes.

Governor Deal will hold a press conference at 2 PM on Thursday to address the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration reform law, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is asking parties in the lawsuit over Georgia’s House Bill 87 to submit briefs discussing the effect of the ruling on the Georgia case.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice made good on its threat to sue the State of Georgia and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, challenging the state’s compliance with the  Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which requires that ballots for elections to federal office be sent 45 days in advance of the election. Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said:

“Our uniformed service members and overseas citizens deserve a full opportunity to participate in all elections of our nation’s leaders including runoff elections for federal office in states where they are held. This suit seeks relief to ensure that Georgia’s military and overseas voters, many of whom are members of our armed forces and their families serving our country around the world, will be provided the opportunity guaranteed by UOCAVA to receive, mark and return their ballots in the upcoming primary runoff election, as well as all future federal runoff elections.”

Republican State Rep. Mark Hamilton finds the DOJ’s timing suspect.

In the fall of 2010, more than 1,900 Georgia voters serving in the military or living overseas sought applications for absentee ballots in electronic format for the first time.

Georgia’s military and overseas voters were able to access their absentee ballot electronically 45 days prior to election day. To access their ballot, these voters logged on to a secure website, printed and cast their ballot, and then mailed them back to their county election office. This saved weeks of time previously lost to delivery of blank ballots by mail. The system that delivered these blank ballots was developed in-house within the Georgia secretary of state’s office at no additional cost to Georgia’s taxpayers.

Georgia was one of the first states in the nation to be in full compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act through passage of Georgia House Bill 1073, signed into law in 2010 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

However, it now appears that a politically motivated U.S. Department of Justice is willing to put this system into question just one month before our state’s primary election.

I cannot believe that this is an earnest attempt to expand voting opportunities for our men and women in uniform. Georgia has an incredible track record on this issue, and even issues write-in runoff ballots with all absentee ballots to ensure that every Georgia citizen has the opportunity to vote in every election in which they choose to vote.

In fact, this system was developed with the Department of Justice in 2005 and has served our state well since then. Can anyone imagine developing a plan with a third party only to have them sue you over it years later? That’s exactly what the Department of Justice is doing with this lawsuit. It doesn’t inspire a whole lot of trust and confidence in our federal government, does it?

I am shocked by the suggestion that the United State Department of Justice would make politically-motivated decisions. Shocked.

Greg Davis is also shocked at anyone questioning Attorney General Eric Holder’s devotion to following upholding the law whether he want to or not.

I just had to find out why U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would want to deny our soldiers and other overseas voters the right to vote.

In the first place, this is not Georgia’s first run-in with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. In 2004, the U.S. government successfully challenged Georgia’s failure to provide adequate time for voters overseas to participate in runoff elections. Obama cannot be blamed for that one.

Let’s fast-forward to this year. Federal law says that all absent uniformed services and overseas voters are to have ballots 45 days before the day of the election. When Rep. Hamilton claims that Georgia follows the law, this is only partially true. For runoff elections, only 14 days would be possible. If one reads his column closely, Rep. Hamilton does not dispute this. Instead, he blames the Justice Department for not bringing up the subject earlier.

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Yet again, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has drawn the ire of the University System of Georgia with his political signs that depict the UGA and Georgia Tech mascots.

Georgia Board of Regents Vice Chancellor for External Affairs Tom Daniel confirmed to the Ledger-News Friday that he has asked Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers’ alma mater, Georgia Tech, as well as the University of Georgia, to pen letters to Rogers asking him to quit using those schools’ patented sports team logos on campaign signs. All university system patented logos are the property of the Board of
Regents.

Rogers’ campaign spokesman Robert Trim said the senator would not have any more signs printed with the logos.

Trim said the signs with the logos were printed for a special event a few years ago, and the only ones in circulation are ones people took home with them.

“We distributed (those signs) over two years ago, and we are honored support for Sen. Rogers is consistent and long-lasting,” Trim said.  “We think the recycling of signs from former events represents conservative values.”

I note that Trim didn’t say anything about taking the questioned images down from the Dawgs for Chip Rogers or Jackets for Chip Rogers facebook pages.

Here’s a new link to a different story reporting on the trademark issue.

Speaking of yardsigns, CBS Atlanta asked the tough questions of judicial candidates in Gwinnett County about why some of their signs were in rights-of-way along roads. As we all know, the Georgia DOT doesn’t like political signs in their rights-of way.

Seriously, CBS Atlanta, you were in Gwinnett County, where a sitting County Commissioner recently pled guilty to federal bribery charges, where another former Commissioner is under indictment for allegedly taking a million dollars in cash for zoning decisions, and everyone is wondering which current or former Commissioner will be indicted next, and this is the best you could come up with?

The American Civil Liberties Union will represent the Ku Klux Klan as it seeks to adopt a highway.

The Klan was recently denied the chance to clean up part of Route 515 in Union City.  Seagroves says that the decision to exclude the group from  a purely voluntary program appears to be based on a the viewpoint of group members, which she says is a clear violation of the first amendment.

“Any decision about participating in a public program has to be content neutral, and when our department of transportation decided to close the program to a group because its views and opinions were offensive to some, we consider that a violation of the first amendment.”

Speaking of the Klan, yesterday I inadvertantly wrote that Roger Garrison, under fire for pictures showing him in a KKK robe and mask 25-30 years ago, is Sheriff of Forsyth County. That was a mistake. Garrison is Sheriff of Cherokee County.

Muscogee County Superior Court’s Chief Judge John Allen is stepping down as Chairman of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, but will remain on the Commission as a member.

“Judge Allen leaves an indelible mark on the judiciary, which he has served so honorably,” said Jeff Davis, the commission’s director. “Judge Allen has led the commission through a flurry of increased activity over the last few years, steadfastly ensuring that those who aspire to be judges respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust.”

Allen will take office as President of the Rotary Club of Columbus.

Georgia Public Broadcasting brings us the surprising news that a Democrat Wright McLeod is the front-runner in the Republican Primary for the Twelfth Congressional District. The Augusta Chronicle brings us the not-so-surprising news that the Federal Elections Commission is seeking records from McLeod’s campaign.

The Federal Election Commission is asking 12th Congressional District Republican candidate Wright McLeod to provide additional information about his campaign spending or face an audit or penalty.

In a June 18 letter to McLeod campaign treasurer Cameron Nixon, FEC Senior Campaign Finance Analyst Robin Kelly says McLeod’s April quarterly report did not state the purpose for several disbursements of campaign funds, including those characterized only as “payroll.”

“It’s time that Wright McLeod finally tells the truth by admitting he made major mistakes, including stealing our campaign’s donor list,” Paradise said Tuesday. “The FEC has confirmed what we’ve believed for some time – Wright McLeod is in clear violation of the law.”

McLeod campaign spokeswoman Holly Croft called the letter, which has a response due date of July 23, “a routine administrative request” and pointed to similar FEC requests for additional information made earlier this year to Allen and another Republican candidate, state Rep. Lee Anderson.

Both letters, posted on the FEC.gov Web site, cite the candidates’ failures to include more specific information about some donors’ employers besides “requested” or “self.”

Asked whether the letter verified Paradise’s complaint, which McLeod officials have dismissed as a frivolous “hatchet job,” Croft said “there could be some overlap” between Allen’s complaint and the FEC letter.

The dispute between Georgia Southern and a media company owned at least partially by Senator Cecil Staton is in the news again, just in time to gratuitously attempt to extort embarrass Staton by using his political position as a weapon in a business dispute.

All the correspondence from Georgia Eagle Media to Georgia Southern about this dispute has come from Staton.

Georgia Eagle’s statement calls the disagreement a “contract dispute” with Georgia Southern Athletics “not connected personally or individually with Cecil Staton.”

The company added, “Were it not the case that Mr. Staton is state senator and in a contested primary election in five weeks, we are confident this legal dispute between two business entities would not warrant the attention of Georgia Eagle Media, Inc’s media competitors.”

That last phrase refers to Georgia Eagle Media’s television and radio operation, WRWR, in Warner Robins.

Staton has previously released extensive documentation of the dispute that appear to raise legitimate issues about the amount of money owed. Also, Staton’s company attempted to make a partial payment of money that was not disputed, but the University refused.

Sock puppets appear to be making their first appearance in Middle Georgia, as a Staton supporter named Brian Zorotovich is accused of sending emails trashing Staton’s opponent from an email account bearing the name Beth Merkelson Mal Reynolds.

“Zorotovich has attempted to distort the facts of all the circumstances involving these financial challenges,” said Price.”His actions, rather than speaking negatively of my character, actually speak negatively of his own.”

For his part, Staton told the Reporter on Monday that he had no clue who Beth Merkelson Zorotovich is. He said he tries to avoid “that stuff” as much as he can. “It just raises the blood pressure,” said Staton. “I don’t have time for childishness,” said Staton. “I am the senator and I will continue to do that job. I think that’s about all they (Price) have. They haven’t been able to do anything else. They haven’t raised any money. We’re just doing we’re supposed to do.”

Grovetown City Council member Sonny McDowell was indicted in an Alabama federal court for bribery.

“Sonny” McDowell, who was arraigned June 15, is accused of offering a kickback to a former employee of the Alabama Department of Public Safety in 2007.

McDowell and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, Ala., face a four-count indictment alleging bribery related to a program receiving federal funds, according to a statement from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Alabama.

Part of Potts’ job in July 2007 involved helping the Alabama Department of Human Resources solicit bids for an electronic fingerprint system. McDowell is owner of Southern Detention Technologies Inc., which sells fingerprint machines.

The indictment accuses McDowell of offering and Potts of accepting a $1,700 check and $1 for every fingerprint scan run related to the DHR, according to the statement.

25
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 25, 2012


Today, we have four lab mix puppies from two different litters who are available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. 25271 and 25352 (top row, l to r) are baby girls, while 25066 (lower left) is a girl and 25066 (lower right) is boy; I think that’s just kibble crumbs on 25066′s face. The Gwinnett Animal Shelter is closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 AM to 4 PM and Sunday from noon to 4 PM and is located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville.

Today might be the day for Obamacare decision from US Supreme Court
At yesterday’s Fulton County Republican Party Barbecue, Attorney General Sam Olens discussed the impending Obamacare decision by the United States Supreme Court that may be handed down today. Here’s a video shot while Sam was in Atlanta between court days during the appeal before the Supreme Court in which he discusses the lawsuit.

Olens makes three main points about the lawsuits. First, in terms of the structure of our government, “The case is about whether the court is going to view the Constitution the way the founders viewed it, which is that the federal government has limited, enumerated powers or whether Congress can pass whatever Congress wants.”

Second, there is not only the individual mandate at stake, but also the expansion of Medicaid. “We already know that (fewer) doctors will accept Medicaid. What happens when we have a 35 percent increase in the number of Georgians that are then on Medicaid?  It is an additional $2.5 billion cost (to Georgia) over the decade.”

Finally, the results will be more complex than a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Either the individual mandate or the Medicaid expansion could be held unconstitutional, but the issue of severability will determine whether the rest of the Obamacare act is thrown out or retained.

I’ll be hanging out watching the live blog at Scotusblog by Scotusblog.com which many consider to be the definitive source for news of Supreme Court decisions.

The Supreme Court is also considered likely to hand down a decision on Arizona’s immigration reform law, which might have consequences for Georgia’s immigration reform statute, HB 87.

I’m not sure what I think about Sam’s new NASCAR sponsorship look, but below is a banner from one of our sponsors, R. Thompson & Associates, LLC, who specialize in filing solutions for candidates and elected officials. Please tell them I sent you.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

NPR ran a story this morning on Georgia’s cross-state lines insurance sales law, noting that no providers have applied to sell out-of-state insurance in Georgia. Sponsor State Rep. Matt Ramsey thinks that insurers are waiting until an Obamacare decision before making plans.

Friday evening, the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta held a nonpartisan “Stand Up” rally against Obamacare’s health care mandates as applied to religious institutions.

Also at the Fulton County GOP Barbecue yesterday, a straw poll was held on T-SPLOST. The results were 53 “No” votes, 7 “Yes” vote, 2 “Undecided” and 2 “Hell No!” That’s nearly an 8-to-1 advantage for opponents of the tax increase.

Last week, the United States Department of Justice sent a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, taking issue with Georgia’s runoff laws and threatening a lawsuit.

It claims violations of a federal law that requires absentee ballots to be sent to military and overseas residents at least 45 days before federal elections, including runoffs.

The letter threatens a lawsuit if the matter isn’t resolved quickly.

Georgia’s state primary runoff is scheduled for three weeks after the state primary election, and Georgia’s general election runoff is scheduled for four weeks following the general election.

Secretary Kemp fired back in a statement sent out late Friday:

If the DOJ was earnest, they would have previously contacted us about their concerns rather than sending a notice of a lawsuit a month before the Primary Election.  Georgia is literally in the middle of the 2012 Primary. Currently, ballots have been printed and absentee voters (military and overseas included) are voting, while the DOJ is attempting to twist the State’s arm into agreeing to a consent decree, the terms of which would place unnecessary stresses on the elections administration process, before even filing the lawsuit.

The DOJ has not previously expressed concerns about Georgia’s compliance with the MOVE Act, or Georgia’s ability to transmit absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters.  In fact, the DOJ approved Georgia’s timing for run-off elections in 2005 after the General Assembly altered prior election laws.

Representative Mike Jacobs, (R-Brookhaven) notes that the deadline to appeal your property tax assessment in Fulton County is June 28 and DeKalb County is July 13. While deadline may be different in other Counties, the write-up Jacobs has on how to appeal your property tax assessment is excellent and should be applicable everywhere.

Hall County is one of the last counties that still elect a County Surveyor; this year the only candidate for the unpaid job is Republican Jason Lourie.

Cherokee Sheriff wore KKK robe, mask to party 25 years ago

WSB-TV reports that they have been given a photo of Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison wearing what appears to be a KKK robe and hood to a costume party in about 1987, and that Garrison says he never had any connection to the Ku Klux Klan.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/sheriff-says-kkk-costume-stupid-mistake/nPcqp/Photo from WSB-TV purported to be Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison circa 1987

“I don’t deny it wasn’t stupid, looking back now, but there again I say what 21- or 22-year-old in this world hasn’t made some stupid mistakes?” Garrison told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer, who obtained the photos from a source who wished to remain anonymous.

Garrison is up for re-election this year, and is facing primary opposition next month.

“It’s purely political,” he said, “This is just the lowest of the low to infer whatever they’re attempting to infer there.”

Garrison said he and a friend were dressed as characters from a scene in the movie “Blazing Saddles” and that he has never espoused any of the KKK’s beliefs.

“I don’t think anyone who knows me is going to think anything of this, but it’s just sickening and it hurts my family,” said Garrison.

“Everybody knows everything about my life. I would just ask that they look at my honor and my integrity and the things we’ve done for this sheriff’s office,” said Garrison.

WSB notes that Garrison’s opponent in the Republican primary says he was made aware of the photo but chose not to make an issue of it, and his opponent was not the person who brought it to their attention.

Garrison’s opponent, David Waters, said someone showed him the photos a year ago, but he chose to ignore them and focus on his own campaign.

“It is a bad judgment call, and (that) type of clothing represents hate, and I certainly don’t want any part of that,” said Waters.

Waters was not the source who provided the photos to Channel 2 Action News.

I’m not sure what I think about this yet, but I’ll offer a few points.

First, as far as Garrison’s opponent, I think it was a good call on his part to not make an issue of something that Garrison did 25 years ago before he was Sheriff. In 1987, I was 16 years old and a normal, stupid, 16-year old male. Probably did some things I wouldn’t do now, and I think most people are like that as they mature.

Second, here’s my rule of thumb with respect to negative information about political opponents: if it happened in college or earlier, I probably wouldn’t use it if they’re, say, 40 years or older, unless it was rape, murder, or something of that level.

Third, as a voter, I give less weight to past actions that were simply in bad taste or bad personal choices, the further in the past they are. Garrison’s point about judging a stupid thing he did 25 years ago against his long career in public service is apt.

On the other hand, if it was twenty years ago, and Garrison has been Sheriff 20 years with a law enforcement career before that, it’s likely that the event occurred while he was a law enforcement officer professionally. That makes it a little bit more appalling, but doesn’t diminish the above points.

Finally, I note that in 1987, in the counties north of Metro Atlanta, and at that time, I don’t think Cherokee would have been considered part of Metro Atlanta, the KKK had recently been in the news in Forsyth County.

In January and February, violence erupted in Forsyth County when KKK members confronted a march led by Hosea Williams, and later staged a counterdemonstration to Williams’s follow-up march.

Given the political climate at the time, it would have been hard for any law enforcement officer wearing a Klan robe and hood for any reason to not be making an overt political statement.

[I also want to note that it appeared at the time, and still does, that most of the people actively causing trouble in Forsyth County in 1987 were not from there. According to the U.S. Census, Forsyth County is estimated in 2011 to have had 175,511 residents, of whom approximately 4563, or 2.6% were black, and there racial tension doesn't appear to be worse than anywhere else.]

Events

Join the Gwinnett Republican Party on Monday, June 25th from 7-9:30 PM at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium for a free Judicial Forum. Candidates in each race will answer questions posed to them by former WGCL TV reporter Mike Moore. One suggestion if you’re attending: ask the candidate how long they wrote on their qualifying papers they have lived continuously in Gwinnett County. You’ll be shocked at one of the answers.

Fundraiser for Senator David Shafer, with Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, on Tuesday, June 26th from 5 to 7 PM at St Ives Country Club in Johns Creek.

On Wednesday from 5 to 7 PM, State Rep. Mike Jacobs will hold a fundraiser at Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant at Perimeter, 1140 Hammond Drive (at Peachtree Dunwoody) in Sandy Springs.

Ends & Pieces

Chandler Massey, the son of former Georgia Secretary of State Lewis Massey and grandson of longtime poultry industry lobbyist Abit Massey, won a daytime Emmy award for his role on “Days of Our Lives.”

This weekend marked the 40th Anniversary of the release of the film “Deliverance,” which introduced North Georgia’s rivers to audiences nationwide. When rafting, remember to keep an ear out for banjos, and if you hear them, paddle faster.

Transformers losers lovers gathered in Savannah this weekend for a convention.

22
Jun

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp responds to US Department of Justice lawsuit threat

Via email from Kemp’s office:

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez notified the State on June 15th that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had been authorized to file a lawsuit against the State of Georgia and Secretary of State Brian Kemp alleging violations of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) ballot delivery requirements. Specifically, the DOJ is alleging that the State of Georgia and the Secretary of State’s Office would be in violation of UOCAVA if there is a runoff in either the primary or general election.

Three days after sending notification of the DOJ’s authorization to sue the State of Georgia, the DOJ sent a proposed consent decree for the State to execute with the understanding that the DOJ would file the consent decree simultaneously with the DOJs lawsuit in federal court.

If the DOJ was earnest, they would have previously contacted us about their concerns rather than sending a notice of a lawsuit a month before the Primary Election.  Georgia is literally in the middle of the 2012 Primary. Currently, ballots have been printed and absentee voters (military and overseas included) are voting, while the DOJ is attempting to twist the State’s arm into agreeing to a consent decree, the terms of which would place unnecessary stresses on the elections administration process, before even filing the lawsuit.

The DOJ has not previously expressed concerns about Georgia’s compliance with the MOVE Act, or Georgia’s ability to transmit absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters.  In fact, the DOJ approved Georgia’s timing for run-off elections in 2005 after the General Assembly altered prior election laws.

We are operating under the terms of an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered between the State of Georgia and the DOJ in 2005.  The terms of that MOU with respect to ballot delivery for runoff elections track the General Assembly’s 2005 amendments to the Election Code.   In addition to remaining in compliance with UOCAVA, the Secretary of State’s Office has continuously taken additional steps to ensure our overseas and military citizens have the opportunity to vote in every election.

Our office is committed to safe and secure elections that every Georgia citizen, at home or abroad, has the opportunity to participate in.  For this reason, we will not enter into the proposed consent decree with the DOJ and we look forward to defending Georgia’s system.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Kemp