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29
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 29, 2012

26982 is a Corgi/Golden Retriever mix puppy who will be available for adoption beginning Sunday from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. What a great looking dog!

Adopt A Golden Atlanta is the second largest Golden Retriever rescue organization in the country and sets the gold standard in caring for dogs. Because of their extensive experience with the breed and their network of vets, they are able to take dogs with medical issues that would usually end up in euthanasia.

Because they have had a spate of dogs recently with extensive veterinary needs, they are asking for donations.

Krystal, pictured at left, had a skin condition that wound up costing nearly $5000 to cure, but has been saved and is ready to go to a new home.

Barney came to AGA after his owner died and the estate’s executor said that his medical care was to be paid for our of the estate. $9000 in vet care later, the late owner’s family prevented the payment from being made. Barney was taken care of an is in a new home, but the financial toll on AGA is mounting.

They expect ten new dogs into the program next week, including a puppy who will need cataract surgery. Please take a moment to read about what they are doing to save these wonderful dogs and consider making a donation today. I’ll be donating in memory of Henry, the Golden we adopted from AGA, who spent five great years in our home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the Republican nominees for President and Vice President, whether Ron Paul supporters like it or not.

The headline “Flake wins GOP Senate nomination” is not about Todd Akin, but about Arizona nominee for the US Senate Jeff Flake.

A member of the Georgia delegation to the Republican National Convention forwarded this recap of pollster Frank Luntz’s talk. I will credit it when I figure out who wrote the original and get permission to use their name.

Here are ‘Cliff’s Notes’ of Frank Luntz’s talk to us today-let’s use these to guide our conversations with folks over the next 71 days!!:

The 5 Attributes that Republicans/conservatives will bring to the country when voted into office:
1. More Money $$$ (Will lower taxes)
2. More Choices (on healthcare, education, jobs)
3. More Time (don’t have to work 2 jobs, less compliance burdens)
4. Fewer hassles (fewer burdensome/stupid regulations)
5. No worries! (more certainty about business conditions, ability to hire or to find a job)

*Use QUESTIONS with people – “Do you want:_____________?” Fill in the blank with items 1-5 above, emphasizing that with the Romney/
Ryan team, you will be able to count on having all of these. (The Democrats/Obama have no plans to accomplish any of them.)

Numbers to repeat:
23 Million – Americans out of Work (The MOST since Great Depression)
8.3% Unemployment – AND over 16% adding those who’ve stopped looking (MANY now on Welfare/Disability) or only work Part-time.

The most powerful sentences you can use to describe what Conservatives/the Republican Party Stand for:
1. We are: Fighting for hardworking taxpayers. (NOT the ‘middle class’, or any class designation)
2. We are Fighting for Economic Freedom. (Main Street!) (NOT ‘defending capitalism’-as most folks connect capitalism with Wall Street)
3. We bring leaders (Romney/Ryan)

Layla Shipman (R-Upper Left Hand Corner) reports in on the GOP Convention in an interview with the Rome News-Tribune. Gwinnett’s Kathy Hildebrand checked in with the Snellville Patch.

Colonel Oscar Poole got some coverage in the Durham Herald Sun while at the Republican National Convention.

“I feel this is the most critical election in my lifetime of 82 years,” said Colonel Poole, decked out in a bright yellow suit and a Stars and Stripes top hat.

“I fear this country is headed towards socialism and, I’m afraid, communism.”

Of course they ran a photo of the Colonel.

It’s now eight days after the primary runoff election and the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission has not yet posted the reports due six days before the runoff. Maybe candidates should be able to fine the Commission for late filing.

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Governor Nathan Deal told the AJC that Georgia will not expand Medicaid under Obamacare because the state cannot afford the estimated $4 billion increase it would cost, despite some promised federal funding.

“No, I do not have any intentions of expanding Medicaid,” Deal said. “I think that is something our state cannot afford. And even though the federal government promises to pay 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, I think it is probably unrealistic to expect that promise to be fulfilled in the long term, simply because of the financial status that the federal government is in.”

State officials estimated that the Medicaid expansion would cost Georgia $4.5 billion over 10 years, and the state already is facing a $300 million shortfall this year for the program.

State House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, agreed with Deal’s fiscal reasoning.

“The costs are enormous and there is little faith that the federal government will live up to the funding requirements of Obamacare as it stands now,” Ralston said in a statement, using a term Republicans employ derisively to describe the health care law.

Former Speaker of the Georgia House Glenn Richardson spoke to Jaye Watson of 11Alive about his decision to run for State Senate.

 

 

Richardson also apparently spoke to Governor Deal about his decision to run for the Senate.

The Douglas County Sentinel writes that five potential candidates have expressed interest in running for the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Bill Hamrick. In addition to Richardson, State Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Douglas County), and Libertarian James Camp are:

[Jim] Naughton, 52, of Carrollton, was an executive with Milliken and Company for 22 years. He is currently a business consultant and married to Laura Richards.

“I think this is a great opportunity to make a difference in a more significant way,” Naughton commented Monday about his candidacy. “I want to try to do something to help the economic well-being of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties. We have to figure a way to recreate manufacturing and unshackle smaller business owners.”

[and Allen] Trapp, 59, of Carrollton, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and earned his law degree from Georgia State University. He has lived more than 24 years in Carrollton and has served as chairman, vice-chairman and treasurer of the Carroll County Republican Party. He is a Kiwanis Club member and a frequent speaker at legal seminars.

“I believe we need an effective advocate, and I have a proven track record for hard work,” Trapp said Monday. “We need someone to protect Second Amendment and other rights and to seek out legislation to help economic growth in West Georgia.”

Stacii Jae Johnson resigned as Special Events Director in Mayor Kasim Reed’s office after being arrested last week for DUI.

Johnson was arrested late Thursday night and charged with DUI, reckless driving, speeding and failure to maintain her lane after an Atlanta police officer saw her driving a white Porsche at 82 mph in a 55 mile zone near the I-75/I-85 split. She refused to submit to a field sobriety test, according to a police report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Johnson, 41, has worked as a political fundraiser and managed a small staff of about six people in the special events office. That office is responsible for overseeing the permitting process for outdoor festivals and large events such as movie shoots.

Johnson previously raised money for the Obama campaign, and starred in a video called  “I Want To Strip For My Man, But I Don’t Know How….” Sounds like she unleashed the naughty last Thursday.

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-2d) kicked off his reelection campaign in Macon.

Incumbent Democrat Sanford Bishop was at Francar’s Buffalo Wings on the Mercer University campus Tuesday night to rally support for his re-election to the 2nd congressional district.

This year’s election will be the first since the 2010 census, when the district was re-drawn to include much of Bibb County and, once again, part of Macon.

Many of the city’s leaders spoke of Bishop’s long tenure in Washington, and how well he’s represented southwest Georgia since he was elected in 1992.

Sanford says if elected, he’ll continue to improve the quality of life of his constituents.

“We’ve got some of the best, some of the brightest, and some of the most creative people anywhere in the world right here in our area,” says Rep. Bishop.  “All they need is the opportunity to realize that potential.  I want to do my darndest to make sure that we utilize all of the resources to do that here in this congressional district.”

Sanford will face Republican John House in the November 6th general election.

Gloria Tinubu, the Democratic candidate for South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District was called a “carpetbagger” by her primary opponent.

As in the primary, Tinubu didn’t shy away from her past, telling supporters she only agreed to fill the Georgia house seat after its sitting member decided to run for state senate and made the decision in November to resign in order to run for the 7th District in South Carolina.

Her move to Georgia came in the 1970s after marrying her husband, Soji, after they graduated from Clemson University when he couldn’t find civil engineering work in South Carolina.

Rock the Vote will visit Georgia State University on Friday to try to get students registered to vote and interested in politics.

Laptop kiosks will help citizens register to vote and provide information about Georgia election laws. That includes identification requirements and polling locations. The event also features music, games and free swag for students.

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has changed its position on the Charter School Amendment on the November ballot from “oppose” to “meh”.

The recount for the Republican primary runoff in Gwinnett County Commission District Three produced no change in the vote total, meaning Tommy Hunter will serve as the next Commissioner.

Pro-tip for corrections officers: wait at least two weeks before sending a Facebook friend request to that hottie you saw in the lockup over the weekend.

21
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 21, 2012 — Primary Runoff Election Day

Timothy is the tan-colored puppy above (the black one is adopted), he is two months old and has spent a month in the Cobb County Animal Shelter, where he lives in cage 332. If you adopt him, he will be vaccinated, chipped, and neutered.

Suri and Kimmi, the black puppies, are his sisters, and are still available from the Cobb County Animal Shelter (the tan girl has been adopted). They are right next door to Timothy in Cage 331 in the puppy are. Adoption also includes vaccinations, micro-chipping, and spaying.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is Primary Runoff Election Day and includes runoffs in nonpartisan elections, such as most judges. You may vote today, even if you didn’t vote in the Primary, although if you voted in a partisan primary in July, you may not vote in the other party’s runoff. Polls are open from 7 AM to 7 PM. You will need to bring your photo ID and the Secretary of State’s office has information on which forms of ID are acceptable. If you do not have your ID when you arrive to vote, you may still cast a provisional ballot, as you may do in case of certain other problems. If you cast a provisional ballot, you will have three days to produce proper ID to election officials to have your ballot counted.

When you vote today, I’d be interested in hearing how it went. Relevant information includes your county and precinct, what time you voted, how crowded it was, your voter number (ask the poll workers), and any impressions you or the poll workers have about the pace of voting. Visit the website and put it in the comments or email me.

Last week, Karl Rove updated his electoral map, moving Georgia from “safe Romney” to “leans Romney” but that may reflect a dearth of publicly-released polling in the state, rather than an actual change in the electorate.

Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals let stand the “show your papers” provision of Georgia’s House Bill 87, an immigration reform bill.

The decision upholds an injunction against Section 7 of the law, which made it illegal to transport or harbor an illegal alien in Georgia. But it reverses an injunction against Section 8 of the law, which authorizes law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of criminal suspects who cannot provide particular documents to prove their status.

The opinion of the panel is available here. The next step is a decision by the litigants whether to appeal to have the case heard by the entire Eleventh Circuit.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said, via press release,

“I am pleased that the the 11th Circuit has reversed the lower court’s injunction and allowed Section 8 of HB 87 to stand. While I disagree with the Court’s decision on Section 7, after over a year of litigation, only one of the 23 sections of HB 87 has been invalidated. We are currently reviewing the 11th Circuit’s ruling to determine whether further appeal would be appropriate at this stage of the case.”

Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee and a leader in the movement to adopt limitations on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. He released yesterday his Minority Report in which he dissents from the negotiated settlement of ethics charges against Senator Don Balfour.

The Minority agreed that Respondent had violated Senate Rules by failing to maintain accurate records and submitting false expense reports; however, dissented from the negotiated sanction.

It is clear to the Minority that both the Christian and Dooley complaint meet the jurisdictional threshold of Title 45 and should have been handled under Title 45. Both complaints alleged that the Respondent used his position as State Senator to file false expense reports which provided for a direct, unique, pecuniary and personal benefit, namely the monies wrongfully disbursed to Respondent. The amended Dooley complaint went a step further, alleging that by failing to authorize the Audit Subcommittee as required by O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 that the Respondent was able to insure that the false expense reports would never be reviewed.

Instead of proceeding under Title 45 with the complaints presented which would have necessitated a public hearing of these matters, the Committee chose to proceed under the other route available which did not require a public hearing. The opinion of the Minority is that this decision was made in error and that the public, including the complainants, were entitled to be present for the proceedings held by the Committee.

In addition to the charges of filing false expense reports in this case, the Respondent also admitted to violation of O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 which provides for the Audit Subcommittee to review the expense reports of all Senators.

In the view of the Minority, this compounds the other offense as by the Respondent’s failure to appoint the Audit Subcommittee he removed the safeguard against false filings, not just in his case but in the case of any Senator that might have done so over the last decade he has been charged with the responsibility of chairing the Senate Rules Committee.

[I]t is the opinion of the Minority that a recommendation should issue for a Censure Resolution to be introduced with a do pass recommendation regarding the conduct of the Respondent, that the Committee recommend to the Committee on Assignments that Respondent be removed as Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and that a fine equivalent to the cost of the proceedings of the Senate Ethics Committee be imposed on Respondent.

The Minority is of the opinion that to fully conclude this matter, that an appropriate authority should investigate these matters and determine finally if any violation of these statutes has taken place. The Minority will transmit this report to the Attorney General with its recommendation that his office conduct such an investigation.

I apologize for such a long pull quote, but here’s the tl;dr version:

1. McKoon believes that a public process was authorized and appropriate here and that the Ethics Committee erred in proceeding in the manner it did;

2. The failure by Balfour to appoint an audit subcommittee kept improper expenditures from being detected;

3. The negotiated penalty was inadequate and Senator Balfour should be Censured by the Senate as a body;

4. The case should be referred for consideration of possible criminal sanctions.

Also failing to do their job is the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Runoff candidates are required to file a campaign contributions disclosure six days before the runoff so that voters know where their funding comes from. The Commission’s website, while accepting such filings from candidates does not appear to be displaying them when they are searched for. Nor does it appear to be properly displaying two-business day reports in some cases. This is unacceptable.

Georgia’s current campaign finance regime is premised on timely disclosure, and the biggest impediment to voters learning how campaigns are financed in a timely manner is the Commission charged with collecting and distributing disclosures.

Ultimately, I believe that this reflects in part a misconception about what the Campaign Finance Commission is. It is no longer primarily an enforcement agency. Its statutory charges makes it primarily an IT agency charged with maintaining a campaign and lobbyist disclosure database. It should be putting most of its resources into IT infrastructure and services, and its most-highly paid staffer should be a database administrator. Its continuing failure to do its job negatively affects public confidence in the Commission and in our elected officials.

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In Cobb County, the runoff election for Commission Chairman between incumbent Tim Lee and former Chair Bill Byrne may be a battle between old Cobb and new, if the Marietta Daily Journal is correct.

“In some ways it’s a battle of old Cobb versus new Cobb,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint, who specializes in campaigns and elections.

It’s also a battle between old-style campaign tactics and new.

“I know Bill Byrne has friends in Cobb County, and I think he’s depending on people he and his wife know getting out the troops, and where Tim Lee is concerned, I think it’s a matter of using his financial edge to make phone calls, beat the bushes and get his voters to come back out for him again,” [said Swint].

In Gwinnett County, Sheriff Butch Conway has endorsed Tommy Hunter, who is challenging incumbent Mike Beaudreau for Commission District 3 in the GOP runoff.

Conway, who is unopposed for his fifth term, has been involved in county commission races before. He campaigned for challenger Lorraine Green, when the commissioner mounted an unsuccessful challenge to then-Chairman Charles Bannister in 2008.

Conway might be the most popular politician in Gwinnett County, but his endorsement may not be very valuable after today. The Conway-endorsed candidate for one of the open judicial seats will be defeated soundly. Will a Beaudreau win make it 0 for 3?

Republican delegates to the Republican National Convention will be given free copies of  Georgia Tech grad Mark Rogers’s self-published fiction book, “Smeared.”

“SMEARED” is a political fiction story about a man from the days of America’s founding fathers who suddenly appears in modern-day America. The self-published political novel answers the question of what a man from early American history would think, say and do when confronted by today’s politicians and shows the fallout of their interactions.

The Savannah Morning News writes about QR codes linking smartphones to campaign videos. Pure BS. Nobody uses QR codes except marketing firms with gullible clients, and then the real use of the QR codes is to extract money from the client for useless gewgaws. If some marketing expert tries to get you to spend money on QR codes, escort them out immediately.

In 2008, said a recent article in Campaigns and Elections magazine, just 10 percent of the population had a smartphone.

Now, it added, more than half do, and a third of them use their phones to scan such codes to access advertising.

“We’re going to see a lot more of them in politics,” said marketing specialist Rick Monroe, who is helping DeLoach.

Monroe said his candidate’s application is an improvement over Gaster’s.

Gaster’s codes were on his campaign signs, and unless you were within 3 feet, you couldn’t scan them with your smartphone, Monroe said.

In contrast, DeLoach’s mailer went directly to the addressees.

I’m open to hearing differently about my skepticism about QR codes, but unless you have analytics, don’t bother.

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal reminds you that “Stop means stop” when it comes to school buses with their stop signs and lights deployed.

Georgia’s First Lady came to Dougherty County Monday to discuss the importance of the “Stop Means Stop” program. She’s teaming up with several state groups to keep children safe.

Thousands of drivers in Georgia illegally pass school buses every day. In fact, a statewide survey showed bus drivers saw more than 4,000 violators in one day.

“We had had several children killed and more in the last two years and probably three years. We’re afraid that we may get the record for it again, to have the most children killed in school bus accidents,” said Mrs. Deal.

Now the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Department of Education are teaming up to educate drivers with the help from Georgia’s first lady, Sandra Deal.

“When you see a stop arm on a school bus, unless you’re on a highway with a divided median, you have to stop in either direction. That’s the law. It will cost you about $1,000 fine and up to six points on your driver’s license,” said Harris Blackwood, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Listen to Mrs. Deal and pay attention on the roads, please.

Grayson voters will vote in November on whether to allow Sunday sales of packaged beer, wine and liquor. In a particular brand of goofiness, the city, which already allows beer and wine sales, will vote on adding liquor, but if adding Sunday sales of liquor fails, it will also end beer and wine sales on the Sabbath.

17
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 17, 2012

This young female English Setter mix might be a great bird dog. She might also be a couch potato. Either way, she’s available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Her ID is 26571 and she is located in pen 139.

This puppy is described as a baby lab, but I’ve never seen a lab with markings like those. She is a large, playful and friendly puppy with ID #26454 and is in pen 214, waiting at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter for her new home and family.

I’d already compiled this morning’s featured dogs when I saw this photo and couldn’t resist. She is a young Siberian Husky available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Large and friendly, she was surrendered by her owner and does not like cats.

GPB has the first of a three-part series of advice and stories about adopting dogs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State Rep. Johnny Floyd of Cordele, who switched parties to become a Republican in 2006, has been elected Chairman of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board. Former State Rep. Jay Shaw was elected Vice Chair.

State Senator Don Balfour settled a complaint by the Senate Ethics Committee alleging the Rules Committee Chairman submitted inaccurate reimbursement claims.

The committee concluded that “Sen. Balfour failed to maintain accurate records of his travel and consequently submitted inaccurate vouchers to the Legislative Fiscal Office,” according to its report, which was released late Thursday afternoon.

Veteran lawmakers said it was the first time the Senate Ethics Committee voted to punish one of the chamber’s members.

Balfour, chairman of the Rules Committee, was accused of billing the state for mileage while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips, and for failing to create a subcommittee to audit all senators’ reimbursement vouchers.

On Thursday, Balfour acknowledged making “some inadvertent mistakes and I’ve said that all along” and admitted he had not created an audit subcommittee — but neither had previous chairmen. He did not speak to reporters after the report was released.

Balfour has subsequently amended his reimbursements and will repay $350 to the state plus a $5000 fine. His chairmanship presumably will be subject to the Committee on Assignments.

Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) was not amused.

“While I strongly agree with the Committee’s determination of guilt, I disagree with the penalty, which will not deter future serious breaches of Georgia law and is not as strong as penalties imposed when similar offenses have been committed in the past.”

“I will be preparing a minority report in the days to come which I will forward on to appropriate parties for consideration which will address these matters in much greater detail. Suffice it to say that the action taken today, in my opinion, further undermines public confidence in state government and reinforces the anything goes culture at the Capitol.”

Also not amused? Debbie Dooley, who I would argue is the most influential woman in Georgia politics at the moment.

Dooley called the penalties “a slap on the wrist” agreed to in a “backroom deal.”

“The attitude of the voters and the grass roots is that the Senate chamber is a good old boy network that actually takes care of their own and covers for their own,” she said.

The committee, Dooley said, is “rubber-stamping unethical behavior from Sen. Balfour.”

Dooley vowed to press Attorney General Sam Olens and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to investigate Balfour’s actions.

She said her organization also will pressure Senate leaders to strip Balfour of his committee chairmanship. The Rules Committee decides which bills make it to the Senate floor, and as chairman, Balfour has great power to influence those decisions.

Richmond County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Scott Peebles and County School System Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree will meet in the runoff for Sheriff on Tuesday.

Manure has become the metaphor of choice in the 12th Congressional District Republican Primary Runoff between State Rep. Lee Anderson and Rick Allen. Lee Anderson hit the air with an ad accusing Rick Allen of bringing out the manure spreader and visuals of Rick Allen getting what is presumably manure flung on his face.

Now, the Augusta Chronicle suggests that Anderson is mailing out the manure himself.

Mud – or in Grovetown state Rep. Lee Anderson’s case – manure – continues to fly in the 12th Congressional District race as Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff between Anderson and Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen grows closer.

A mailer from Lee Anderson for Congress goes too far in accusing Allen of contributing money to incumbent Democrat John Barrow, said Allen’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Paradise said. “This piece is a last-minute piece, and maybe they thought ‘let’s send it out and hope we don’t get caught.’ But they slipped up.”

I’ve got to wonder what the robocalls sound like in that campaign.

Also going negative in the runoff are State Senator Miriam Paris and her opponent David Lucas.

During a news conference Thursday, Lucas addressed a controversial campaign mailer that featured an unflattering picture of the former state representative who appears to be yawning. The mailer goes onto to say:

“We don’t need a sleeping senator. David Lucas falls asleep on the job. And when he wakes up, he’s a nightmare. David Lucas slept while thousands of jobs left Middle Georgia.”

Now Lucas is firing back. He’s says if anyone has been sleeping on the job it is Paris.

“The senator elect was asleep on the job when they did the consolidation bill that she could not explain,” Lucas said.

The ad was paid for by Georgia Forward, a group that describes itself as independent and non-partisan. Lucas believes that ad was paid for by republicans. He feels that negative campaigning is taking over the race but says he’s not the one behind it.

Both candidates deny negative campaigning.

Murray County Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran has resigned under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission for pre-signing blank arrest warrants for police officers.

The commission posted on Thursday Cochran’s resignation letter, a letter from Gov. Nathan Deal accepting his resignation and a copy of a consent order signed by Cochran agreeing to resign and to not seek any other elected or appointed judicial office.

A report accompanying those documents, also signed by Cochran, says the commission was investigating whether Cochran “allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests” and whether he “pre-signed blank arrest warrants for completion by law enforcement officers while he was absent from the office.”

Cochran was also recently accused of making advances toward a woman before him on methamphetamine charges.

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A political consulting firm called “Pirouette Companies” continues to cause controversy in the now-settled Fulton County election for State Court Judge.

An ethics complaint filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge in the days before the July 31 primary will be investigated by the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission to determine if any laws were violated.

The complaint was filed by Charlie Stadtlander, a gay voter. Leftridge faced off against open lesbian Jane Morrison in the non-partisan campaign for the open seat of Fulton State Judge. Morrison won with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Statdlander accused Leftridge in his complaint of an “apparent elaborate scheme to funnel some $18,500 to a company responsible for maintaining a websitewww.pirouettesexy.com” that features “pictures of scantly clad women.”

But here’s where the Pirouette Companies saga turns into more than just a remnant from a campaign that’s now finished:

Mitzi Bickers, a longtime political operative, said she consults for Piroutte Companies and started working for the company earlier this year.

The company has a youth program that includes teaching dance to young people, but the money Leftridge paid was to Piroutte Companies and not to a dance company, Bickers said.

“We have not done anything unethical,” she said.

Bickers, who is gay, took an unpaid leave of absence from working for Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration in May to work for Pirouette. Records show that Pirouette was paid more than $115,000 by Citizens for Transportation Mobility, which supported TSPLOST. Reed was a strong outspoken supporter of TSPLOST.

“I took an unpaid leave of absence so there would not be any conflict of interest with TSPLOST,” Bickers said.

Ends & Pieces

Atlantan Cassie Mitchell is headed to London to compete in the Paralympics in three wheelchair sports, the 100m and 200m sprint and the discus. I met Cassie when I volunteered at Shepherd Spinal Center with the Quad Rugby Program. She’s an amazing athlete and holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Georgia Tech, where she works.

Three members of the US Army marksmanship team who competed in the London Olympics have returned to Fort Benning where they are teaching junior rifle camp.

The Marksmanship Unit sent seven soldiers to the competition at the Royal Artillery Barracks, but Sgt. Vincent Hancock was the only one to strike gold in men’s skeet shooting. He’s on leave preparing for a big welcome home Saturday in Eatonton, Ga.

Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson, the first active-duty soldier to ever qualify for a Paralympics, is the only member of the Marksmanship Unit left to compete in London. Olson, who lost his right leg after he was wounded in Iraq in 2003, will compete in the 10-meter air rifle Sept. 1 and the mixed 50-meter prone rifle Sept. 4.

As an instructor, [Sgt. 1st Class Eric] Uptagrafft said he’s teaching the 15-17-year-old shooters the basic fundamentals of firing a small bore .22-caliber rifle at a target less than the size of a dime 50 meters away.

“All the things you use to get to the Olympics are the things these kids are going to use hopefully to get there in eight or nine years,” he said.

Students had to apply to earn a spot at the five-day camp. Michael Garner, 16, of Celina, Texas, said it’s exciting to get help from world-class shooters and Olympians.

9
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 9, 2012

This good-looking puppy is on his way to becoming a tragic statistic unless someone steps up to adopt or foster him. A large, friendly, playful little guy, the volunteers with Gwinnett County Animal Shelter write that he’ll be the first to be put down if the puppy section fills up. If you want to adopt him, Call the shelter for more information 770-339-3200 and refer to his number 26296.

These little hound or lab puppies apparently get along pretty well and would make a nice pair of friends.They were found stray and are apparently littermates or at least very good buddies. 26437 is male, and 26436 is female, and both are available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens will speak to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month. I suspect this is related to his role at the top elected supporter of Mitt Romney in Georgia. Congratulations to Sam.

Congressional candidate Wright McLeod has asked for a recount in the twelfth district Republican Primary, where he currently is narrowly out of the runoff.

But no one — apparently including McLeod — expects the recount, due to be finished by noon today, to change the result.

“He’s got basically two chances, slim and none,” said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “Put the emphasis on none.”

The reason: All but about 2,400 of 60,000-plus ballots in the primary were cast on computerized touch-screen voting machines.

They’ll be retabulated by the district’s 19 counties, said Jared Thomas, spokesman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in charge of Georgia elections.

Thomas said he doubts that will change the total very much, if at all.

Experts compare the retabulation process to using a calculator to tally up — yet again — the sum of two plus two.

“It may not change at all unless they find some voting machines had totals that somehow got left out,” Bullock said.

That recount should be finished by noon today. I wonder if any recounts in Georgia have changed election results since the implementation of computerized voting. Email me if you know of any.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s spokeperson isn’t aware of any such cases, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Recounts are “overseen by us and done by the counties just like election night,” said Jared Thomas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.

“They will re-scan all the absentee ballots and re-tabulate results” from voting machines, he said.

In a written statement after Georgia verified the first count, Staton said the certification made his “campaign victory official.”

Thomas said he was not aware of any case of a recount changing an outcome.

Since 2002, all Georgia voters have used electronic voting machines.

Potentially more interesting are Senator Cecil Staton’s comments about his role in the Senate Republican Caucus.

But it’s not clear if the tepid endorsement from voters in the district will be followed by a struggle for Staton to remain Senate majority whip. The Senate GOP caucus will vote on leadership after the November general election.

“I have not decided about whether I will run for (majority whip), some other office or return to being a committee chair. You can’t be whip and a full committee chair at the same time,” Staton wrote in an e-mail.

Staton led the Senate Science and Technology Committee before being voted whip two years ago.

There likely will be 36 to 38 Republicans in the state Senate by late November and some of them, wrote Staton, are undecided about who they will support for leadership.

“Conversations at this point about caucus positions invite premature speculation,” he said.

This could lead to an extended conversation about the role of the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC, which is thought to have funded incumbent protection mailpieces for several Senate Republicans.

One might wonder how efficient and effective an operation the Senate Caucus Promotion PAC was when the organization appears to have poured seven mailpieces into the lopsided victory by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers while spending considerably less in the very close campaigns for Senators Murphy and Staton, who barely won, and Senator Johnny Grant, who was defeated.

Republican Senators may be in for extended discussion of the legality and independence of the Republican Caucus Promotion PAC:

some members of the Republican Caucus in the Senate are wondering exactly who made the decision to donate money that they helped raise to an brand-new independent committee that hired a previously unknown company to assist in the re-election efforts of six of their colleagues.
Publicly, they are saying nothing. Privately, they are furious. “None of us knew anything about” the donation or the mailings, said one Senator.
Another Senate veteran has also denied knowledge of the decision behind the donations, and said he was “surprised embarrassed, mortified and angry,” to learn of them.
Another Senator claimed the donations were “inherently illegal,” not for the lack of disclosure, but because the donation appears to have violated the campaign contribution limits.
And while Republican Senators may be ducking calls and avoiding questions from the press, they’re also getting calls from the people who wrote the big checks to the Republican Senatorial Trust. Those donors want to know why their money is being spent this way, and whether or not their donations were used illegally.

The Savannah Morning News headline, “John Barrow hits prospective foes Lee Anderson and Rick Allen; they hit back — and each other” makes the General Election sound like a Three Stooges move.

Why did U.S. Rep. John Barrow attack two prospective foes this week without knowing which one he’ll run against?

People wondered out loud about that when the Augusta Democrat teed off on Republicans Lee Anderson and Rick Allen.

One possible answer surfaced quickly: Anderson and Allen responded by blasting each other almost as much as Barrow.

“It’s probably what Barrow wanted,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint. “He drew them out and got them to beat each other up.

David R. Werner has been promoted by Governor Nathan Deal to Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and External Affairs. According to the press release,

Werner previously served as deputy executive counsel and the policy adviser on public safety. He also held staff positions in both the state House and state Senate. He is the co-chairman of the Governor’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, co-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia and a member of the Federalist Society. He and his wife, Suzanne, reside in Atlanta and are members of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Kathy Schrader for Judge Banner

Springfield will elect a new Mayor after the resignation of Mayor Joe Quimby Jeff Northway.

Qualifying will cost $35 and will be held from 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 27, through 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Springfield City Hall, 130 S. Laurel St.

City officials said they recently discovered that Northway was convicted of three felonies in Texas in the 1980s. They said he lied and said he was not a convicted felon when he applied to run for mayor.

Northway resigned July 12 and has declined to comment.

The city said Northway was convicted of two felonies — theft by receiving and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1983 in Harris County, Texas. He received a three-year sentence on those charges.

After serving the sentence, he was convicted in 1989 of a third felony for unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Lesli Messinger won the Democratic Primary to take on Republican Congressman Jack Kingston. Apparently, her “Midwestern values” are one of the reasons Georgians will vote for her. Hmmm, blonde hair and midwestern values. Sounds like another candidate named “Leslie”.

Among the recounts that affirmed election night figures was the reelection of Senator Jack Murphy in Forsyth County and Geoff Duncan’s win over former State Rep. Tom Knox.

Incumbent Sen. Jack Murphy received 13,290 votes to challenger Steve Voshall’s 13,176. Murphy’s total was unchanged. Voshall’s final tally represents a loss of one vote.

There was no change in the election night totals in the House District 26 race. Former major league pitcher Geoff Duncan defeated former State Rep. Tom Knox by a count of 4,507 to 4,452.

More than 30 percent of Forsyth County’s registered voters voted in the election.

“I was very happy with that turnout,” [County elections supervisor Barbara] Luth said. “Usually we have a lower turnout in the primary elections.”

Fulton County is doing its usual efficient job of recounting votes in the Sheriff’s race; originally expected to take two days, they finished early by taking some shortcuts.

The law mandated a recount of the sheriff’s Democratic primary because the July 31 results had Jackson winning without a runoff by less than 1 percent. The counting took place in a drab warehouse in northwest Atlanta, where about 20 election workers re-fed absentee and qualified provisional ballots into the computer.

But instead of feeding precinct voting machine results directly from memory cards to the computer, Fulton reused master memory cards of the votes from each precinct created by election workers on election night, which may again cloud the result.

[Sheriff candidate Richard] Lankford asked officials to feed each voting machine’s card separately into the computer. At the very least, officials should have re-created new master memory cards rather than using the old ones, he said.

“Any manual process is not a tamper-proof system,” he said. “You’re almost at a point that it is not worth running for office in Fulton County because you can’t trust the vote counting.”

Serious policy proposal here: the legislature should consider giving the Secretary of State greater authority to supervise elections, including possibly replacing local officials,  where the locals have a record of fumbling procedures.

House District 66 runoff candidates Bob Snelling and Mike Miller answered some questions by the Douglasville Patch. Both candidates agree that Snelling previously served eight years in the State House, but they disagree on what it means.

Bob Snelling: “I have eight years of experience in the Georgia House of Representatives. I learned about the many intricacies of our legislative system. But, more importantly, I built relationships with community leaders throughout the state. That was my strong suit during my years of service, meeting and working with people. Many of those relationships remain to this day. These relationships will be invaluable a I seek to bring local legislative ideas to the process.”

Mike Miller: “My opponent has served in the Georgia Legislature before for some eight years in office. He seeks to return to office to reunite with friends at the State Capitol. We are running for very different reasons and have very different records in elected office. I am running to bring change and conservative principled leadership to the State Capitol.”

“I have been speaking up about the need to improve our ethics laws to include restrictions on lobbyist gifts for bureaucrats and to require candidates to disclose anonymous mailers and robocalls. My opponent has been silent on these matters.”

According to Democratic State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, who cruised to reelection, Snellville has the highest foreclosure rate in Gwinnett County.

One in every 300 homes in Georgia is in foreclosure, according to the AJC.  That’s double the national average.

In Snellville, (including unincorporated), it’s even worse: 1 in 127 homes are in foreclosure (as of June 2012).

Last month, around 40 percent of home sales in Snellville were foreclosures.

Foreclosure reform is something that is high on Kendrick’s list of priorities.  She has attempted to have bills passed, including HB 781, that would revolutionize the foreclosure process, according to Kendrick, but so far they have all been shut down.

“Next year,” she said, “I want to break down the bill into separate components.  If they won’t pass the whole thing, maybe parts of it will pass.”

One thing she wants to do is change Georgia from a non-judicial foreclosure state to a judicial one.  Every other legal procedure requires a person to hand you the papers, according to Kendrick, but that is not the case with foreclosures.

“Under our current system,” she said, “you get a certified letter and they sell your house on the courthouse step.  It doesn’t go through a judge.”

This one reminds me of a bawdy old rugby song: “Woman says she went to court for a warrant, left with proposition from the judge”.

The alleged incident occurred April 9 after Angela Garmley says she was assaulted by three people who once rented a trailer from her and her husband in Murray County. Garmley said when she went to take out the warrant, Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran propositioned her for sex when she was alone with him in his chambers.

“He asked me if I cheated on my husband,” Garmley, 36, of Chatsworth, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He said he wanted to have a mistress he could trust.”

Cochran says that never happened.

“We’re denying all allegations,” Cochran, who was reelected last month, said Wednesday. “The truth will come out. Right now, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.”

Cochran did not sign the warrant on April 9. Instead, Garmley said, he asked her to return to court a few days later and to wear a dress but no underwear.

“He said if I did that I would be very satisfied with the decision he’d make on my case,” she said.

3
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 3, 2012

First up in our Friday Puppy Parade is a little guy called “Fat Boy,” a 9-week old, 10-pound retriever mix with no black on his tongue.

“Benjamin” above and “Bethany” below are tiny 4.8 pound Dachshund/Chihuahua mix puppies.

All three of these, and several other equally-cute puppies are available for adoption from Walton County Animal Services. This is truly the best deal out there in dog adoptions. $40 for your new best friend for life is less than the vaccinations alone would cost from a private vet, and they also come with microchips (optional), discount on spay/neuter, and a free sack of kibble. Take two, they’re small!

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Baker County Sheriff Dana Meade was forced into a runoff, as he took 35% of the vote to 17% for top challenger Tim Williamson.

Former Fort Oglethorpe police chief Larry Black earned 43% of the vote for Catoosa County Sheriff and heads to a runoff against the county’s Chief Deputy Gary Sisk.

Black’s supporters said they voted for him because of his tough stance on drug enforcement and his long time commitment in the community.

“He’s good to everybody; he’s very fair,” said supporter Ronny Land.

Roger and Linda Farley said they appreciate how Black cares about teenagers and wants to focus on fighting drugs from inside the schools.

Sisk supporters said he has gathered a lot of experience during his more than 20 years in the Catoosa sheriff’s office and has been dependable over the years.

“The way things are, I want somebody who you know who they are,” said Stephanie Harvey, a Sisk supporter and Ringgold resident.

Paulding County Chief Magistrate Judge Martin Valbuena was denied a clean win, taking 47.1% and is headed for a runoff against Dan Collins who received 24.7%.

The runoff election for State House District 66 between former State Rep. Bob Snelling and Douglas County School Board member Mike Miller might not be as interesting since eliminated candidate Mickey Thompson was producing all the hijinks.

The tone of the campaign should be different now. In the weeks leading up to the primary, Miller and Thompson engaged in a battle through mailers, YouTube videos and “robocalls” with each calling the other into question.

Thompson attacked Miller’s character, ethics and use of a Teenage Republican in his campaign through a mailer, and later questioned trips he took during his time on the Douglas County school board and his commitment to the Republican party.

Miller later sent his own mailers defending himself and firing back at Thompson. Both Snelling and Miller acknowledged the spat likely hurt each campaign.

“I have had my close friends tell me it did, yes,” Snelling said. “They said it affected the thinking of some voters.”

Miller said the battle hurt him in early voting but he bounced back afterward.

“We tried not to respond in kind, but his continual personal attacks hurt us,” he said.

As the runoff looms, the question of whose campaign Thompson’s voters will support comes into play as well. But for now, Miller is glad the spat with Thompson is behind him.

“We are glad we got the votes from the community,” he said. “We look forward to running a race where we can focus on the issues this time.”

Douglas County Commission Chair Tom Worthan held off a challenge from former Chair Rita Rainwater, whom he sent into political retirement eight years ago. Worthan faces Democrat Romona Jones in November’s General Election.

Columbus, GA Municipal Court and Magistrate Judge Steven Smith faces a Democratic primary runoff election to retain his seat against Cynthia Maisano.

Smith led with 7,060 votes, or 43.21 percent, of the 16,338 votes cast in the race, according to vote totals of the city’s 27 precincts and the absentee votes tallied Tuesday evening by the Columbus Elections & Registration office.

He was trailed by Maisano, who garnered 4,920 votes, or just over 30 percent.Robert Wilson received 4,358 votes, or just under 27 percent.

“As I understand it, the only people who can vote three weeks from today are indeed the people who voted today,” said Smith, who expressed appreciation to his campaign staff and those who cast votes for him.

Smith has incorrectly stated the law and I would vote against him on that basis alone. You can vote in a party runoff unless you voted in the other party’s general primary, so people who cast no vote on Tuesday can vote against Smith in the runoff.

Wayne County State Court features a runoff between Vi Bennett (40%) and Tracy Alan Brown (25%).

Glynn County voters will head back to the polls to finish the job in choosing a Republican nominee for County Commission District 5 between Robbie Tucker (48%) and Tashawnta Wells (29%). School Board district 1 will see incumbent Republican Ray Snow (43%) against Ingrid Metz (35.5%). The field for Glynn County State Court narrowed from six candidates to Bart Gary Altman (45%) and Alan David Tucker (16%), the only three-name candidates in the race.

In Brantley County, Jack Whisenant (48.8%) faces former Sheriff Robert W. Johns in a Republican primary runoff to advance to the general election against Democratic Sheriff Robert Thomas. School Board post 1 will see a GOP runoff between Cindy Jones Morgan (33%) and Van Herrin (28%).

Camden County Sheriff Tommy Gregory won over former Sheriff Bill Smith, whom he beat in 2008. Smith served as Sheriff for 24 years, and before that his father was Sheriff for 34 years. The backstory is fascinating:

Smith said he didn’t get a fair shake in 2008, that his race was hurt by an 18-month federal and Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe into his office and he was getting hammered by the media.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. That investigation cleared me of wrongdoing,’’ he said.

Not exactly.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District declined to file charges and sent the investigative file to Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson.

Johnson reviewed the file — which is enormous — and sent word to Micah Ward, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Statesboro office that there wasn’t much she could do.

Some charges that would have been felonies under federal law are only misdemeanors in Georgia, especially using inmates to work on private property, Johnson told the Times-Union.

Then there was the problem with the statute of limitations, she said.

“The U.S. attorney kept this so long, the [state] statute of limitations had expired on a lot of the charges,’’ she said.

Ends & Pieces

If you’re not on Facebook, or don’t ever drive past Chick-fil-A, you might not know this, but Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was apparently a pretty big deal.

Hipsters and barbecue aficionados were horrified to learn that Atlanta’s Fox Bros. was wrecked by a falling tree, and it’s unclear when they’ll reopen.

I’ve got my tickets to the October 20th Willie Nelson show at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. Let me know if I’ll see you there with Willie and the boys.

Speaking of the Southeastern Railway Museum, they’ll be having a “Trains, Trucks & Tractors” event this weekend featuring vintage vehicles, an electric car (probably not a Tesla Roadster or Fisker Karma), hayrides and other activities for kids.

Porsche 918 in Martini livery

Speaking of electric cars, the Porsche 918 pictured above has both a 563 hp conventional engine, and two electric motors that drive the front wheels and contribute an additional 204 hp from electricity generated during braking.

Lenox Square Mall celebrates the 59th anniversary of its opening today.

27
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 27, 2012

Pen 231 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter holds this cute Lab mix, who has been misclassified as a “Pibble.” She’s accurately described as playful and friendly.

Tomorrow, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs ProgramThe event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Owners of convenience stores tied to illegal gambling have contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater, Muscogee County Sheriff John T. Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Judge Steven D. Smith among other candidates.

The contributions have raised questions as employees and relatives of campaign supporters — and at least one contributor himself — have been ensnared in a broadening Columbus police crackdown on illegal cash payouts from electronic gaming machines.

Businesses raided for alleged gambling since 2008 have given at least $28,000 to local candidates over the past four years, including nearly $10,000 to Slater and about $6,000 to Darr, according to an analysis by the Ledger-Enquirer.

The officeholders said they had not considered returning any contributions after the gambling raids, noting the defendants haven’t been convicted. They insisted they have never given or been asked for preferential treatment in exchange for the contributions.

Atlanta Unfiltered writes that Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is accused of working on mailings for casinos and phone-handicapping services after he was elected to the General Assembly.

Chris McClurg, soon to be unsuccessful candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge has been named as the biggest offender for political campaign signs in the rights-of-way.

Gwinnett code enforcement officers said the “biggest offender award” goes to Chris McClurg who is running for superior court judge.

Police said of the 150 illegal signs they picked up, 90 belonged to McClurg.

McClurg also has a voting record that includes 2004 Democratic Primary and Primary Runoff elections, and the 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Augusta Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is eligible to run for Superior Court.

A formal challenge to Saunders’ candidacy was filed in May by Augusta attorney Jack Long. Long claimed that Saunders should not be allowed to challenge Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet for his seat in the Augusta Circuit because state law bars anyone who has defaulted on tax obligations from holding office.

Kemp, who has the final say in such election challenges, decided to adopt Judge Michael M. Malihi’s July 16 ruling, which said although Saunders owes federal taxes, his plan to pay the IRS under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy settlement meets the standard for a payment plan required by state law.

SOS Kemp also announced that his agency’s website will feature a new elections return tool for the primary elections.

“Our Agency’s new ENR system is a great resource for Georgia voters,” said Kemp.  “Information will be distributed efficiently, be interactive, and be able to be broken down to the precinct level.”

Would-be state Senate candidate Garry Guan has dropped out of the race after his residency challenge. Senator Curt Thompson is now unopposed.

Kemp rejected residency challenges against Republican Carla Roberts in HD 81 and Brooke Siskin in HD 95, in both cases adopting the recommendations of the Administrative Law Judge who took evidence.

Ashley Fielding of the Gainesville Times writes about the Republican Primary in the Ninth Congressional District.

One calls herself a “firebrand.” Another repeats that he’s the only “consistent conservative.” And the third rarely sits down without mentioning the U.S. Constitution.

A seven-month campaign for the Republican nomination to run for the newest U.S. House seat in Georgia, which once drew five Republicans from three counties, culminates Tuesday with just three candidates on the Republican ballot.

Those left are a former state representative from Hall County, a retired principal from White County and a former conservative radio talk show host, also from Hall.

If neither Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick nor Martha Zoller is able to garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the two with the most support will face off in an Aug. 21 runoff.

The winner of the election will face Democrat Jody Cooley of Gainesville in November’s general election to represent all or parts of 20 counties in Northeast Georgia in Congress.

Former Governor Zell Miller has endorsed the reelection of state Senator Cecil Staton, according to a website owned by Cecil Staton

Senator Miller said, “Shirley and I have known Catherine and Cecil Staton for many years. I don’t do this frequently, but I feel so strongly about this race that I wanted to let you know that I’m supporting Cecil Staton for re-­‐election. I know a conservative champion when I see one.

Don’t let anyone fool you. Senator Staton is pro-­‐life, pro-­‐family, and pro-­‐business. He is a tax-­‐cutter, a budget-­‐balancer, and a job-­‐creator. We need him to keep fighting for our conservative values under the gold dome. I encourage everyone in the six counties of the 18th district to join me in supporting your Senator-­‐-­‐Cecil Staton.

An ethics campaign finance complaint has been filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge over campaign expenditures. According to the filer of the complain,

“The most troubling of these allegations is an apparent elaborate scheme to funnel campaign contributions to a company responsible for maintaining a website www.pirouettesexy.com … the Pirouette Dance Company, whose name was changed to Pirouette Company with the Secretary of State in February 2012, currently maintains a website featuring pictures of scantly clad women and a current schedule of dates and fees,” [complainant Charlie] Statdlander said in a statement.

Other clients of Pirouette include DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, Democratic State Rep. Pat Gardner, State House candidate Ronnie Mabra, Gail Davenport, DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez, and Citizens for Transportation Mobility. Sound like a legitimate political consulting practice to me, but that does give me some ideas for my website.

Chuck Eaton, running for reelection to the Public Service Commission, is supported by Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit.

Much of the decisions that the PSC makes are handcuffed by Georgia law and an increasing appetite for  the General Assembly to regulate utilities via every more friendly regulations codified as state law.  Senate Bill 31 continues to resonate as an example, with the legislature, not the PSC, deciding to pre-fund Georgia Power’s return on investment for two new nuclear reactors at plant Vogtle.

One of Chuck Eaton’s strong points is that he is intellectually curious.  He is a person who is willing to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers, and solicits opinions regularly on topics that interest him.

He has a keen grasp on the various risks associated with coal as the EPA continues to push coal powered electric plants toward extinction.  He understands that while natural gas prices are at historic lows right now, the history of the fuel is one of price volatility which could lead to wide variances in power costs.  He understands that nuclear is cheap once the power plants are operational, but getting a plant built after 30 years since the last plant was built will present unique challenges.

Eaton prefers a balanced approach, with Georgia not putting all eggs in one basket.  He’s generally pragmatic about the needs of the state, and balances the needs of Georgians with the requirements that those the PSC regulates are entitled to earn a profit as defined in state law.

While not someone I always agree with, Eaton is someone who can explain and is willing to defend his positions based on fact and underlying law.  That’s a rarity in politics.

In short, I trust him.  That’s also rare.  He’s an incumbent that gets my vote.  That’s getting more rare.

Eaton is also supported by Governor Nathan Deal, Congressman Tom Graves, Attorney General Sam Olens, and numerous other Republicans.

T-SPLOST opponents outnumbered supporters at a debate over the sales tax hike last night at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said her displeasure with the proposal came last year when the toll lanes were activated along Interstate 85. She said her inquiries into the issue, which actually increased congestion, caused her to realize the problem with the bureaucracy.

And, as far as the project list is concerned, she added that a proposal to convert Gravel Springs Road to an interchange angered her Buford constituents.

While debates in the Legislature lingered for years before the current Transportation Investment Act was adopted, Unterman said leaders would be anxious to take on the issue again in January if voters say no to the proposal.

“That’s the risk,” she said of politics intervening in the Legislature, “but I still say that risk is better than dumping billions of dollars into a system that is not working.”

Also in Gwinnett, T-SPLOST opponents are questioning whether county funds are being used to support the T-SPLOST.

Partnership Gwinnett, funded by businesses and government agencies, has won national acclaim for efforts to attract jobs to metro Atlanta. But on Thursday citizens groups questioned whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

They also were skeptical of claims the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t used public money to support the transportation sales tax measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Some Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed in supporting the T-SPLOST; a group called “Georgia Hispanic Republicans” are unanimously opposed to T-SPLOST. Make of it what you will.

The American Communist Lawyers Civil Liberties Union seeks to intervene in a lawsuit over Sumter County Board of Education district lines.

The Georgia Ports Authority is seeking to intervene in the federal lawsuit challenging the dredging of the Savannah River to improve access to the Port of Savannah.

The Georgia Ports Authority wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel saying its contractual and economic interests are at risk.

The authority also asked a judge to block South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission from entering the suit, saying that would expand the action and simply bring in extraneous issues.

The authority wants the river shipping channel deepened to handle larger ships that will be routinely calling when the Panama Canal is deepened in 2014. It filed the motions on Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday gave the other parties in the case until Aug. 6 to respond.

The lawsuit filed by environmental groups contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a South Carolina pollution permit before the deepening work can begin. The suit alleges toxic cadmium from river silt will be dumped in a dredge spoils area on the South Carolina side of the river.

The suit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta, Ga., as well as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.

Forsyth County Elections

Senate district 27 pits Republican Senator Jack Murphy against Forsyth County Tea Party  founder Steve Voshall.

House district 26 is a contest between formers: former State Rep. Tom Knox and former Florida Marlins pitcher Geoff Duncan.

Walker Bramblett, the incumbent Chief Magistrate Judge meets former Chief Magistrate Barbara Cole. In 2008, Cole stepped down as she did not meet then-new requirements for years as a member of the State bar, but she now has enough time as a lawyer to mount a comeback.

The race for County Coroner features a retired medical examiner, a funeral director and a nurse, seeking to succeed Lauren McDonald, who is running for Sheriff.

The Republican primary for County Commission District 2 will decide whether incumbent Brian Tam or one of his challengers, Dennis Brown and Scott Padis, take a seat on the Commission, as no Democrat is running.

County Commission District 4 will also be decided in the Republican primary between incumbent Patrick Bell, and challengers Tim Hubbard, Charles Meagher, Cindy J. Mills and Bill Mulrooney.

One of those candidates for District 4, Cindy Mills, had an ethics complaint filed against her because she failed to list her role as an officer in the Forsyth County Parks Foundation on her Personal Financial Disclosure. She amended her PFD that day.

Holly LaBerge, spokeswoman for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said the complaint will not be pursued until after the July 31 election.

“If it was filed within 30 days of an election, we can’t do anything with it until the election is over by law,” LaBerge said.

Click Here

State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Forsyth) was appointed chair of the Jekyll Island State Park Oversight Committee, on which he currently serves as a member. Tough duty.

A former Forsyth County deputy who was terminated during his probationary period claims his firing was because he posted on Facebook that he supports Duane Piper, who is challenging Sheriff Ted Paxton in the Republican Primary.

Ends & Pieces

Rocky Creek Solar Farm in Upson County is the first facility of its type in Georgia, and is now producing up to 1 megawatt, enough to power 300 homes. Georgia Power purchases electricity produced at the facility, with an additional 18 megawatts under development.

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office took second place in its division in a national law enforcement highway safety challenge.

Rome-based Bubba will compete in dock diving at the Summer at the Rocks event in Stone Mountain this weekend. The event runs today through Sunday. Bubba is a four-year old chocolate Lab who enjoys food, licking himself, and belly rubs.

Model High School in Rome is holding it’s annual band camp. This is not a one time occurence, but annual.

26
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 26, 2012

Pen 107 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter houses this young, male Shepherd mix. Shepherd mix is what the shelter calls him, I’d say he looks like the other parent was a Golden Retriever. He’ll be available for adoption beginning Sunday.

On Saturday, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs Program. The event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today, we start with congratulations to Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Billy Ray and Atlanta lawyer Lisa Branch, who have been named to the Georgia Court of Appeals by Governor Nathan Deal.

Judge Ray will join the Court on July 30th and Branch on September 1st. Judge Ray previously served as a Republican member of the State Senate and was the founder and presiding judge of the Gwinnett County Drug Treatment Court.

Speaking of Gwinnett County Superior Court, two of the candidates out there have gotten involved in a knife fight involving mail, robocalls, and allegations of ongoing corruption.

Harsh to be sure, but the assertions of fact appear to be true. Then there’s the robocall, which states:

“This is an important alert for Gwinnett voters.”

“Superior Court Judge candidate Tracey Mason Blasi was appointed to be a zoning judge by Shirley Lasseter, who has pled guilty to bribery charges.”

“Today it was announced that Lasseter’s sentencing for bribery has been delayed to allow the investigation to continue into corrupt public officials.”

“It would be irresponsible to elect a candidate such as Tracey Mason Blasi to a judgeship in Gwinnett, especially considering the connection to corrupt public officials”

“We don’t know where this investigation will go, and we don’t need to risk letting Miss Mason Blasi be elected as a judge.”
Please remember to vote No to Gwinnett corruption and vote No to Tracey Mason Blasi on July 31st.”

That call may just violate Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct promulgated by the Judicial Qualifications Commission if it was paid for by a candidate for Superior Court. I’d give 50/50 odds that a complaint is filed.

Canon 7(c) states that candidates for judicial office

“shall not use or participate in the publication of a false statement of fact concerning themselves or their candidacies, or concerning any opposing candidate of candidacy, with knowledge of the statement’s falsity or with reckless disregard for the statement’s truth or falsity.”

Tracey Mason Blasi fired back with her own Robocall, using the voice of Gerald Davidson,

“Chris McClurg chose to mail false statements about one of the most reputable attorneys in this county, Tracey Mason Blasi.”

“Mr. McClurg knows his comments are untrue and misleading but sent them anyway.”

Here’s where it gets interesting: I think that robocall by Gerald Davidson might also violate Canon 7 if it was done by the Blasi campaign, unless she can point to a statement of fact on Chris McClurg’s mailer that is untrue. Odds on a JQC complaint being filed concerning this call are also 50/50.

Blasi also sent out an email blast in which she writes:

Some of my opponents have stooped to unfounded personal attacks on me but they cannot attack my proven record of service in Gwinnett County.

Seriously, Tracey, you shouldn’t be slinging mud at all of your opponents, when you know (a) that Chris McClurg or his candidates did the mail and robocall; (b) that one of those other candidates will be the next Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett County; and (c) that Governor Deal will soon be appointing another Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett and the Judicial Nominating Commission is unlikely to look kindly upon this.

DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson has apologized for an alcohol-and-grief induced tirade at the Tanqueray Lounge.

“I was a little despondent and upset over my wallet,” Watson said in a phone interview with the AJC. “I have apologized to the constituents and I will apologize to the officer.”

Watson admitted he was in no shape to drive.

“I had a moment where I was trying to console myself and I had a few drinks. I at least had enough sense not to drive myself home,” he said. “Hopefully voters will forgive me that.”

Before leaving the club, the incident report states, Watson engaged in a profanity-laced tirade directed at two women he believed had pilfered his wallet, which contained $200. He acknowledged he did not witness them steal it.

“I’m going to act a [expletive deleted] fool in the morning,” said Watson, as quoted in the report. “One of those two [expletive deleted] stole my wallet.”

Parker wrote that he encouraged Watson to “behave like a public official,” but the commissioner continued to direct slurs toward the two women.

One of them, Sheneeka Latessa Bradsher, of Hampton, Va., was briefly arrested for disorderly conduct after ignoring Parker’s warnings to calm down, according to the report.

But the officer chose to give her a warning because, “I did not feel I would be justified in arresting Ms. Bradsher for disorderly conduct and not arrest Mr. Watson.”

In Forsyth County, a supporter of Sheriff Ted Paxton is being investigated for a roadside beautification program sign-stealing spree.

Channel 2 News reports that one of Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton’s campaign workers is being investigated for stealing more than 30 campaign signs belonging to Paxton’s opponents.

Authorities said they responded to a domestic dispute at Joni Owens’ home and saw a stack of signs outside her garage. Paxton’s campaign manager said Owens has since been fired from the campaign.

This is the same person who had earlier been accused of stealing signs for Senator Jack Murphy’s opponent. Senator Murphy emailed me to say he had no idea about the sign-stealing and I believe him. The fact that the person accused of sign-stealing was found with the signs of ten different candidates looks more like a crazy person and less like a campaign tactic.

Some of the specific allegations in the ethics Campaign Finance Commission complaint against Senator Chip Rogers include:

that Rogers “masterminded a scheme to violate the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act by causing the transfer of $140,000 from the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust to a political action committee (PAC) he caused to be created.” Manuel claims those funds were then used “primarily for his own benefit in the form of in-kind contributions to his campaign.”

[Complainant Colleen] Manuel also alleges that Rogers violated an additional campaign finance rule by soliciting a vendor, “instructing that vendor to mail on behalf of candidates including himself, suggested specific messaging and then funded this vendor’s operation.” She said the value of the mailing is alleged to exceed $2,500, violating the Section 21-5-41 of the state Campaign Finance Act, which limits maximum allowable contributions. “The Rogers PAC filed disclosures showing that $72,552 was spent to benefit Rogers,” she said, referring to the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion (GRSCP) PAC.

Manuel said in the complaint that Rogers hired Michael Luethy, who registered the GRSCP PAC (an independent committee) on May 18. The Senate Caucus trust then transferred a total of $140,000 to the GRSCP, she said.

Manuel said the GRSCP PAC then paid for at least six mailings expressly advocating the re-election of Rogers.

Rogers’ only response was to say the complaint was not newsworthy.

“Surely a last-minute bogus ethics complaint from a member of my opponent’s campaign is not worthy of news coverage,” he said.

Senator Cecil Staton has also drawn a complaint.

The complaint has been filed by State Senate candidate Dr. Spencer Price.

Price says the senator got an illegal campaign donation in the form of mailed campaign material. Price reported the alleged violation to Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The complaint says that Staton received a contribution from the a group allegedly funded by the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust, which wasn’t reported on his campaign disclosure. Staton says his campaign wasn’t responsible for the mailings, it was not from the trust, and that he properly reported campaign contributions.

“The Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that third party organizations can spend what they want to that’s their first amendment right, the only problem would be if there had been any cooperation between our campaign and that organization and their has been none, absolutely none,” says Staton.

Staton called the complaint frivolous, and a distraction from the real issues surrounding the senate race. The senator maintains there’s no merit to Price’s allegations.

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Obama for America must not like gay people or they wouldn’t have spent $62 at an Atlanta Chick-fil-A, right?

Jane Morrison is running for Fulton County State Court, hoping to become one of the first openly-lesbian judges in Georgia.

Morrison has her own civil practice where she works full-time, but she is also a part-time solicitor for the cities of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek. She’s also served as a judge on a part time basis for Atlanta Municipal Court as well as a part-time Fulton Magistrate judge.

Morrison said she also has experience with criminal defense when early in her career she represented defendants in Atlanta Traffic Court.

“What I bring is a broad base of experience,” said Morrison, who is endorsed by Georgia Equality and the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats.

Wait, I guess she actually is an openly-lesbian judge already.

Michael Caldwell drew 45% of the vote against State Rep. Charlice Byrd in 2010 and is back for a second bite at the apple. The winner of the Republican primary faces Lillian Burnaman, the only Democrat running against an incumbent in Cherokee County.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Ronald Mabra is a resident of House District 63 and can stay on the ballot, rejecting the findings of an Administrative Law Judge that Mabra was not a resident and therefore not qualified to run for State House.

 

Ends & Pieces

Willie Nelson will headline a concert at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth on October 20th, 2012 as part of the Railroad Revival Tour.

Performers will arrive in a vintage train for the Oct. 20 concert at the museum located at 3595 Buford Hwy. About 8,000 to 10,000 fans are expected to attend the Saturday concert.

“The Railroad Revival Tour is a concert tour which seeks to focus attention on the importance of railroads to our nation’s past, present and future by holding concerts at railroad-affiliated locations and touring by train rather than by the more familiar bus,” acording to Jeffrey Hildebrand, marketing manager for the museum. “The Southeastern Railway Museum is pleased to have been selected as the kickoff location for the 2012 concert series.”

Concert attendees will be able to tour the museum and see the special train assembled for the tour, Hildebrand said. “The museum will gain considerable publicity, and we hope to be able to turn many of the music fans into repeat visitors to the museum,” he said.

The Duluth City Council in a called meeting Monday (July 23) approved a special-use permit request by David Conway representing the Dripping Springs, TX-based tour to allow loudspeakers to operate within 1,000 feet of residential areas near the railroad museum from 2 to 11 p.m. for the one-day concert.

There is no way I’m missing this show. Hope to see you there. Early bird discount $55 tickets go on sale at 11 today.

Canon has announced a great new camera called the EOS M, which takes the innards of an 18 Megapixel DSLR and puts them in what is essentially a point-and-shoot body with interchangeable lenses.


The EOS M is expected to be available in October and will sell for $800 in a kit that includes a 22mm f2 lens. It will also mount existing Canon EOS lenses with an available adapter. When yours arrives, let me know, because I’d like to see and play with one of these.

23
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 23, 2012

“Cat” and “Finch” are 12-pound female mixed-breed puppies, thought to be about three months old. $40 saves the lives of both of these pups, as Walton County Animal Services is offering them as a pair at a discount. They will come with their vaccinations, microchips (if you want them), de-wormed, and flea/tick treated.

Georgia Public Broadcasting has a list of some hotels that welcome dogs and cats, including the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, some of which include alfresco dining and canine cocktail hour.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Advanced voting continues this week, with some counties offering expanded locations. Check your county’s voting information on Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website.

Governor Nathan and Mrs. Sandra Deal serving guests.

The Georgia Department of Education is freezing some federal funds to the Dougherty County school system because of accounting questions. The funds in question may include up to $10 million of the system’s $114.8 million budget.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has reprimanded Willie Weaver Sr, who is the municipal court judge for Albany, Dawson, and Sylvester.

The JQC opened an ethics investigation following media reports of Weaver’s arrest on a charge of aggravated assault. Albany news reports stated that Weaver was charged with hitting his wife in the face with a beer bottle. According to news reports, Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had been called in after Weaver’s wife was taken to a local hospital with facial cuts that required stitches following what the DA described at the time as an alleged incident of domestic violence.

According to the JQC report, a special prosecutor subsequently was appointed to investigate the charge, and Weaver agreed at the time to a suspension without pay pending resolution of the case.

But Weaver’s wife, Vester Weaver, last month convened a news conference with her church pastor to deny that her husband had ever struck her, although she acknowledged at the time that a protective order was in place that barred him from contacting her. Weaver told local news media at the time that she did not ask for the protective order and wanted it lifted.

According to the JQC report, Weaver eventually entered a plea deal that dismissed the assault charge. In return, the report said that Weaver agreed to attend marital and stress counseling.

In its report, the JQC said that it had “attempted to balance its responsibility to the public to insure an honorable and independent judiciary with its responsibility to deal fairly with a judge who understands that while the criminal charge was dismissed, the event, and the publicity which followed it, brought discredit upon the judge and the judicial system.”

Both Weaver and his Albany attorney, Mark Brimberry, consented to and signed the JQC report.

The National Journal lists Georgia’s Twelfth Congressional District as the 14th-most likely for an incumbent defeat in November.

 “Republican state legislators targeted Barrow via redistricting earlier in his career, and he survived. The latest attempt planted the Blue Dog Democrat in a solidly conservative seat, though, and he’ll have a major challenge on his hands against whoever emerges from a bruising, contested Republican primary.

Centrist Democratic groups are already on TV in Savannah praising Barrow’s moderate record, but Republicans will counter in the fall with clips of Barrow claiming to have worked “hand in hand” with Obama during a tough Democratic primary in 2010.

That could be enough to unseat Barrow in a district where Obama might struggle to top 40 percent of the vote.”

Republican candidates in the primary to run against Barrow met in a televised debate last night.

Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell and his opponent in the Republican primary election, Eugene Moon, have different takes on Powell’s record.

As a commissioner for two terms, Powell, who is 55, is offering his record of no tax increases, his efforts in the construction of the new county jail and new parks and his role in moving county departments into the old Liberty Mutual Building as evidence of his leadership.

Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Moon is attacking some of those efforts, calling them a record of expanding government during a recession.

“He crows about all of his accomplishments. The things he talks about when he’s out stumping are all of the things he’s built in Hall County,” said Moon, with a sarcastic edge to the word “built.”

“What he is talking about is how he has grown government.”

For many, this issue is at the core of what it means to be a Republican in state and local government.

This past Saturday saw the state’s first Saturday voting, which appears to be a success for some voters.

Doug Collins and Martha Zoller have opened the money spigots in their race for the Republican nomination for Congress in the new Ninth District.

Collins … led the race to raise money, pulling in some $81,685 in contributions.

Collins also had the most cash left over at the end of the quarter.

Following behind him in the fundraising race, Zoller, a former conservative radio talk show host, raised more than $73,510; Fitzpatrick, a former White County school principal, pulled in some $11,811.

But Collins, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, also spent more than double the campaign cash he’s spent in each of the last two reporting periods.

According to his filing with the elections commission, Collins’ campaign spending last quarter neared $142,000.

In contrast, Collins spent less than $60,000 in the first three months of this year; and in the final quarter of 2011, the campaign reported spending $70,957.

Zoller’s campaign spending, reported at $72,062, was also the highest it’s been since she joined the race last fall.

Fitzpatrick, who filed his first campaign disclosure report with the FEC on Monday, reported some $6,200 in campaign expenses.

Spokespeople for both Zoller and Collins attribute the higher spending to last-minute efforts to garner voters’ attention.

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If this race goes to a runoff, as appears likely, the first task for each candidate will be to top up their campaign accounts. If you’ve donated to one of them, brace yourself.

In Cherokee County, several weeks ago, anonymous robocalls attacking Janet Read went out using her cell phone number as the Caller Id.

While the usual election sign wars have many candidates up in arms, robo-calls seem to be causing even more concern as many local races heat up in the last weeks before the July 31 primary.

For School Board chair candidate and current School Board Vice Chair Janet Read, a couple of robo-calls that went out to voters have her calling for answers.

The first, which is said to have gone out from a phone number identified as one belonging to Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee leader Bill Dewrell, told those receiving the call to contact Read at the Cherokee County School District offices.

The latest, though, not only gave Read’s home phone number for those who might want to contact her, but also appeared to originate from Read’s home phone. The call was so inflammatory that Read called for extra patrols at her home.

Then yesterday, karma some tricksters struck back when anonymous robocalls targeting Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers transmitted the cell phone number of a political operative associated with Rogers..

If morale within the Hall County Sheriff’s Department kept coming up in a forum for the five candidates running to replace Sheriff Steve Cronic, maybe that means it’s currently an issue.

Fifty-six state legislative candidates either owe or have owed back taxes to the government. State Senate candidate David Doss responded to his inclusion on the list.

The factual part of the AJC article is that the taxes in question have been paid. In fact, the only taxes that David Doss had any liability for were paid some 8 years ago.

Unfortunately, this AJC article will now become new fodder for the Chuck Hufstetler campaign to distort and use in his negative smear campaign against me. Just like the attack mail piece from last week that was so slanderous, that Hufstetler campaign refused to put their name on it. The citizens of the 52nd District deserve more than this type of gutter politics from Chuck Hufstetler.

Among Savannah’s Democratic state representatives, it’s a split decision on T-SPLOST.

Four Democratic state lawmakers that represent the area took turns Saturday morning arguing for and against a proposed sales tax going before voters on July 31.

State Rep. Mickey Stephens and State Sen. Lester Jackson, of Savannah, voiced their opposition to the 1-percent sales tax, while Representatives Bob Bryant, of Garden City, and Craig Gordon, of Savannah, tried to convince about 30 residents of the proposal’s merits during a forum at the Savannah Arts Academy.

The Savannah Morning News endorses Bill Hitches in the Republican primary for house district 161, an open seat.

Mr. Hitchens, 65, has spent a lifetime in the military and in law enforcement, mostly with the Georgia State Patrol, where he rose to the rank of colonel. Prior to his retirement, he served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety and director of the Georgia Department of Homeland Security.

If elected, he immediately will become one of the go-to guys in the House on public safety, crime and security issues. Such expertise will come in handy. The legislature has limited tax dollars to spend, and crime and punishment can get expensive.

Jace Brooks, running for Gwinnett County Commission district 1, has received the endorsements of the Mayors and city council members in the district.

Ethics is an issue in Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau’s reelection campaign, not because of specific allegations against the longest-serving Commissioner, but because of problems he helped bring to the public’s attention.

“Any incumbent has got to defend himself. That’s OK,” Beaudreau said of the race, where he has fired back against robo-calls, mailers and other public accusations, trying to focus on his accomplishments and record. “The difficult decisions are not over. I’ve got plenty of experience in dealing with them.”

While his opponents have cast him in the same negative role as the commissioners who left the job in disgrace, Beaudreau said many of his constituents remember that he was the one who called attention to the land deals and asked for ethics reform before the problems came to light.

But Beaudreau was deposed as part of the scandal, pointed out Mike Korom, a Dacula man who emerged on the political scene to fight against the now-defunct proposal to add commercial flights at the county airport.

The election for DeKalb County Clerk of Courts is a lively race this year with five candidates. Even more lively is the Clayton County Sheriff’s election, as indicted former Sheriff Victor Hill is among the eight candidates.

The eight people running for Clayton County Sheriff include the incumbent and the man he unseated and six people who have worked for one or both of them…four of whom were fired.

There is little that is simple or uneventful about the office of Sheriff in Clayton County.

The residents of Clayton hope this election will bring some sanity and respect to the office that some believe has contributed to the “black eye” on the county for the past several years. A special grand jury is investigating local officials, including the travel of some of the county commissioners. The county school system is still smarting from Southern Association of Colleges and School decision to revoke its accreditation because of dysfunction on the school board.

“There is just a climate of corruption in the county,” said resident Dave Clark. “The whole thing is absolutely embarrassing.”

Surprisingly no one, Fulton County Elections is having trouble with redistricting and assigning voters to new districts.

Inaccuracies on precinct cards in Fulton appeared to affect more than 300 voters who had already cast their votes. The problem involved wrong precinct information printed on cards. “Due to database entry mistakes within the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, voters on some streets were placed in the wrong districts,” the department said in a statement Friday to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As a result, some Fulton voters received incorrect absentee or advance-voting ballots that omitted a race they should have voted in. The department said new “corrected” precinct cards have been printed and mailed.

Officials were also sending new ballots to voters who cast absentee ballots and have asked those who voted in-person to come back and vote in the additional race.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer profiles the contested primary for Muscogee County school board district 1.

Local governments whose budgets exceed $1 million must now post online information, but only one-third of those required have done so.

“It’s a toothless law that probably needs to be adjusted,” said Jack Starver, chairman for the Northwest Georgia 9-12 project, an organization with roots in the tea party. “If these guys are lighting cigars with $5 bills, we should probably know that.”

Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, who backed the law, said the goal was to make it easier for taxpayers to find budgets. He said he would consider trying to add penalties to the law if local governments do not comply.

“We went out of our way to make this not hard,” he said. “These cities, counties and school districts are doing a disservice to their own constituents. In the interest of open government, they need to step forward.”

DeKalb County, the cities of Buford, College Park, East Point and Lawrenceville and the Clayton County school district are among the local governments that still have not submitted their budgets for electronic publication.

“We erred,” said Burke Brennan, a DeKalb County spokesman. “We’re disappointed that we missed this one but we’re going to make it right.”

Maybe DeKalb County’s highly-paid lobbyist could have spent more time letting the county know which laws passed, and less time opposing residents seeking to incorporate the City of Brookhaven.

Economic Development

The Savannah Morning News lauds the decision to fast track the federal approval process for the deepening of the Port of Savannah.

The president may wrongly see government as the overriding force in making all businesses successful. But government does have a primary role in providing essential infrastructure, like ship channels for U.S. seaports. He deserves credit for putting Savannah’s port deepening project near the top of the list.

Here’s a thought for you all. If transportation infrastructure improvements are meant to increase economic development, moving freight is more important than moving people. Look back at all the economic development announcements made by Governor Deal this year and see how many of them mention access to Georgia’s privately-owned freight railroad network and to the ports, and see how many mentioned transit. The answers are (1) all of them; and (2) none of them. That’s your economic development lesson for the day.

Disney parks merchandise will now flow through the Port of Jacksonville, rather than Savannah,

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is diverting 75 percent of its inbound cargo that used to go through the Port of Savannah to the TraPac Container Terminal at Dames Point.

The switch reduces transportation costs for the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) division, while the new business at the Asian terminal is expected to add about 1,300 40-foot containers in volume annually. Top public- and private-sector leaders said the move is a win for the city, the Jacksonville Port Authority, the state of Florida and the company.

“It was about optimizing our supply chain and being able to minimize the cost associated with bringing freight here,” said Anthony Connelly, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the U.S. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “So to us, it was about saving money and certainly we’re excited to be able to participate in growing Florida’s economy as well as Jacksonville’s economy.”

[Florida Governor Rick] Scott said Florida has a big economic opportunity with the state’s 15 seaports. More shipping will create jobs in related industries, such as manufacturing. The seaports will create a lot of jobs, but the state has to continue to build its infrastructure.

“We’ve put Florida on the map with regard to our seaports,” Scott said. “We have a big opportunity right here in Jaxport.”

Ends & Pieces

Jim Galloway has a great piece on the “late life conversion” of former Governor and US Senator Zell Miller. It’s worth reading in its entirety.

Sea turtles are beginning to hatch on Georgia’s coast.

A nest at North Beach began hatching Wednesday. Another nest, near 11th Street, hatched last night. It’s a record-breaking nesting season on the island, with at least 17 nests.

A restored Civil War flag originally issued to the 65th Georgia Infantry will go on display tomorrow at the Kennesaw Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

The flag is the only known surviving example of an Army of Tennessee flag that has both the unit and state designations sewn onto both sides. Following its donation in February 2010, the Museum sent the flag to a West Virginia company that specializes in the restoration of historic artifacts.

The bloodstained flag is riddled with 41 bullet holes that it received during the Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns. By the War’s end, the flag saw action during a number of battles, including Resaca, New Hope Church/Dallas/Pickett’s Mill, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta.

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.

12
Jul

Here’s the mail that’s causing all the fuss

Some anonymous direct mail in several state Senate districts has drawn at least one ethics transparency complaint by Steve Voshall, who is running against Senator Jack Murphy. Peach Pundit reports that similar mail is being seen in the districts of Senator Chip Rogers and Senator Bill Heath.

The mail is not exactly anonymous. More like undocumented. It purports to have been paid for by the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC.

Here’s the State Ethics Commission’s filings for the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC. Not a whole lot there. It’s registered by Michael Luethy, who appears to be a Republican Political Consultant from North Carolina.

Luethy’s company is called Oak Grove Campaigns. There’s more below.

Oak Grove Campaigns appears to have some familiarity with Georgia-based Stoneridge Group.

As does Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.

As do Senator Jack Murphy and Senator Bill Heath.

Part of the complaint is that the anonymous pieces use some of the same photos as have been used in printed mailers known to have been sent by Murphy. Let’s take a look.

The picture of Senator Murphy standing in front of the Capitol does appear identical on the anonymous mailers and on the known-Murphy mailers. But the difference in scale makes it possible that someone could have gotten their hands on a printed copy of the Murphy mailer, scanned or photographed it, then dropped it into another mailpiece. It would be easier to tell if I could see high-resolution color copies of the anonymous pieces.

Make of it what you will.