Category: Georgia Right to Life

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.

25
Jul

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

Pen 236 houses a Lab mix puppy and Pen 221 a Rottie mix, at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. The Gwinnett Animal Shelter is offering discounted adoptions through July 28th.

Lawrenceville Pit Bull Terrier (pronounced “pibble”) Titan was awarded third place in the Humane Society’s national Dog of Valor contest for saving his owner’s life twice.

“I think he won because he saved her life, which is just amazing,” DuBois said. “There is so much negative press about these dogs and there are incidents where unfortunate circumstances happen, but overall, the breed is an amazing breed. They are made not to be gentle by humans. (HSUS) thinks he deserves all the credit that he gets because he is an example of what the breed really is.”

Titan, a 5-year-old pit bull, saved owner Gloria’s life last July. Her husband, John, was set to leave for work when Titan got between him and the door and began whining, then running up and down the stairs.

John finally walked upstairs and discovered Gloria lying on the ground bleeding from her head. Doctors later said she had suffered an aneurysm and a fractured skull.

Just recently Titan came to the rescue again when he barked to wake John up at 4:30 a.m. When John went downstairs he found that Gloria had fallen in the bathroom, breaking her hip and another bone.

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

A complaint has been filed with the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission alleging that mailings by the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC aimed at reelecting Senator Chip Rogers violates campaign rulesManuel alleges Rogers, along with other incumbent Republican state legislators, benefited from the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion Political Action Committee.

The PAC has come under scrutiny as it is actually registered as an independent committee, but has been raising money to promote incumbent senate Republicans faced with primary challengers.

Manuel did not return repeated phone calls and emails by press time.

Rogers said he hasn’t received any notice from the commission about Manuel’s complaint and criticized the complaint as not factual.

[Rogers's opponent Brandon] Beach has also been slapped with an ethics complaint.

Macedonia resident Jeff Whitmire filed the complaint with the state on Monday, alleging Beach has not accounted for advertising he’s done on Facebook and in the My Woodstock Monthly magazine.

Whitmire alleges the magazine was printed and distributed before the June 30 campaign disclosure deadline.

He also alleges Beach’s Facebook advertising began in May, and those disclosures were not reported for the June 30 reporting deadline.

“To be honest, I’m fed up with Washington and I’m fed up with crony politicians,” [Whitmire] said. “And I don’t like this Chicago style politics. I’m looking to see if there’s something bigger behind this.”

But that’s not all: apparently, you can’t trust political direct mail in that race either.

Both campaigns are also accused of engaging in mudslinging.

Rogers’ campaign has been accused of attacking Beach on his role in the Georgia 400 tolls.

A mailer produced by the anti-TSPLOST organization Traffic Truth is utilizing false newspaper headlines, noting the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce CEO has “failed to stop the Georgia 400 tolls” and “Beach sponsors party for largest tax increase in Georgia history.”

The first made-up headline refers to the upcoming regional transportation sales tax referendum voters across the state will consider on July 31.

One mailer criticizes Rogers for his involvement in the controversial loan he received to remodel the Oglethorpe Inn in Calhoun.

It also slams Rogers for his alleged connections to John Letcher Edens, the man Rogers and Graves transferred the loan to.

Edens, along with his son Jonathon Edward Edens, were both arrested and charged with theft in Cartersville last July.

Rogers referred to the mailer as “Chicago-style gutter politics” that “shows the desperation of my opponents and the lack of any positive ideas for Georgia.”

Rogers also said he believed the flyer contains false accusations and plans to “consider all potential legal action after the conclusion of the political campaign.”

Brian Laurens, a political consultant to Senator Rogers, accuses Beach of sending out robocalls and transmitting Laurens’s cell phone number as the Caller ID number.

Brian Laurens, owner of Brikel Communications and Consulting, is accusing Beach of using his cell phone number to call voters.

Laurens said he discovered the alleged robo calls were made when he returned home from church on Sunday.

The Holly Springs resident said the calls began to pour in around 2 p.m. and went through 8 p.m. Sunday.

“The call said something about Chip Rogers being for the TSPLOST and voting for it and was portrayed as coming from a registered LLC, (the) Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee County,” he said.

Laurens added that “deductive reasoning” led him to believe the calls were the work of Beach and his campaign.

He noted he believed he received well over 100 phone calls.

“I’m sorry this type of dirty politics and shenanigans have entered into the electoral process of Cherokee County,” he added.

Laurens has regularly done campaign consulting work for Rogers.

I read elsewhere that the number of return calls Laurens received was in the range of 700-800. Maybe I’m confused.

In the race for Gwinnett County Superior Court, Republican Senator David Shafer has endorsed Duluth attorney Kathy Schrader, who currently serves as a Municipal Court Judge for Duluth and Sugar Hill, and previously was appointed by both Governor Sonny Perdue and Governor Nathan Deal to the board of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families. Shafer said:

“Kathy Schrader will make an outstanding addition to the Gwinnett Superior Court. Her qualifications are second to none, and she is the best choice for protecting our children and families.”

“That’s why I’m asking you to join me in voting to elect Kathy Schrader as our next Superior Court Judge.”

The race for Ninth Congressional District continued to be the other nastiest one out there. Martha Zoller received the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

“If you agree that it’s time our elected officials stopped talking at us and started listening to us, then I hope you will join me in supporting Martha Zoller….

“Martha is running against the establishment, which, as we know, is an uphill battle; but with all of our support she can win. In Congress, she’ll vote to cut spending, lower taxes, and repeal Obamacare. In addition to being pro-life and a firm defender of our Constitution, including our Second Amendment rights, Martha is a strong fiscal conservative….”

On Facebook, the Collins campaign reacted:

“While we admire and respect Governor Palin, Martha’s liberal talk threatens our conservative values. But don’t take my word for it, go to www.seemarthasayit.com and you can see and listen to her yourself. Whether it’s her pro-abortion, pro-civil unions or other liberal views, Martha Zoller would be wrong in Congress. Better to have a true Georgia conservative like Doug Collins. The endorsements he’s received from Governor Zell Miller, Speaker Ralston and the NRA, along with the faith shown in him by Governor Deal show he shares the values of people who know and love North Georgia the most.Æ

The Gwinnett Daily Post profiles the races for Senate District 9, featuring Senator Don Balfour, and the District 47 challenge to Senator Frank Ginn.

Over the past 20 years, Forsyth County has gone from primarily Democratic to strongly Republican, though political leaders disagree on the root cause.

“This county used to be solid blue, blue enough to be purple,” said Sharon Gunter, chair of the Forsyth County Democratic Party. “Then the Civil Rights Act passed, and it got a little redder. And then there were some incidents in the county where the few black people who did live here left.”

From the 2010 Census, the county’s population of 175,511 consisted of 4,510 African Americans, or about 3 percent.

For the Forsyth County Tea Party Chairman, Hal Schneider, it’s the county’s demographics that have all to do with the Democratic Party’s small presence.

“Forsyth County is very rural,” Schneider said. “It is historically very white and it is an affluent county. These things add to the fact that you have a lot of Republicans, a lot of conservatives in this county.”

However, Ethan Underwood, chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party, said the political shift in Forsyth was due to the liberal stance associated nationally with Democrats.

“I think the Democratic National Party became more liberal,” he said. “I don’t think that Forsythians agreed with the views on social issues, add to that, the growth of Atlanta. Many self-employed folks who are paying taxes and paying employees are the ones who live in Forsyth County, and those folks tend to vote Republican.”

Underwood said that the Republican Party normally ranges between 79 to 86 percent of the vote during an election.

Glen Williams, a candidate who will be defeated by State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick in the HD 93 Democratic Primary, says he was threatened for speaking at the Gwinnett County Commission hearing about a proposed rezoning.

Williams said the applicant’s attorney, Simon Blue, confronted him in the corridor outside the auditorium, threatening to sue him.

“I was accosted and verbally threatened with a lawsuit,” Williams told commissioners during a public comment period later in the meeting. Several neighbors also told the board what they witnessed, in an attempt to have a record of the altercation.

Chuck Eaton’s reelection campaign to the Public Service Commission received a boost from Congressman Tom Graves, who recorded a robocall endorsing Eaton, whom Graves has known since they both were members of the Coverdell Leadership Institute.

“Chuck is the strong conservative we need at the state level working to prevent Obama’s radical green agenda from driving up our gas and electric bills. Chuck Eaton is the only conservative in the race and just last month he voted to lower our electric rates.”

Richie Smith, who was booted from the ballot by Brian Kemp vows to appeal the ruling that tax issues made Smith ineligible to run for State House district 151.

In a statement released Tuesday through the Georgia House Democratic Caucus, the 41-year-old Smith said he would appeal the disqualification to Fulton County Superior Court.

“My opponent switched parties after promising to be a Democratic representative, and that’s not right,” said Smith, a bus driver from Lake. “I will fight to remain on the ballot and to stand for the citizens of District 151. If they want to defeat me, it will be at the ballot box.”

Lamar Brand of Blakely filed paperwork challenging Smith’s candidacy over what Brand said were back taxes owed by the candidate. Smith failed to show for a hearing on the matter.

A candidate for Terrell County Magistrate Judge says as part of his campaign that he wants to eliminate the position.

Beth Hilscher was sworn in as the newest member of Suwanee City Council, filling the seat vacated when Jace Brooks resigned to run for County Commission.

A poll shows support for video lottery terminal gambling, according to WXIA 11 Alive.

Because we don’t have enough politicians, a summer camp in Washington is training high school girls for future careers in politics.

Running Start, a nonprofit group that encourages women to get involved in politics at an early age, hosted about 50 girls recently in Washington, introducing them to female role models and instructors and teaching them the basics of networking, fundraising, public speaking and other skills essential to political success.

“It’s really important for young women to be involved in politics,” said Sophie D’Anieri, a 17-year-old high school senior from Troy, N.Y. “I think there is some discrimination against women that makes it difficult to run.”

“I’m sort of weird for my age to be this interested in politics,” said 17-year-old Rachel Hansen, of Philadelphia, who aspires to run for president. “I think girls my age aren’t thinking about the future that much. They’re just thinking about what’s going on Friday night.”

Bless her heart, that Hansen girl sounds just like Josh McKoon must have at that age. I’m voting for Tammy Metzler.

The Albany City Commission passed a property tax increase, also known as “another nail in T-SPLOST’s coffin.”

A former Minnesota Senate Aide who was fired for having an affair with his female boss is suing because he says women who do the same thing become lobbyists receive different treatment.

Brodkorb filed his lawsuit against the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Senate and a top Senate administrative official, claiming an invasion of privacy, defamation and gender discrimination, among other things. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 – a standard figure in state civil lawsuits – but his attorneys have said they hope to get at least $500,000.

The lawsuit was filed after Brodkorb and his attorneys said they obtained a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Brodkorb’s team declined to make the document available.

The lawsuit said the episode caused him “emotional distress” and “similarly situated female legislative employees, from both parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators.” Brodkorb’s lawsuit said he should have been afforded the chance to transfer jobs.

Ethics

State House Ethics Commission Chairman Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs) released a list of 49 candidate for State House who signed the “Gift Cap Pledge” but have failed to abide by existing campaign disclosure laws.

“It is disappointing, ironic and hypocritical that 49 candidates for the Georgia House of Representatives who signed a petition to impose a $100 lobbyist gift cap on lawmakers are themselves in violation of ethics and campaign finance laws.

“These candidates have failed to file, or filed late, their required Declaration of Intent (due when they first qualified to run), their Personal Financial Disclosure (due 15 days after qualifying to run), and their Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report (which was due July 9),” says state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R- Sandy Springs. “All either have already been fined or expect to be fined shortly as required by Georgia law.”

“These are major violations by both Democrats and Republicans. These candidates should pay their fines and file the required reports immediately if they truly believe in full, open and immediate transparency,” the chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives Ethics Committee says. “On the one hand they seek to promote so-called ‘ethics’ by endorsing a meaningless ‘gift ban’ yet on the other hand are behaving unethically by flouting current laws.”

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“They should certainly pay the fines mandated by law before the July 31 primaries,” Wilkinson continues. “I would remind them that the fines cannot be paid with campaign funds and that the first $25.00 of each fine goes to fund the state’s Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.”

“These current laws are tough and, unlike the proposed $100 lobbyist expense cap, actually work. Unfortunately, caps lead to non-reporting and underground lobbying. We’ve seen this in other states. If they worked and were not merely a public relations gimmick, they would have been put in place years ago,” Wilkinson says.

Reacting to the AJC story about legislative candidates who face tax issues, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer opines that candidates should first follow the law before seeking to write new ones.

when more than 50 candidates for Georgia elective offices have had a total of more than $1 million in tax liens filed against them, you have to wonder whether some of the people who want to make and administer Georgia’s future laws — especially tax laws — know enough or care enough about the current ones.

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 12, 2012

Tiffany (F) and Trouble (M) are six-week old puppies and weigh about eight pounds each. The $40 adoption fee for each includes vaccinations, deworming, and a voucher for a discount spay or neuter. Their owner turned them in to Walton County Animal Services, where they are available for adoption today.
These puppies are among the dogs and cats available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. It would be nice if I could tell you that the $30 special Gwinnett County Animal Shelter is running on adoptions is because their services are no longer needed and they’re going out of business. But the sad truth is that like countless shelters across the state, they’re receiving more animals than they can care for.

Georgia Ethics

The Senate Ethics Committee meets today at 11 AM in Room 328 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building without a publicly-announced agenda. The last time the Committee met with an announced agenda, they issued a statement that:

The Committee found that substantial cause exists to believe that Senator Balfour violated Senate Resolution 5 as it is further defined in the Senate Administrative Affairs Per Diem Policy and will seek to negotiate a settlement of the matter with Senator Balfour.

The next day, Senator Balfour wrote in a statement printed in the Gwinnett Daily Post,

“I still have not been allowed to go before the committee and defend myself.”

“When I do, I am confident the committee will understand that a senator who gave up thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded pension benefits had no intention of doing anything wrong in a matter of a few hundred dollars,” the statement read.

In my opinion, the bigger problem is the continuing failure of the Senate to abide by state law that require the Senate Rules Committee to appoint a subcommittee to examine reimbursements periodically.

state law says that the Senate Rules Committee must have an audits subcommittee “to examine and review, not less than once every two months, legislative expenditures, including all vouchers submitted by members of the Senate, as provided for in this Code section, for which the members have received payment. The subcommittee is authorized to issue reports of its examination and review.”

That Atlanta Journal-Constitution report is nearly two years old and it doesn’t appear that any progress has been made. This is about more than alleged improprieties by a single member. A continuing failure to act on reviewing per diem and reimbursements is either an organizational dysfunction or part of an internal culture that allowed alleged improprieties to occur without any threat of discovery.

The Senate has an opportunity to ensure that the review process at least begins before the next Session. Appointing a retiring Senator as Rules Chairman with the specific task of beginning to review these expenditures would be a significant step in restoring public trust to the Senate and might remove politics from this important process. A retiring Senator also won’t have any pressure to campaign for reelection, but could devote himself to the task. And collect a per diem too.

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At 10 AM, Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), who is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee, will hold a press conference in front of the Sloppy Floyd Building across from the Capitol. McKoon will join the Gift Cap Pledge Alliance, which comprises Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Georgia Conservatives in Action, and Common Cause Georgia in a bus tour beginning July 24th.

The tour will begin Tuesday, July 24 with a kick-off in Atlanta and end on Friday, July 27 in Athens. Tour stops will include Gainesville, Blue Ridge, Dalton, Macon, Columbus, Albany, Valdosta, Waycross, Brunswick, Savannah and Augusta.

The Ethics Express bus tour is open to all Georgia citizens and those in joining the tour should contact William Perry at 404-524-4598 or wperry@commoncause.org. Further details will be released at the press conference.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced on Tuesday that Academy Sports + Outdoors will bring 250 new jobs to its existing distribution center in Jeffersonville, Twiggs County.

Imagine my surprise last night to read on the front page of the AJC’s website the headline  “Electric rates not falling along with fuel costs.” But I thought that Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton was touting his vote to lower electric rates just as our air conditioners have switched into 24-7 mode. What’s really going on? The AJC ran a goofy headline that would lead you to believe that we’ll be paying a higher rate, even though the AP story never mentions Georgia but discusses rates in other state, and though electric rates are going down in Georgia.

Democratic State Representative Scott Holcomb has $51k cash on hand to defend himself in what is likely the highest-targeted state house race for the Republican Caucus. Republican challenger Dr. Carla Roberts has $27.5k cash on hand, but I suspect a portion of that is spoken for; Roberts hired an attorney to defend against a residency challenge. The filer of that challenge to Roberts’s residency, Chris Boedeker, reported $4372 cash-on-hand. The winner of the Boedeker-Roberts Republican Primary will start at a fundraising disadvantage to Holcomb, but will likely receive air support from the GOP House Caucus in the general election.

Angela Spencer of Neighbor Newspapers writes more extensively about North Fulton Tea Party debate between Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and challenger Brandon Beach, including their positions on T-SPLOST, charter schools, vouchers, Milton County, and toll roads.

The T-SPLOST campaign is acknowledging for the first time that their pet feeding trough project is on the ropes:

Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams acknowledges he and other supporters face an uphill battle with voters.

“It’s going to be a tight election, because I think the economy is such right now that people are very concerned about any kind of financing,” Williams said. “They want it proven to them that the traffic relief and the jobs are going to come out of this.”

Local lawmakers in Savannah are managing expectations in advance of the looming T-SPLOST defeat:

Some local lawmakers are concerned that these projects could be the last for a while if voters reject a proposed penny sales tax for transportation.

The state has funded the projects to the tune of about a $290 million in recent years.

Savannah State Representative Ron Stephens says, that’s led some high-ranking state officials to tell him that Savannah’s “had its turn” and not to expect much in road funds in coming years.

“Keep in mind that we’ve had a lot of coastal leadership for quite some time,” Stephens say. “So there has been mention that Savannah has had it’s major projects.”

He says, the area has lost political influence because of redistricting and the election of North Georgians to top leadership positions.

Todd Long, Deputy GDOT Commissioner, warns that federal road funds may become scarce if Congress learns to live within its means:

“If Congress lives within its means — and you know that most people running for Congress, around here at least, are saying (that) — there’s this general attitude that eventually they’re going to say, ‘Whatever the gas tax brings in is what we’re going to spend on transportation,’” he said.

If that happens, in 2015, Georgia “will probably see a 25 to 30 percent decrease” in transportation funding.

In a bright spot for advocates of raising taxes, the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government endorsed passage of T-SPLOST.

Jim Galloway has an interesting story about State Rep. Charlice Byrd and her Republican Primary opponent Michael Caldwell. It seems that Byrd has changed her vote after casting it 24 times, more than any other legislator.

The effort that Caldwell put into his research — as a salesman for a small safety equipment company, he describes himself as meticulous — went far beyond your normal opposition research. A team of six friends combed through thousands of pages of House journals.

According to their count, about one-third of 180 House members have never changed a vote once it was cast. Most others “dabble in it a little bit, but no more than two or three times on average,” Caldwell said.

He recorded every changed vote by every House member over the past six years on a spreadsheet and has begun passing the document around. “I wanted to make clear that I wasn’t just going after the one that was politically convenient to me,” Caldwell said.

Many of his statistics are stories begging to be told. For instance, in the opening days of 2008, during a furious feud between Gov. Sonny Perdue and the volatile Speaker Glenn Richardson, House members lined up behind their leader and overrode six of the governor’s vetoes. But state Rep. Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, sided with the governor. He voted against each override. And then decided he’d picked the wrong side. Maddox changed his vote six times that day, by Caldwell’s count.

But Caldwell also found that Byrd, his primary opponent, had come down with voter’s remorse 24 times in the past six years, registering more changed votes than any other member of the House. Her closest rival was state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, who recorded 13 changed votes.

The effort Caldwell put into the research may tell you more about Caldwell than about Byrd.

Republican candidates for the 12th Congressional District will meet in a forum called “Getting Kids into the Conversation,” and sponsored by the Junior League of Augusta on Monday from 6 to 7:30 PM at Augusta-Richmond County Public Library.

The Richmond County Republican Party will co-host a televised debate next Wednesday for 12th District candidates  in the River Room at St. Paul’s Church, 605 Reynolds St.; doors open at 6 PM and the public should be seated by 6:30 PM. The debate will be broadcast live on WRDW News 12 from 7 to 8 PM.

Most of the candidates for Cherokee County School Board have filed their disclosures for the period ending June 30th.

Bernice Brooks was disqualified from the election for Carroll County Board of Education.

Brooks, the incumbent who had represented the area for more than a decade, was disqualified Tuesday.

“We will not throw out the ballots because there were several other candidate races and issues on the ballot,” said Carroll County Elections Supervisor Becky Deese. “Ms. Brooks does have a recourse she can take, but if the decision remains, votes for her will not be counted.”

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has released its survey of candidates for state and county offices.

National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund endorsements are out and you can expect to hear your local candidates touting their ratings.

Georgia Equality has released their endorsements. Interestingly, they make no pick in the State House race between State Rep. Rashad Taylor, who is gay, and State Rep. Pat Gardner, who has long supported gay issues. Also interesting, they have endorsed Ron Paul supporter Robert McClure, who is challenging State Rep. Brooks Coleman in the Republican Primary.

Matt Reeves, immediate Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association, endorsed Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court in the July 31st election.

“I am supporting Kathy Schrader because of her stellar reputation and her commitment to the our community.  I understand personally the time and energy it takes to balance family, practice law and hold the office of President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association. Under Kathy’s leadership, the GCBA won every possible award from the State Bar, including the President’s Award. Her tenure as President laid the groundwork for the strong organization we are today, and I am confident that Kathy will bring that same leadership to the Superior Court. I am pround to endorse my fellow Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association and fellow Duluth resident, Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge.”

Reeves served as Counsel to Representative Wendell Willard, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, during the 2008 Georgia General Assembly. Last week, Schrader was endorsed by Sherriann Hicks, who served as President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association from 2003-2004

11
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 11, 2012

If you’ve always wanted to lead a pack of sleek Basset Hounds, Gwinnett County Animal Shelter has got a pair for you. An adult male on the left, and young male, probably mixed, on the right, both are said to be friendly.

The deal is that Gwinnett is offering $30 adoptions through July 28th, which include microchip, first round of shots, and spay/neuter. That’s less than the average cost of microchipping alone in a veterinarian’s office. $30 for your new best friend. Also, I’m pretty sure adopting a dog is good luck for you candidates out there.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Republican Senator Josh McKoon (Columbus) has endorsed Chuck Eaton for reelection to the Public Service Commission. Senator McKoon said:

There is a very important statewide race on the Republican Ballot for Public Service Commissioner. Chuck Eaton, one of our incumbent Commissioners is on the ballot and has a primary opponent.

I have known Chuck Eaton for many years. He takes his obligation to serve the people of Georgia seriously and is a man of integrity.

I hope you will stand with me in voting for Chuck in his primary election. Chuck has earned re-election in my view, by being an advocate for consumers at the PSC and always looking for ways to innovate in the regulation of utilities. So please vote Chuck Eaton for PSC in the Republican Primary.

Eaton is running against a Democrat in the Republican Primary and another Democrat in the General Election. Matt Reid, who qualified as a Republican, has never voted in a GOP Primary and has given $250 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Expect further endorsements by real Republicans for Eaton.

The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund rated Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers “B” on his legislative record last year for the stated reason, apparently because they blame him and Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams for killing a bill that would have protected the right of employees to keep firearms in their cars at work parking lots. His opponent, Brandon Beach, received an “AQ” which means an “A” grade based on a questionnaire rather than a legislative record. The rest of the NRA ratings in contested primaries are available here.

In the North Fulton Tea Party debate last night, Rogers attributed his grade to a political game being played by a lobbyist with whom he has a frosty relationship. I’m not sure which of these lobbyists he means.

Here’s my takeaway from the debate: first, Chip Rogers put on a display of professional politics that makes me move his electoral target in the primary to 65-35. Second, Beach’s service on the GDOT board may end up being a liability among voters who spend part of every day in rush hour on GA-400.

The surprise of the night for me was that Senator Rogers answered a question on the proposed video casino in Gwinnett County in a way that sounded a lot like he would at least not oppose it, and might actually support it. He answered a follow-up question about the Republican primary ballot casino gambling issue saying that he will vote for it.

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The Georgia Supreme Court upheld provisions of the 2005 tort reform law that allow juries to consider the actions of third parties that led to the action and reduce the defendant’s liability on that basis.

Justice Harold Melton, writing for the court’s majority, said the law “makes all persons responsible according to their respective percentages of responsibility.”

Bryan Tyson has a quick summary of the decision on his SCOGblog.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Hugh Thompson will take over as Presiding Justice on July 18th.

Governor Nathan Deal has appointed John “Trea” Pipkin III as solicitor for the Flint Judicial Circuit, comprising Henry County. Pipkin had qualified for State House district 111 in the Republican Primary but will end his campaign, leaving Brian Strickland the presumptive GOP nominee; Strickland will face a Democratic opponent in November.

Despite a 2010 decision by the United States Supreme Court, local courts across Georgia continue to close proceedings to the public. The Cordele Judicial Circuit is being sued to force open courtrooms.

John Allen, chairman of Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), has warned judges that closing courtrooms “could be a violation” of state judicial canons “depending on the set of facts surrounding the closing.”
Even lawyers have been stopped by security asking about their business before the court. JQC Director Jeffrey Davis told the Daily Report: “I’ve personally experienced the chill that members of the public would feel,” he said. “I’m a lawyer. It’s not that I’m under-dressed for court.”
Davis added that once a visitor has passed through courthouse security at the entrance, “No citizens should be questioned about the reason they are in a public courtroom.”

Candidates for the open seats in Gwinnett County Superior Court and State Court addressed a forum at Berkmar High School last night.

Kathy Schrader, who is running for Superior Court was endorsed by fellow Gwinnett County Bar Association past president Sheriann Hicks.

Court-ordered requalifying for Bibb County Board of Elections using the new district maps has produced changes in the races, moving a previously unopposed incumbent into a three-way race for reelection.

Hall County Commission Chair Tom Oliver leads in fundraising for the recently-closed disclosure period, with just under $25k cash on hand.

Early voting turnout is strong in Henry County:

Officials in the county’s Elections and Registration Department processed 685 voters as of 3:35 p.m., Tuesday, for the July 31 primaries — “a good indication that we’ll have a better turnout than normal,” said Elections and Registration Director Janet Shellnutt. “But then again, a good many come the first day and then we slack off a little bit.”

Shellnutt said although the county sees a 40-percent turnout, at the highest, during most July primaries, she expects this year to be different.

“I do think we’ll have a higher turnout during this presidential year,” she said.

One election official, who asked not to be identified, said many of Monday’s voters were particularly interested in the county’s partisan races, as well as a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum.

10
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

Click Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucas refused to say how Republicans would have a majority.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events

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

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

9
Jul

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

The puppies to the left are, or will between now and Wednesday, available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, which is located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville. From top to bottom, they’re described as a Hound, a Lab, and an Australian Shepherd. All are young, friendly, and playful.

Gwinnett County and many other shelters across the state are seeing large numbers of dogs and cats, which means that euthanasia becomes a daily fact of life.

It appears from Facebook that the shelter is fighting this by lowering the price of adoptions to $30 through July 28th.

Adoptions from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter include a round of vaccinations, spay/neuter, and microchipping.

To get all that for a puppy adopted elsewhere would likely cost a couple hundred dollars and every dog or cat adopted from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter gives another animal an extra day of life and an extra chance of finding a home.

Important information for candidates and voters

Campaign contribution disclosure forms are due today for the period ending June 30th, and disclosures after today will incur a fine.

Click Here

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

According to R. Thompson & Associates, the top five filing errors are:

5)   Not reporting contributions and expenditures in the correct disclosure period
4)   Not reporting bank fees
3)   Collecting employer occupation for all contributors
2)   Failure to aggregate contributions from affiliated committees and corporations
1)   Improper carry forward of totals on the CCDR Summary

You can review the rest of the top ten filing errors here.

Speaking of filing errors, Congressional candidate Wright McLeod updated his first quarter FEC filings after one of his opponents complained and the FEC wrote to McLeod.

“After trying to hide the fact that he broke the law … for more than a month,” Scott Paradise, [Rick] Allen’s campaign manager, “we’re glad Wright McLeod finally did the right thing and admitted he broke the law.”

The FEC often takes 10 months or so to resolve complaints, so it’s unlikely to act on Allen’s complaint before the July 31 primary.

McLeod spokeswoman Holly Croft offered a different view

“It’s a shame … Mr. Allen’s campaign is hell-bent on making this election about personal attacks and petty politics,” Croft said.

The Associated Press reviewed provisional ballots in Georgia and Indiana under the states’ voter ID laws and found that more than 1200 ballots were discarded in 2008. In Georgia, a voter who is unable to show an acceptable ID on election day may cast a provisional ballot and then must present ID within two days in order to have their ballot counted.

While the number of votes is a small percentage of the overall total, they have the potential to sway a close election. The 2000 presidential race was decided in George W. Bush’s favor by a 537-vote margin in Florida.

Six Forms of Acceptable Voter ID

From the Secretary of State’s website:

1.)  Any valid state or federal government issued photo ID, including a FREE Voter ID Card issued by your county registrar’s office or the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS)

2.)  A Georgia Driver’s License, even if expired

3.)  Valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency, or entity of the U.S. Government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state

4.)  Valid U.S. passport ID

5.)  Valid U.S. military photo ID

6.)  Valid tribal photo ID

Early voting starts today

The best source for comprehensive information on early voting times and locations is the Secretary of State’s MVP system. If you go there and sign in with your name, county, and birthdate, you can see a sample ballot and your new district lines. Once signed in, click the link that says “Click here for early voting locations and times” and you’ll be taken to early voting information for your county.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Emory University Political Scientist Alan Abramowitz says that the number of non-white voters may have been responsible for President Obama’s 2008 election and will be important this November.

“[The percentage of non-white voters] went from 13 percent of voters to 26 percent of voters,” Abramowitz says, “Without that trend it’s very unlikely that Barack Obama would have won the 2008 election.”

Obama needs that trend to continue and possibly even accelerate in order to win a second term. That’s because the president’s share of the white vote is dropping.

Four years ago, President Obama got 43 percent of the white vote. Polls now show him with only about 38 percent. His gender gap advantage with white women has also shrunk, and among whites without a college degree he only gets about a third.

To offset that, Obama not only has to win the minority vote, Abramowitz says he also has to make sure non-white voters make up a bigger share of the overall electorate.

“In 2008, according to the national exit poll, non-whites made up about 26 percent of the voters,” he says. “If they can get that up to say 28 percent, then Obama could probably come close – maybe even win – the popular vote while losing the white vote by 20 points.”

In this election mobilization matters more than persuasion because there are so few undecided voters, probably less than 10 percent. So both sides are now focusing more on turning out their base.

The New York Times has published a series recently debating whether political scientists are any good at predictions. Jaqueline Stevens, a professor of political science at Northwestern University writes that

It’s an open secret in my discipline: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), my colleagues have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money.

Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts.

Nate Stevens, who writes the Times’s 538 blog, wrote his follow-up analysis

Some of these experts claimed that they could predict elections to an extremely high degree of accuracy without ever looking at a poll, instead relying on various combinations of economic and other variables.

In fact, these efforts have gone badly. Models based on these “fundamentals” alone have missed election results by an average of eight points since they began to be published widely in 1992. (Those models that combined economic and polling data have had considerably better results.) This is worse than you would do just by glancing at the Gallup poll, or even by just guessing that the outcome of the election would be split 50-50.

It was also much worse than what the models advertised. Most of them claimed to have pinpoint accuracy, and would have given odds anywhere from hundreds-to-one to billions-to-one against some of the outcomes that actually occurred, like the virtual tie between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000. (Many of the models had envisaged a Gore landslide instead.)

But there is also another, more sophisticated defense of the failures of prediction. “Prediction is simply not what we do,” writes Seth Masket, an extremely talented political scientist from the University of Denver. Instead, Mr. Masket and others say, the goal of political science is to explain the world rather than to predict it.

Finally, Middlebury College professor Matthew Dickinson’s blog includes an interesting conversation on the issue, drawing other political scientists into the fray.

Today at 10 AM at the Georgia State Capitol Rotunda, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers will join the Transportation Leadership Coalition in a press conference about the negative impact of the T-SPLOST on taxpayers.

At Saturday’s Gwinnett County Republican Party breakfast, the Greater Gwinnett Republican Women held a straw poll on T-SPLOST. The results were 40 votes against the tax increase, and 7 in favor.

Forsyth County’s Board of Elections announced that it would begin counting absentee and early votes before polls close on election day.

Under a new state law, the county’s elections office will begin counting absentee ballots at 4 p.m., three hours before the polls close on election day. The move is aimed at quickening the election night return process.

Steve Voshall received the unanimous endorsement of the Forsyth County Tea Party, which he founded in 2009. Voshall is running for state Senate against incumbent Republican Jack Murphy.

John Barrow’s spat with Rev. Joseph Lowery about whether Barrow “might as well be a Republican” may benefit Barrow’s reelection in a district that leans slightly right.

that’s the perfect breeze for Barrow’s political sails. These days, he wants to be seen as the Good Ship Independent, steering between the shoals of hyper-partisans on both sides.

We made that same point more than a week ago, but without the overwrought metaphor.

DeKalb voters may be more confused than usual: Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Adams is running for reelection, and in a separate race, Gregory Adams is running against incumbent CEO Burrell Ellis and fellow challenged Jerome Edmondson.
Retired Army Lt. Colonel Reginald L. Pugh is challenging Democratic Senator Ed Harbison for the third time.

Pugh, 58, was defeated soundly in both attempts to unseat Harbison, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran. His third challenge is set for July 31 in the Democratic Primary. The winner will face David Brown

in the Nov. 6 general election. Brown, of Reynolds, is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

The Marietta Daily Journal has a Voters’ Guide and profiles of the Republican candidates for County Commission Chairman, incumbent Tim Lee, and challengers former Republican County Commission Chair Bill Byrne, Mike Boyce, and Larry Savage.

Events

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will appear at a fundraising lunch for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign on July 17th at the W Hotel Midtown Atlanta.

Governor Deal will speak at a luncheon during the Gwinnett Chamber’s Business Expo and Job Fair on August 23d. Registration is available on the Chamber’s website.

6
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary of State Brian Kemp responded this morning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Here

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

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

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

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

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

Peebles replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republican Events

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

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

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

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

Bits & Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5
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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 5, 2012

“25571” is a dachshund puppy and “25570” is being called a shepherd puppy, and both are friendly, playful (duh, they’re puppies) and will be available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. The Dachshund will be available on Saturday and the Shepherd can be adopted tomorrow.

STILL MISSING!

MacCallan is a black lab mix who wears a red collar and was lost last night when he jumped the fence at his home. He is mostly black with a white chest and friendly disposition and he answers to “Mac” or “Pig” and may be skittish around strangers. Last seen leaving the Candler Park MARTA station after apparently riding a train. Seriously. In addition to his owner’s gratitude, there may be a reward from MARTA for information leading to his arrest for fare-jumping.

If you see Mac or capture him, please call Will at 706-977-8947 or email him.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Florida’s United State Senator Marco Rubio will be autographing copies of his book An American Son: A Memoir at NOON today at the Books-A-Million at 5900 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, GA 30043 [Click for a map].

Candidates now have four days to file their campaign disclosure statements for the period ending June 30th. Here are some recommendations in case you’re having problems with the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission filing system.

Click Here

As we get closer to Primary and Nonpartisan elections on July 31st, we can expect campaigns to get increasingly nasty.

Example 1 is the campaign in Gwinnett County for an open seat on the State Court. Former Superior Court Judge Richard Winegarden, who lost his reelection in 2008 and is attempting a judicial comeback to the lower court.

After a recent in-person forum got testy, its not surprising that opponents of Winegarden are taking to the internet. In an anonymous website, local lawyers are sounding off on what they say was Winegarden’s judicial distemper temperment. Quote of the day goes to Lawrenceville attorney Christine Koehler, quoting District Attorney Danny Porter.

[M]y co-counsel, as well as [District Attorney Danny] Porter went with me to see then Judge Winegarden regarding my health.

Judge Winegarden’s main concern was for the schedule of the case.  In an attempt to not have a delay in the trial, Judge Winegarden asked me to postpone my surgery since doctors weren’t even sure I had cancer.

I told him that since he wasn’t a doctor I wasn’t inclined to follow his suggestion over that of my doctors.

He then continued on and on about himself until DA Porter said, “You’re an a**hole. Christine has come in here to tell you she may have cancer and she needs to have surgery and you have managed to make this all about you.”

I can find no campaign disclosures filed for any group called Citizens for Integrity on the Bench. Some of the allegations against Winegarden are signed by attorneys who are taking a risk in doing so, but other entries are unsigned. Make of it what you will.

Example 2 is the ongoing saga of the return of Beth Merkelson, a fictitious sockpuppet persona used to attack Republican senators allegedly by people connected to State Senator Cecil Staton. Staton’s Republican Primary opponent Spencer Price is fighting back against charges once again leveled via email against a political opponent of Staton.

It all started with an email from a man named Brian Zorotovich. It was sent to Monroe and Bibb County Republicans. In it, Zorotovich claims Price has unpaid taxes.

“Which is false,” Price says. “I have documentation demonstrating that I, in fact, did pay a number of taxes that were overdue–due to circumstances relating to my son’s illness and my time lost from work.”

He continued, “I had a significant reduction in income for a number of years and Mr. Zorotovich has attempted to mischaracterize that circumstance.”

He also says Price, an officer in the NationalGuard, had a business transaction with a loan that was unpaid.

Price says he got behind while deployed to Iraq.

“It was an investment in a business entity that I was developing when the investor decided to withdraw the investment based on my deployment overseas and the fact that I was no longer able at that time to continue developing the business entity. I returned the investment in full to the last penny.”

Price showed 13WMAZ his email exchanges with the State Ethics Commission. He said he sent them in an effort to correctly submit his campaign disclosures. He says that’s why several campaign disclosures were sent in late.

He says it wasn’t because he’s hiding anything, as Zorotovich’s email suggests.

Zorotovich says the Medical Center of Central Georgia sued Price over an unpaid bill of more than $100,000, but Price says this is a copy of a check showing that he paid back more than he owed.

In the email, Zorotovich denies he is associated with any campaign, but Price’s camp says Zorotovich played on the same intramural basketball team as Zachary Lewis, Staton’s aide.

“My opponent has a tremendous amount to lose if he is unseated he is the majority whip in the state senate,” says Price.

He says the email was an attack on his character and he says you don’t really know someone’s character until it’s challenged.

“I lost a child tragically. I lost a tremendous amount of time from work. I committed to paying all of the bills associated with his illness in honor of him and his life,” Price says, “And to have done that–rather than take the advice from the financial administrators at Egleston and file for bankruptcy–is a demonstration of my core character and what I’m all about.”

Price says he’s running because he’s lived a life of service as a doctor and in the military and he wants to serve the people of district 18.

Price’s camp did respond to the email and they say once Zorotovich realized they connected him with Staton’s camp the emails stopped and he withdrew all of his previous posts.

Price claims that supporters of Staton are behind the email claims.

“I am calling on my opponent, Cecil Staton, to publicly disavow this type of character assassination as unworthy of our American democratic process,” Price said.

Price provided a roster from a Georgia Southern University intramural basketball team that lists both Zorotovich and Zach Louis, who is Staton’s campaign manager.

Louis declined to answer questions by telephone Tuesday, but he e-mailed the campaign’s official response to several questions. Regarding Zorotovich, the e-mail reads: “He is not connected to the Staton Campaign. The fact that his name is on an intramural roster along with that of other students including Zach Louis does not connect him to our campaign.”

Attempts by The Telegraph to locate Zorotovich for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. Though he is listed as having a Marietta address, he does not have a listed phone number.

One thing that appears to be clear is that Senator Staton does stand behind other attacks against Price. A website that bears the disclaimer “Paid for by Staton for Senate” reiterates some of the same allegations.

Example 3 is the Democratic Primary in Congressional District One for the honor of being whipped by Republican Jack Kingston in the General Election. Lesli Rae Messinger is calling on her Primary opponent Nathan Russo to exit the primary.

Messinger says Russo doesn’t have Democratic endorsements and can’t beat Kingston, who is seeking a 10th term.

“Nathan Russo,” Messinger said in a news release “… needs to step down immediately.”

She called Russo, a retired businessman who lives on St, Simons Island, a “supposed Democratic candidate.”

Messinger, who has an antiques business and who lives on Skidaway Island, says she is backed by Bill Gillespie, Kingston’s 2008 opponent.

But Russo’s not budging.

“Look at the calendar on my website, and you’ll find lots of campaign events,” he said.

Contending he’s been too busy with other things to round up endorsements, he says Messinger has things backward.

“You can’t win in this district by appealing just to Democrats,” he said. “You need to appeal to Republicans and independents. I can do that because I’m more conservative than Kingston when it comes to cutting government waste.”

Messinger countered that Russo wants to “legalize marijuana,” re-instate the draft and “eliminate and reduce” federal farm subsidies.

“I’m certain Mr. Russo means well,” she said. “However, he seemingly has no idea that marijuana often leads to more serious addictions and, ultimately, death.”

Speaking of political cage death matches, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon will take another shot at the title bout United States Senate from Connecticut.

This time it’s the seat being vacated by Sen. Joe Lieberman, the one-time Democratic vice presidential nominee and later self-declared independent. In 2010 it was seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd. McMahon is again casting herself as the outsider, and her opponent as a polished establishment pol.

But she’s hardly the upstart underdog this time. She enjoyed a nearly 2-1 edge in delegates over former Rep. Christopher Shays at the state’s Republican convention in May. The most recent statewide poll of registered Republicans showed her with 59 percent to 30 percent for Shays heading into the Aug. 14 primary.

Shays’ supporters, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and GOP strategist Karl Rove, say McMahon can’t win in November in a Democratic-leaning state like Connecticut. Rove said she had her chance in 2010 and said it’s now time to support someone with experience.

At the debate, Shays went after her record running WWE, bringing up everything from wrestler deaths to how her husband, Vince McMahon, demanded that a female wrestler remove her clothes and bark like a dog on stage during a now-infamous skit.

“Her work, her ownership of WWE, does not qualify her for a second to be the next United States senator,” he said. “The question is, who has the experience, what are they going to do when they get elected and how are they going to get it done. And I know how to get it done because I’ve done it.”

Walter Jones notes that after years in the wilderness in a solidly-Democratic state, Republicans are now the cool kids on the block.

Well, in Georgia politics, suddenly it’s cool to be a Republican. So much so, that in multiple counties all of the candidates qualified to run under the GOP standard, including dozens of incumbents who switched parties.

Considering elections are won by attracting large numbers, Republicans might be expected to welcome the newcomers with open arms. Their hesitation comes from fears of infiltration by the insincere.

Stalwarts even have a quaint name for those who get elected but don’t always hew the party line in Congress or the legislature, RINOs for Republican In Name Only.

Accusations of false-flag candidacies are popping up regularly this summer.

Here are just a few examples, starting with the only two statewide contests.

Pam Davidson endorsed the Democrat after she lost the 2008 GOP nomination for Public Service Commission to Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, the eventual winner and a former Democratic elected official. Now, she’s running for a different seat on the commission, and her bona fides are being questioned by the incumbent Stan Wise she is trying to unseat.

In the other PSC race this year, Matt Reid is running for the GOP nomination against incumbent Chuck Eaton. As Eaton’s campaign consultant Todd Rehm notes on his blog, Georgia Pundit, Reid has voted consistently in Democratic primaries for the last 12 years and contributed to Barack Obama’s campaign.

“I believe that Georgia Republicans will think that the answer to our economic problems is not a liberal Democrat cross-dressing as a Republican who wants to get into office and push a radical Obama green agenda that costs ratepayers and businesses in Georgia more money every month,” Rehm wrote.

Conasauga Judicial Circuit Public Defender Mike McCarthy has been reappointed for four more years by W. Travis Sakrison, Executive Director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council.

In Bibb County, voters who choose a party primary ballot on July 31st cannot vote in the other party’s election for Board of Education on August 21st or potential runoff on September 18th.

“The judge made the ruling that the parties can not alter from the time the voter begins voting,” said [elections supervisor Elaine] Carr.  “If they vote on July 31st, that party stays through September 18th.”

If Victor Hill is elected Clayton County Sheriff again, the suspension of his POST certification following indictment on 37 counts may prevent him from actually serving.

Special elections to fill two seats on the Dawsonville City Council have been changed to November.

The Dawsonville City Council voted unanimously Monday to change the date for the special election to fill the unexpired terms of two council posts.

The special election has been moved from Sept. 18 to Nov. 6.

Candidates wishing to seek one of the two seats must qualify between Aug. 28-30.

The special election is required following the resignations of James Grogan and Calvin Byrd, both of whom resigned to run for mayor following the death of Joe Lane Cox.

Grogan is now acting mayor.

The two vacant council positions have been temporarily filled by Caleb Phillips and Angie Smith. The changing of the dates means both must serve for an additional two months.

Lake Park Mayor Ben Futch has resigned following a physical altercation with the Mayor Pro Tem.

witnesses said the outgoing mayor cited “political forces that were pressuring him” and stated that “he no longer wanted to be a divisive element in the community.”

With the city’s mayoral job vacated, mayor pro-tem Sandy Sherrill will be acting mayor of the city. Tension between Sherrill and Futch escalated into a physical altercation on June 8. Though the incident was brief and no charges were filed, it has done nothing to assuage tensions that some say started when Futch took office.

“I think we need to do a forensic search on their computers before anyone takes over,” said former Police Chief Bert Rutland who was fired along with the city clerk and fire chief in January immediately following Futch’s swearing-in ceremony.

In Carroll County, two Republicans will meet in the Primary for Coroner and the winner will face Democratic retread repeat candidate LaDonna Fryar in November. Incumbent Sammy Eady is running as a Republican for the first time since first being elected in 1988 and faces former Carroll County deputy Jamie Godbee on July 31st.

Jimmy Bobo’s recycling company will leave the Ball Ground Recycling facility after a US Bankruptcy Court judge ordered him to vacate.

Under the lease agreement, the land and equipment involved in the $18 million project bonded by the RRDA becomes the county’s property.

Bobo, of Ball Ground Recycling, filed May 25 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Cherokee County backed an $18.1 million bond issue through its Resource Recovery Development Authority in 2007 to finance consolidation of Bobo recycling operations, which were spread around the county, into an industrial area.

At the time, because of intense residential construction growth, the decision looked attractive, county commissioners have said, but in hindsight, they all agree it was a bad move.

Commissioners say the reason the $18.1 million in bonds were issued to consolidate Bobo’s mulching operations was because they were under such heavy pressure to move Bobo from his sites near rapidly growing residential areas.

In a forum sponsored by the Cherokee County Republican Party, State Rep. John Carson and challenger Martin Hawley both said they would support legislation recognizing personhood as beginning at conception.

The candidates also agreed if elected, they each would support the piece of legislation regarding the right to life — a resolution that gives personhood status to all humans from conception to natural death.

For Carson, it was a personal issue, as his daughter, who is now 4, was born at 28 weeks old. He voted for the bill this past year that limited abortions from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

“She hung onto life in the NICU,” he said. “I was already pro-life, but this more than anything else helped make my decision for me.”

Hawley said he, too, believes life begins at inception and every life must be considered precious.

Carson and Hawley also agree on their opposition to T-SPLOST.

Georgia Power and Atlanta-based Solar Design & Development have been recognized by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) for the development and installation of 19 megawatts of solar power generation throughout Georgia.

The 19 MW of solar capacity, part of Georgia Power’s 50 MW large-scale solar initiative approved last year by the Georgia Public Service Commission, will be added to the company’s growing renewable energy portfolio. Georgia Power has contracted to purchase the output for the next 20 years.

Ends & Pieces

Porsche Cars North America paid $34.3 million for 56.2 acres on which it will build its new headquarters at Aerotropolis on the site of the old Ford plant in Hapeville.

Porsche also announced that June sales were up 18% over the same period in 2011, largely on the strength of sales of the new Boxster. Here’s a gratuitous photo of the new Boxster.

Shares of Volkswagen, AG, shot up on news that it will complete its merger with Porsche.

Shares in Volkswagen AG soared higher on Thursday after Europe’s biggest automaker announced a deal to complete the takeover of sports car manufacturer Porsche by the end of the month, which the company said will result in savings of some (EURO)700 million ($880 million) per year.

Volkswagen’s shares were up 5.9 percent at (EURO)135.75 in Frankfurt trading. The Wolfsburg-based company announced Wednesday night that Porsche will become a fully integrated brand as of Aug. 1 – joining others such as Audi, Volkswagen, Seat, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Bentley.

On July 23d, the Blu-Ray release of Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One will be promoted with screenings in full-size theaters to show off the remastering of the series. Two episodes from Season One, Where No One Has Gone Before and Datalore will be shown.

Gerry Brown, of Cumming, Georgia, will handle one short leg of the Olympic Torch Relay in Winchester, England.

The selection process started out during a group meeting at Coca-Cola Refreshments IT Department.

“We were asked if anyone would be interested in applying to carry the torch and folks pointed at me, so I went ahead and filled out the required paperwork,” Brown said.

Brown didn’t think he would be chosen, but says he is thrilled he was picked.

Older sister Ronica Searcy proudly talks about her brother.

“He served in Desert Storm, is a great father and husband, son, and an outstanding brother,” Searcy said. “We are thrilled that he was selected to be a torch bearer. He honors our family and we are very proud of him.”

Searcy describes her brother as, “awesome and amazing.”

Brown believes serving others is the most important aspect of his life.

In addition to working for Coca-Cola Refreshments, Brown is the founder and former president of the non-profit organization, “Because We Care,” that provide community assistance to poor, distressed and underprivileged people.

Jerri Peterson and Thierry Laurent, both of Roswell, also carried the Olympic Torch.

Peterson and Laurent, who are both information-technology professionals, were nominated by their co-workers at InterContinental Hotels, which is providing all the Olympic lodging. As one of the primary sponsors of the Games, the corporation had torchbearer slots to bestow on worthy candidates within its ranks. Among Peterson’s many community-minded activities that got her nominated are her chairmanships of both the Empty Stocking Fund campaign and Project Healthy Grandparents as well as participating in fundraisers for the likes of Susan G. Komen, March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association.

She and her husband, Rick, have been a host family for children of international colleagues through the American Youth Foundation, and she mentors elementary-age girls.

Laurent is a real-life example of dealing with physical adversity.

“I have Parkinson’s Disease and am currently participating in a study group with Emory University and the Atlanta chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association,” he said.

“In addition, I have had discussions with fellow co-workers who have PD, or their family members, to help them understand how I cope with the disease. Mostly it has been co-workers who have family members who have PD, and they are trying to figure out how to best work with them and make sure they take medicines and exercise.”