Category: Gwinnett County

27
Jul

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forsyth County Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ends & Pieces

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

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

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

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

26
Jul

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

“This is an important alert for Gwinnett voters.”

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

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

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

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

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

Canon 7(c) states that candidates for judicial office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watson admitted he was in no shape to drive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Cecil Staton has also drawn a complaint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ends & Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

24
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 24, 2012


“Joelle” is the dark brindle mixed breed shown with her best friend. She is spayed, up-to-date on her shots, house-trained and knows how to use a doggie door. She weighs about 40 pounds and sheds very little. She is available to foster or adopt through Angels Among Us Rescue.

Ethics

Yesterday, the AJC reported that Governor Deal’s 2010 campaigned settled all outstanding complaints before the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission. Their initial story reported that two major issues remained unresolved, but they eventually updated it eight hours later to reflect what actually happened – the “major” charges were dismissed including those related to private air travel, and the campaign paid administrative fees for filling out some paperwork incorrectly.

The Gainesville Times, in an AP story written by Errin Haines, correctly notes:

A commission investigation concluded that the law on the aircraft fees issue was vague, and staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein said she did not feel a violation of the rules had occurred.

Check out how the mainstream media works and fails to acknowledge its role in a witch hunt against a popular Governor. From the AJC yesterday:

But it was the complaints regarding the campaign’s air travel and Deal’s legal bills that had brought the most attention over the past several years.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in September 2010 that Deal’s campaign had paid a company that he partly owned $135,000 for the use of an airplane. Rome-based ethics watchdog George Anderson later filed an ethics complaint that accused Deal of financially benefiting from campaign expenditures.

But the ethics commission unanimously said Monday that there was no probable cause to believe Deal violated the law that prohibits such a personal benefit.

Ten months ago yesterday, I wrote 2500 words that analyzed the law applicable to Georgia campaign finance and concluded that the laws the AJC cited in its article did not apply, and even if they did there was no violation.

Richard Halicks, an editor with the AJC then came onto the website where I originally published my analysis and claimed that I got some of my facts wrong. Pot, kettle. I refuted point-by-point that editor’s claims and he never replied again.

Now the Campaign Finance Commission has dismissed the charges related to aircraft, and the AJC’s initial reporting was wrong. Is anyone really surprised anymore?

So let’s review the AJC’s behavior on this issue:

  1. Run a story claiming some nefarious misdeeds because you don’t understand what’s going on.
  2. Report on some subpoenas that were supposedly prepared but never issued and that no one but the reporter and the staff who allegedly prepared them have seen and do not release copies of the alleged subpoenas.
  3. Whitewash any criticism on blogs.
  4. Report yet another baseless complaint by George Anderson of Rome as though he doesn’t have a history of filing baseless ethics complaints and refer to Anderson as a “government watchdog.”
  5. Leverage the unconfirmed subpoenas into allegations that the staff members who allegedly prepared them were fired over the content of the subpoenas.
  6. Misstate for hours the outcome of the case when the complaints are dismissed and take no responsibility for the year-and-a-half witch hunt you prompted.

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From Lori Geary at WSB-TV, we now have an idea where the millions of dollars of wasted money being spent on the T-SPLOST campaign are coming from: corporate coffers.

Documents show Stockert’s group has raised $6.5 million so far, including $250,000 each from the Georgia Association of Realtors, Georgia Highway Contractors Association, Georgia Power, The Coca-Cola Company, Yancey Brothers and Cox Enterprises, the parent company of WSB-TV.  Clear Channel donated $300,000 in billboard space.

Opponents of the sales tax claim big business and contractor who stand to gain from the road and transit projects are pumping money into the campaign.

Stockert told Geary about 20 percent of the money raised came from contractors who would benefit directly from the projects, but he disagrees about their motives.

“They’ve been decimated along with the rest of the construction business in this region with the financial downturn. They’d like to put people back to work,” Stockert said.

Take note: Cox Media, which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, gave a quarter-million dollars to pass the T-SPLOST.

But you won’t learn where all the pro-T-SPLOST money comes from because the “education” component of the tax hike campaign doesn’t have to disclose that:

While the pro-T-SPLOST advocacy effort revealed its 685 donations on Monday, some donors to a separate education effort may remain secret.

Organized as a 501(c)(3) under federal tax laws, the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network is not legally required to disclose its contributors. Under federal law, the group — called MAVEN — cannot specifically call for residents to vote for the T-SPLOST. Instead they have called it “one solution” to metro Atlanta’s traffic woes.

MAVEN is funding education efforts as well as some get-out-the vote activities, Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has ordered the removal of two state house candidates from the ballot for failing to meet qualification requirements.

Kemp’s office announced Monday that Anne Taylor, a Democrat from Mableton, does not meet the residency requirement to run for the District 39 seat in the House of Representatives. That means Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan will be unopposed in the July 31 primary election.

Kemp also decided that Richie Smith, a Democrat from Lake, is ineligible to run for the District 151 seat in the House. Smith failed to appear at a legal hearing after he was accused of owing taxes.

The City of Blythe will vote on Sunday sales next Tuesday.

The owner of Mack’s Country Store on Georgia Highway 88 said he’s losing $1,500 to $2,000 each Sunday to the competition only a mile and a half away.

Because customers want to buy their gas, cigarettes, beer, wine and other items at one time, they’ve been taking their business to the nearby CITGO station, which lies outside the Blythe city limits in Richmond County and can sell alcohol on Sundays.

“It would mean a whole lot for my business. I need it approved,” Rose said. “Good customers of mine tell me that is exactly what they’re doing on Sundays. I hope that the people in the city of Blythe will understand and vote yes when it comes time to vote it in.”

Mark Hatfield released a YouTube video asking:

In the race for the 7th state senate district, Tyler Harper tells voters that he can be trusted to protect our “Christian, Conservative values” in South Georgia. But given Tyler’s close association and involvement with a company that has received multi-millions of taxpayer dollars in AFFIRMATIVE ACTION contracts from the federal government over the years, how conservative can Tyler really be?

Jim Galloway writes of the video:

the video ties [Hatfield's opponent] Harper to a Bloomberg report, published last February, on white businesses that tapped more than $1 billion in preferential federal contracts by creating minority fronts. Among the individuals cited were “two Ocilla, Ga., modular-building sales companies that had different minority owners with the same white managers:”

Speaking of Jim Galloway, he also noted some shenanigans involving robocalls.

Earlier this month, a Republican candidate for chairman of the Cherokee County school board found herself the object of some underhandedness. From Rebecca Johnston and the Cherokee Tribune:

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.

However, the political signs in Read’s front yard and that of her neighbor were torn down, neighbors said, and thrown in the street where they were run over repeatedly.

Somebody apparently thinks turnabout is fair play. Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers on Sunday posted the following on via Facebook:

Today, my opponent’s campaign sunk to a new low. We have received calls this afternoon confirming that my opponent’s campaign is making robo-calls against me and claiming to be from Grassroots Conservatives. They have even pirated the cell phone number of innocent 3rd party to make these calls. Bill Dewrell is now taking the extraordinary step to call voters and alert them to the Brandon Beach phone call scam.

It’s not an election season until folks in politics are throwing around threats of defamation suits, this time in Cherokee County.

Cherokee County politics continued to heat up Friday when a political consultant sent a scathing email to a local political action committee and its chairman, which was subsequently published on the group’s website.

Robert Trim, whose clients include Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), wrote the email to Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman, who is also chair for Neighbors for A Better Cherokee, a PAC working for pro-public education candidates in Cherokee County.

In Thursday’s email, Trim writes: “I’m pretty busy these days as a professional in my field, and although I thoroughly enjoy crushing amateurs as a hobby… right now I’m busy enough that paying attention to you will be more annoying that you are worth (sic). For that reason, and that reason alone, I’m giving you a warning shot across the bow instead of grinding you into concrete like a bug.”

Chapman said Trim sent the email to the Neighbors for A Better Cherokee Gmail account Thursday morning.

He said the webmaster for the group then responded with an apology explaining that it had been removed. Trim responded with the final email, making threats directed toward Chapman.

“The bottom line is, we immediately did what he asked and we apologized,” Chapman said. “My beef is not with Robert Trim, it’s about getting the facts out. We changed the verbiage he requested we change immediately.”

Trim goes on in the email to say that if Chapman plans to accuse him of law breaking, Chapman “better be sure” he has committed a crime.

“In my case, I haven’t…and your site is defamation per se,” Trim wrote. “Check with your lawyers…you aren’t protected by NYT v. Sullivan and can no more accuse me of crimes than I can set up a website and start identifying you as anything other than a failed candidate.”

Trim’s reference to the New York Times v. Sullivan case is referencing the 1964 lawsuit that established actual malice must be proven to be considered defamation and libel in regard to press reports about public officials and public figures.

Other silliness related to campaign season? More questionable robocalls.

Robo calls over the weekend claiming to be associated with the Oconee County GOP are not related to the organization in any way, Chairman Jay Hanley said in a news release Monday.

The news release came in response to “numerous reports from citizens” saying they had received calls regarding the Georgia House District 117 race.

Callers were told the polling came from “Elaine from Watkinsville Republicans” and it asked them to respond to a question about the primary race between incumbent Doug McKillip and challenger Regina Quick, the release noted.

Respondents who chose McKillip’s name heard negative information about him, but if they selected Quick’s name, the caller was reminded to vote in the primary election on July 31.

The following post on Regina Quick’s Facebook page states the campaign is not responsible for the calls.

“There is someone making autocalls from a 719 exchange saying they are a ‘Watkinsville Republican.’ Let me assure you, its not our campaign. If you hear about it, please let your friends know.”

The Cherokee Tribune profiles four candidates in the election for House District 23.

Those vying to be the first state representative from the new district include Mandi Ballinger, Dean Sheridan, Alan Shinall and Harold Welchel.

and covers the contest between State Rep. Sean Jerguson and his challenger Scot Turner.

US Attorneys have asked to delay the sentencing of Shirley Fanning-Lasseter for accepting cash in exchange for zoning votes so that the government can “facilitate matters related to the defendant’s cooperation.” I suspect that last phrase means that more arrests will follow based on SFL’s cooperation.

That might make it difficult for Tracey Mason Blasi, a candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court to explain how she was Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s personal “zoning judge” when Lasseter was Mayor of Duluth.

Tracey Mason Blasi, an attorney practicing in Lawrenceville, has been appointed assistant municipal judge for Duluth.

Duluth has established a zoning court, and Blasi will hande strictly zoning issues.

“This is really her forte,” said Mayor Shirley Lasseter.

Two candidates for Hall County Board of Education peg the system’s problems as related to budgets that continue to shrink while student numbers swell.

Ends & Pieces

The story doesn’t mention whether he said, “hold my beer, y’all watch this,” but a Richmond County man has been hospitalized after a bet.

Video surveillance from Alley Katz, off Washington Road, shows two men approaching William Bonner Jr., throwing a shot of alcohol on his head and lighting it around 1:30 a.m. Friday.

Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Blaise Dresser said no criminal charges will be filed because Bonner admitted to investigators that he had agreed to the act.

If her dad was the “Godfather of Soul,” his eldest daughter appears to be a lost soul.

James Brown’s oldest daughter is wanted by North Augusta Public Safety after she was accused of stealing a car from St. Stephen Ministries in Augusta and injuring her boss outside a bank in North Augusta when the boss tried to get the car back, authorities said.

[a witness] reached into the car to try to take the keys, but Brown quickly accelerated, dragging Campbell into and over the hood of another vehicle parked in front of the Suburban, according to Thornton. The extent of her injuries was not released.

Brown drove away and was last seen headed into Georgia across the 13th Street Bridge.Brown is charged in warrants with possession of a stolen vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident and first degree assault and battery.

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.

Click Here

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

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.

7
Jul

Gwinnett County Republican Party Straw Poll on T-SPLOST

At this morning’s Gwinnett County Republican Party breakfast, the Greater Gwinnett Republican Women held a straw poll on the T-SPLOST.

The results were 40 people voting against the tax increase and 7 for. No word on whether the pro-TSPLOST speaker voted.

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.