Category: Gwinnett County

5
Jul

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

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

STILL MISSING!

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

Click Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price says he got behind while deployed to Iraq.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Russo’s not budging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grogan is now acting mayor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ends & Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Older sister Ronica Searcy proudly talks about her brother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3
Jul

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

“Jeremy” (left) is a 5-year old Black Lab who has been neutered, microchipped and fully vaccinated who is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Services. A Georgia licensed rescue that pulls him from the shelter is eligible for $310 in donations that have been pledged.

“Dora” (right) is about 5 weeks old and weighs six pounds. She’s an Australian Shepherd mix with a docked tail and full vaccines. She’s also available for adoption from Walton County.

In Macon, two puppies were rescued from being tied outside without shelter, food, or clean water in 100+ degree temperatures.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal is leading a trade mission to Canada through July 10th.

The mission will include Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Steve Brereton, Consul General of Canada in Atlanta.

Deal will meet with prospective businesses and with companies that have existing Georgia operations, including Bombardier and CAE. In Toronto he will address a business investment luncheon hosted by PNC Bank and the Canadian-American Business Council. Later that day Deal will throw out the first pitch of the Toronto Blue Jays v. Kansas City Royals baseball game at Rogers Centre.

The governor and delegation will also attend, as honored guests, celebrations of the U.S. Independence Day hosted by the U.S. consulates in Montreal and Toronto. Georgia-grown products will be showcased during the Independence Day celebration in Montreal.

Congratulations to Canadia. It’s not every day that a minor US state gets an official visit from Georgia’s Governor.

Congratulations to Fayette County’s Sheila Studdard, who was reappointed by Gov. Deal to the Board of Commissioners of the Superior Court Clerks Retirement Fund of Georgia. Condolences to Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash, Henry County Chair B.J. Mathis, and Douglas County Chair Tom Worthan, whom Deal appointed to the GRTA Board.

Fulton County became the state’s largest charter school system on July 1st, which will allow the system to apply for waivers to some state regulations.

The State Board of Education has set a hearing on July 18 to review the Board’s recommendation that the Governor remove members of the Sumter County Board of Education following the loss of its accreditation from SACS.

Gwinnett County’s would-me casino magnate Dan O’Leary is predicting that the Republican ballot question on whether to allow casino gambling will fail.

O’Leary said the question on the GOP ballot is flawed. It reads: “Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?” The Democratic ballot does not contain the question.

“To truly gauge public sentiment on the issue of gaming, the real question is: Are voters in favor of the Georgia Lottery expanding with (video lottery terminals) games in a single controlled environment to save the HOPE scholarship? This question gets to the heart of the issue. It’s not about casinos; it’s about saving HOPE,” O’Leary said in a statement, referring to the HOPE Scholarship, where lottery funds are used to fund college scholarships and Pre-K programs.

While video lottery terminals look like video slot machines, O’Leary said they are more similar to scratch-off lottery tickets and funds would go solely to the Georgia Lottery.

O’Leary said he did not lobby for the question to be on ballots.

“Given that this ballot question does not accurately portray our project, we fully anticipate that the voters will vote against it,” O’Leary said.

I disagree that the casino gambling question is doomed. We wrote yesterday that casino gambling scored a narrow victory in Hall County GOP straw poll, and have seen other signs that Republicans may not disapprove overwhelmingly of casino gambling. Of course, the Personhood Amendment may bring out culturally-conservative Pro-Life voters, who appear to strongly oppose casino gambling. Over-under for approval of casino gambling is set at 48.

House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams spoke with Dennis O’Hayer and responded to Majority Leader Ed Lindsey’s statement on MARTA’s leadership and the 50-50 funding split, saying that she’s open to discussing the issues, but that Lindsey’s proposal is unworkable.

The Transportation Leadership Coalition is considering a legal challenge to the preamble language for the T-SPLOST on the July 31st ballot [pdf].

On behalf of TLC, Atlanta attorney Pitts Carr has taken the necessary initial action to protect the Georgia state ballot from political interference.

Today’s formal inquiry from attorney Carr directs Secretary of State Brian Kemp to cite the legal authority for adding the language “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

Carr’s letter in part reads:

“Secretary of State Kemp concluded that the preamble “is referenced in the original legislation”.  Nowhere does that language appear in O.C.G.A. 48-8-240 et seq.”

Jack Staver, TLC chairman [said,] “The chaotic and contradictory statements made by Kemp and his office are characteristic of someone getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or in this case in the taxpayers’ pocket. I understand why Kemp is running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  There is a real possibility that the secretary of state could be held personally liable for the cost of reprinting the ballot.”

Ten days ago TLC issued a public call for Governor Nathan Deal to intervene and protect the integrity of the ballot.  Governor Deal, one of the biggest supporters of the Referendum 1 tax increase, has not responded to these requests.

Yesterday, Republican Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise released a YouTube video raising the issue of his opponent’s truthiness, ethics, and adherence to Republican principles.

Davidson, running on an ethics platform, is taken to task for claiming education degrees she has not earned, lobbying for green energy subsidies at the expense of higher electricity rates, endorsing a Democrat after she lost the PSC Republican Primary in 2008 (despite signing the GOP Loyalty Oath), and a series of ethics lapses….

On July 31, voters in Bibb County will vote on whether to consolidate Bibb County and the City of Macon. State Rep. Allen Peake supports consolidation and writes,

Folks, the bottom line on this consolidation vote is this: If you are happy with where you are now, and content with our county losing population and jobs, then vote NO.

But if you believe we can have a brighter future; if you believe that we can turn this sinking ship around, and if you want economic opportunities for your family, your children, and your grandchildren, then this is your chance. Vote YES on July 31! We have so many positives in our community, and if we can just get past the gridlock and stagnation that has been our pattern for the last 40 years, there are no limits to how prosperous we can be.

So, please join me by voting YES, and let’s start moving the community we love in the right direction.

Incumbent Republican State Representative Jimmy Pruett faces challenger John Clements in the Primary for District 149.

Click Here

Incumbent Javors Lucas has served 31 years on the Macon Water Authority Board and faces challenger Regina Lucas in the Democratic Primary. Surprisingly, Lucas’s tenure is the second-longest on the Board to Chairman Frank Amerson.

Houston County will elect two school board members.

Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart admits to reading the emails of five city employees:

Stuart said he suspected his own city e-mail account was being monitored, as well, but he did not say by whom.

“I wanted to see if they [those he wanted to monitor] are the ones monitoring my e-mails,” said Stuart. “I had complaints from city employees that their e-mails are being monitored. In any e-mails that I sent to city employees, they would get questioned by Gibson [when he was employed earlier this year] about e-mails I would send them.”

Stuart, as Stockbridge’s chief executive officer, has the right to view e-mail accounts for employees in the city. However, Milliron said Stuart, in May, made a request to monitor employee e-mails, without the knowledge of employees.

“Quite frankly, unless there is an exemption in the state’s public access laws, we presume that all of our e-mails are open to inspection by the public,” said Milliron. “But I would not expect the mayor, or any other elected official, to have secret access to my, or any other employee’s e-mails, unless there was a city policy that informed employees that they had no expectation of privacy with respect to their e-mail communications. There is no such policy in place.

“The mayor always makes broad, sweeping statements that he has received complaints,” Milliron continued. “Everyone, with respect to the mayor, is always nameless and faceless. His request to secretly monitor employee e-mails does nothing but undermine the working relationship that we have here at City Hall.”

The ongoing feud in Snellville took a turn stayed nasty as Democrat Mayor Kellie Kautz criticized the council’s action:

A 4-2 vote pushed through an amended budget proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts, one that does not include a $426,022 budget line for road projects through the Livable Centers Initiative. The LCI project… was the crux of debate among the mayor and council and the primary difference between Witts’ $9.61 million budget and that proposed by Kautz.

Kautz called the project’s non-inclusion, and the budget in general, “sloppy,” “a mess” and “unprofessional.”

Witts said it was not included in the budget because he didn’t believe it should be factored into tax calculations. He said it should be handled with money received following the service delivery dispute with the county.

“I don’t feel that’s something we should be taxing our people for,” Witts said. Councilmen Bobby Howard and Dave Emanuel voiced their support.

Jan Burke, the city’s controller, did not support Witts’ budget. She called the omission of the LCI project — as well as $16,900 for gazebo repairs at Briscoe Park — a “material misstatement.”

“Those are material expenses,” she said. “They have to be budgeted. We obviously are going forward with those projects.”

Because nothing screams “professional” like name-calling.

Events Calendar

The Lamar County Republian Debate Committee will host a debate among the three candidates for Third Congressional District, namely, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and two other guys. The event begins at 7 PM tonight at Lamar County School’s Fine Arts Center, at 126 Burnette Road in Barnesville. Doors will open to the public at 6 p.m. For more information, contact Julia Heidbrink at 678-588-1619 or by email at midgatp@gmail.com.

The Towns County Republican Party will celebrate the Fourth of July on the Seventh of July with a barbecue and forum for Ninth Congressional District candidates at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds.

On July 10th, the Cobb County Civic Coalition will hold a forum for candidates for County Chair.

The Council for Quality Growth will host Congressman John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at lunch on July 13th for a Regional Transportation Referendum countdown.

Republican Women of Muscogee and Harris Counties will host a primary candidate dinner on July 17th featuring Q&A and opportunities for candidates to speak.

You can register today for Grilling with the Governor in Gainesville on July 21st.

On August 4th, the Eighth District Republican Party will host the annual Fish Fry in Perry at the Georgia National Fairgrounds.

Ends & Pieces

Atlanta Tim Hornsby qualified for the 2012 Olympics in sprint kayak. WABE has a story on Hornsby.

The Georgia Aquarium has applied for a permit to bring 18 Beluga whales to the United States, but they wouldn’t necessarily be housed in Atlanta.


29
Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supreme Court decision and reactions

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens came to the opposite conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Governor Nathan Deal said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Democrats predictably celebrated the decision:

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

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

“Be responsible,” Fort said.

While Tea Party activists vowed to continue fighting Obamacare:

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

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

Dooley said the decision would energize the GOP.

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

Debbie Dooley told the Gwinnett Daily Post,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Chamber of Commerce President Chris Clark released a statement:

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DPG spokesperson Eric Gray said

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Station

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

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

28
Jun

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 18, 2012


Charlie Boy is a 46-pound, young Golden Retriever available for adoption from Angels Among Us Rescue.

The Cobb County Animal Shelter is packed after 63 dogs were turned in on a single day last week.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

On Saturday, Governor Nathan Deal was the keynote speaker in Rome, GA at the Georgia Honors Iraq War Veterans event.

“I know we live in a world where it doesn’t appear that the rest of the world appreciates the sacrifice that the United States of America makes on their behalf, as well as on our own behalf, but I can tell you in my travels, in my contacts with people around the rest of the world, they truly understand that the only real bastion of freedom, the only protector of liberty is the United States military,” Deal said to thunderous applause.

During his remarks, Deal called Gold Star Mother Jan Johnson, whose son Justin Johnson was killed in Iraq, to the podium where he presented her with a proclamation declaring June 16, 2012, Celebrate Iraq Veterans and Families Day in the state of Georgia.

“Justin is a Georgia hero; he is an American hero and his service will not be forgotten, nor will we forget your loss,” Deal said.

Deal used the occasion to make a plea for business leaders in the audience to remember that thousands of veterans have returned from Iraq, and many will soon return from Afghanistan, in need of a job.

The Rome News-Tribune also has video of the event.

On Friday, the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission had a full plate before it, but left some for July.

dismissed the complaint against former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes.

In 2007, Barnes was representing a client before a local zoning board and determined that the broad wording of state ethics law could determine that to be lobbying. He registered as a lobbyist, but before filing any disclosure reports he received an advisory opinion from the commission clarifying the law: He did not have to register. If he was not required to register, Barnes said, how could he have been required to file lobbyist reports?

The Commission also accepted a consent order by the lobbyist, Christopher Brady who took Speaker David Ralston to Europe in 2010.

Brady’s attorney, Stefan Passantino, said the state’s ethics law in effect at the time did not consider Brady’s expenditure on Ralston’s trip to be lobbying. He and the commission had a lengthy discussion about what constitutes lobbying as the law apparently limits it specifically to an attempt to influence an elected official about legislation.

Passantino said no legislation regarding mag-level trains was before the General Assembly at the time.

The Commission voted unanimously to find probable cause that John Oxendine’s campaign violated the Ethics in Government Act in 2010 when it accepted contributions over the individual contribution limit from a number of Alabama Political Action Committees whose funding originated with a single individual.

Oxendine attorney Stefan Passantino did not dispute that his client’s campaign accepted contributions from 10 political action committees and two Rome-based insurance companies that used the PACs in 2008 to funnel $120,000 to Oxendine’s campaign.

Instead, Passantino argued that the law placed an unfair burden on the campaign to know that the contributions were all linked to the same individuals and organizations.

Finally the Commission deferred taking action on complaints against Governor Deal and his 2010 campaign.

A second member of the Commission has referred to lawsuits by the former executive director and her assistant as “frivolous.”

Dunwoody City Council member Adrian Bonser will be the first public official charged before the city’s ethics board.

 

In a May 29 letter, Dunwoody City Council submitted a formal letter of complaint to the Board of Ethics against Bonser. The letter, signed by the mayor and the other five members of the council, alleges that Bonser violated sections of Dunwoody’s city charter and code of ethics, and lists as evidence the report of an investigation commissioned by the mayor.

“There should be a presumption of innocence and it has not been that way with certain council members [in this case],” Bonser said. “I think the entire investigation was a completely emotional and knee-jerk reaction and a poor use of taxpayer dollars.”

The council held executive sessions in late January and early February to discuss what is now known as “Project Renaissance,” a public-private partnership with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods to develop 35 acres in the Georgetown area into homes, shops, parks and a possible municipal complex.

After information from the meetings was leaked to a blogger and a newspaper, Mayor Mike Davis brought in former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to investigate the leak. Wilson’s report concludes Bonser and then-City Attorney Brian Anderson shared the information. Both have denied being the source of a leak.

Anderson resigned when faced with the threat of termination. On May 29, the council approved a separation agreement that provides him with two months’ severance pay.

Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower, who was bounced from the ballot after the check written by his wife bounced, is appealing the decision.

Supporters of the Fulton Science Academy contributed to Senator John Albers’s campaign, shockingly because he also supported Fulton Science Academy’s charter being renewed. This is seriously a news story, AJC? Tuck your agenda in, it’s showing.

Backers of Ron Paul for President will continue to show up to Republican events until it’s actually time to elect a President in their quixotic quest for a nomination their candidates has given up on.

Ron Paul has given up on becoming president, but loyal supporters are promising to promote the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman’s principles at the Republican national convention this summer, a potential complication for Mitt Romney’s goal of a peaceful coronation.

Paul backers have taken over state Republican conventions Nevada and Maine, and had a strong showing this weekend in Iowa, aiming to increase their voice and clout at the nominating convention in Tampa, Fla.

“We want to send Ron Paul-inspired folks to that convention to show we’re not going away,” says Iowa Republican David Fischer, a top Paul backer in the state.

Georgia atheists are organizing a group to lobby the General Assembly. Now the term “godless lobbyist” can be used literally. In what I’m sure is pure coincidence, the Georgia Solar Energy Association will also be forming a lobbying arm.

A Minnesota case with the potential for revisiting Citizens United may be accepted for hearing by the United States Supreme Court.

More than half of the local governments that would receive more than a billion dollars under the T-SPLOST to be voted on July 31st have failed to produce plans detailing what they will do with the money, according to the AJC.

Austin Scott obviously has seen all the Terminator movies and understands the threat posed by SkyNet, as he is teaming up with Sen. Rand Paul to offer legislation to restrict the domestic use of drones:

“We’re not opposed to the use of drones. But their use has to be consistent with the established rules with regard to search and seizure. The same thing that you would have to obtain to use a wiretap, you would have to have for the use of a drone,” Scott said. “This has the potential to be a huge invasion.”

H.R. 5925 includes exemptions for border patrols, and emergency use by law enforcement or national security authorities. Ultimately, Scott said, the legislation could address privacy rules when it comes to the commercial use of drones as well.

In that story, Jim Galloway notes that Rep. Scott plays left-field for the Republican congressional team, while Rand Paul plays center-field. So this proposal literally comes out of left-field.

Scott Hammond was sworn in as Upson County Commissioner for district 3 on an interim basis until a new commissioner is elected in the July 31st Special Election.

The Sumter County Board of Elections removed two school board candidates from the ballot.

Brantley Wills, a former resident of Webster County, had moved to Sumter County and had changed his residency but not his voter registration.

NeSmith said the Georgia Secretary of State is emphatic that a candidate cannot seek office in a district in which he does not live or is not registered to vote.

Linda Wright was seeking to run in District 1. When she presented herself to qualify for election, she was told that she actually lives in District 6. She said she and her family had been voting in District 1 for many years. However, she paid her qualifying fee for District 1.

NeSmith reiterated the Secretary of State’s position that it doesn’t matter where a candidate has been voting, even if it’s erroneous, but that she can’t seek office in a district in which she does not live.

He said the road on which Wright lives splits Districts 1 and 6.

“It’s the candidates’ responsibility to go to the map and make sure they live where they think they live because there can be clerical errors … “ NeSmith said. “The Secretary of State’s Office says if she’s been voting in the wrong district, this should be corrected immediately.”

The Sumter County Boards of Elections and Education are also defendants in a federal lawsuit challenging the school board district lines.

The contest for sole County Commissioner in Murray County turned personal as both candidates have close relatives who are employed by the county and traded charges.

[Challenger Brittany] Pittman charged that [Commissioner Greg] Hogan hired his daughter, Sarah Hogan Brindle, in the county’s 911 department, with Hogan responding that he had not — it was the department head (Peggy Vick) who had done the hiring. Hogan then countered that if Pittman were elected, she could arbitrarily give her husband — Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Pittman — a $20,000 raise if she wanted to.

Hogan also fielded a question from the audience about why he changed parties, from running as a Democrat during last year’s special election to fill the unexpired term of David Ridley to running as a Republican this year. Pittman is also running as a Republican.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” he said. “There are certain things morally that I don’t believe in, like gay marriage. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

The statement received applause from the audience.

Snellville Mayor Democrat Kellie Kautz denies that she planned to propose banning firearms from parks.

Hispanic voters have the potential to change the direction of electoral politics in Georgia, according to political scientists.

“(Georgia) is one of the states that has a lower registration rate,” said Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington whose research is referenced in the center’s report. “I think that poses a significant challenge to Latino empowerment.”

The Center for American Progress report suggests that some 88,200 Hispanics are eligible to vote in Georgia but not registered.

And if another 120,000 Hispanics in the state who are eligible to become citizens start the process and become active voters, their voting power could sway a Republican state in favor of Democratic candidates in the future.

“I think I can honestly say that Georgia’s not exactly thought of as a swing state (in national elections), but at the same time, there’s a substantial new bloc of people that could end up really putting it into play,” said Philip Wolgin an immigration policy analyst at the Center for American Progress’ left-leaning Action Fund.

“Of course, the question is, are they going to register? Are they going to naturalize and vote?”

Rock-em, sock-em robots in CD 9, 12

The AJC writes that the Republican Primary between State Rep. Doug Collins and radio talker Martha Zoller will provide fireworks as each tries to distinguish their record from an opponent with whom they share much ideology.

Not surprisingly, the 12th District Republican Primary to challenge Democrat John Barrow is also becoming a brawl.

Fundraising leader Wright McLeod is now facing questions about the improbability of maximum $2500 contributions to his campaign by employees of a supporter.

Consider Brittany Best, an executive assistant with Mullins Management in Evans.

Official records show Best, 24, has only voted once and never donated to a federal or state-level campaign in Georgia. Until this year, that is.

Her boss, Joe Mullins, is big backer of Republican Wright McLeod, an Augusta attorney seeking to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

Last Nov. 10, the 12th Congressional District hopeful’s campaign finance disclosure shows, Mullins gave $2,500 — the most the law allows. Joann Mullins, for whom McLeod’s campaign listed the same address as Joe, also gave $2,500.

Until recently employed at the local Pizza Joint in addition to working for Mullins, she apparently isn’t wealthy.

But records show that on March 30 — the day before the end of the reporting period — she, too, gave McLeod $2,500.

On the same day, so did Heather Fehr, also an executive assistant to Mullins. Like Best, Fehr had never before donated to a federal campaign.

Fehr didn’t return three phone calls, but I reached Best, who said she was “very uncomfortable” discussing her donation.

For now, of course, there’s no proof that anyone did anything illegal.

But a lot of things still just don’t add up.

Added to legitimate questions about McLeod’s devotion to the Republican Party, and his truthiness, further bad news may irreparably damage his campaign.

Ends & Pieces

Lawrenceville will celebrate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 today

The Philadelphia Winn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host an event, “Ring the Bells for 1812,” at 11:30 AM

[O]ne lesser-known story is that of Captain James Lawrence, the namesake of Lawrenceville. Lawrence gave one of the most famous naval cries in history — “Don’t give up the ship!” — when he was mortally wounded in battle, a press release from the DAR chapter pointed out.

During Monday’s event, at the gazebo in Lawrenceville’s Courthouse Square, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson will sign a proclation in recognition of the historic day, and the public is encouraged to bring a bell to ring as part of the ceremony.

Dredging the Savannah River to allow deeper access to the Port of Savannah will benefit Middle Georgia as well as the coast.

“It’s possibly the highest benefit-to-cost of any project the Army Corps of Engineers has ever done,” Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said last week.

No study has attached a prediction of new jobs to the port project, but economic development officials along the corridor of Interstate 16, which runs from Savannah to Macon, say they will be in even better position to recruit new industry, especially logistics companies and distribution centers.

“I can’t even guess the numbers of jobs, but this could have a tremendous impact,” said Pat Topping, executive vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission.

A recent economic impact study estimated Georgia’s deepwater ports accounted for one of every 12 jobs in Georgia in 2011 — or about 352,000 full- and part-time jobs. More than 20,000 jobs in Middle Georgia were found to be port-supported, with most of them in five counties — Bibb, Houston, Washington, Laurens and Baldwin.

Glynn County public schools were ranked among the worst school system bargains in the country.

Kevin McCoy, a former world champion, won the Georgia state disc golf championship in Augusta and was given a green hoodie.

The Brookhaven Bucks, part of the wooden-bad summer development Sunbelt League play the Berkley Lake Tides tonight at the Oglethorpe University campus, and the Atlanta Crackers on Wednesday.

2
Jun

Gwinnett County to fill Fanning-Lasseter seat via Special Election

At the Gwinnett County Republican Party’s monthly breakfast this morning, Commission Chair Charlotte Nash said that because of the timing of former Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s resignation due to her guilty plea to federal bribery charges, the remainder of her term will be filled by Special Election based on the pre-2012 district lines. Presumably the Special Election will be nonpartisan.

The Republican Primary on July 31st and November General Election to serve a full term will proceed as planned and will be based on the new district lines.

More after my nap.

24
May

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

Sammy is a little male puppy who was given to a kid without finding out whether his parents would allow it, so Sammy is at Walton Animal Control, where he can be adopted today for $40, which includes his vaccinations and deworming, as well as a voucher for reduced-price neutering. The shelter has no idea Sammy’s breed, but he is 5-6 weeks old and weighs about four pounds

Qualifying continues for 2012 Georgia Primary Elections

Qualifying for state offices continues today from 8 AM to 5 PM and tomorrow, May 25th, from 8 AM to Noon. Secretary of State Brian Kemp has most of the information you’ll need as a candidate on his website, where you can also find links to local elections offices for information on qualifying for local office.

Tuesday night, I was at the Common Cause Ethics-palooza in Sandy Springs, and spoke to Debbie Dooley, who holds a leadership position with Tea Party Patriots. She firmly resisted the “Draft Debbie Dooley” suggestions from several folks there, so nobody printed up bumperstickers to sell on the internet. So I was naturally skeptical when I heard Wednesday that she planned to qualify against Don Balfour for State Senate. She had just learned the day before that she’s in his district and had more to say about an Amended Complaint she planned to file with the Senate.

Senator Tommie Williams with Tea Party Patriots Leader Debbie Dooley

That’s the complaint she’s holding there, in the House Chamber, talking with Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams. I have a copy and will post it around 7:15 AM.

Anyway, Debbie said she plans to qualify today for Balfour’s Senate seat. Essentially, she had been talking to several potential candidates and when it appeared no one would qualify, she decided to put her money where her mouth is and sign up for the rodeo herself. I do respect that. Tea party activist Steve Ramey also is expected to qualify.

There were some early problems with connectivity the the Secretary of State’s qualifying website in the Democratic and Republican qualifying areas, but most problems appeared to have been fixed by lunchtime.

Rather than recap all of the matchups that will happen, and some that might not, I’ll refer you to the Secretary of State’s list of qualified candidates, which is updated in pretty close to real time. Aaron Gould Sheinin did a good job of keeping up with qualifying on the AJC website yesterday, and I expect he’ll be doing the same today.

Also at the AJC, Jim Galloway writes about how the casino gambling question made it onto the Republican ballot as a non-binding referendum question.

The very topic stunned the highest-perched Republicans in the land. “The casino question was a shock coming out of the convention — given the prominence of social conservatives in the party infrastructure,” said Brian Robinson, spokesman for Deal. “The governor’s office was as surprised as anyone to hear about it.”

The one exception was state GOP chairman Sue Everhart, who this week took responsibility for the decision. No monied interests had pushed for the question, she said. And the party’s most recent financial disclosure, for the month of April, shows no contributions from the gambling world. (We’ll check again later.)

Everhart said the casino question was prompted by emailed messages from two or three GOP activists who complained of the cash that was leaking away to gaming havens in Mississippi and North Carolina. “They said, if we didn’t do something before long, the Indians were going to do something – and we wouldn’t get any tax revenue out of that,” Everhart said.

To a person, members of the executive committee we spoke with said they were given no advance notice of the casino question – which lost on a first vote by the committee, and won only after it was emphasized that placing the question on the ballot didn’t constitute an endorsement.

I spoke earlier to a member of the GOP leadership who gave a similar explanation, saying, “I asked Sue, and she said she just wanted to know what the voters thought.”

Nearly twenty candidates signed the Common Cause Georgia pledge to sponsor legislation limiting lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100 per lobbyist, per legislator, per day.

Common Cause Georgia, the Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Georgia Conservatives in Action promised to make ethics reform a top issue in the July primaries as well as the November general election. The topic has gained momentum in the past week after Georgia Republicans, at their annual convention this past weekend, agreed to put the matter before voters in a nonbinding referendum during the July 31 primary.

Julianne Thompson, representing both the Tea Party Patriots and Conservatives in Action, said Wednesday that the coalition of groups will use the pledge as a kind of litmus test in a number of races. The coalition will announce those targeted contests once qualifying ends Friday.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said there are opportunities to strengthen the state’s ethics laws, but he remains steadfast that a cap is not the way to do it.

“I’m always open at looking at different ways of improving our law,” Ralston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “Really, the fundamental difference I have with a few of the other people on this issue is I trust the people to give them information, full transparency and open information and let them make a decision.”

Ralston said that’s preferable to “an arbitrary, unworkable line that, frankly, I think is a gimmick.”

Among the signers was Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), according to a Press Release by Common Cause:

“We are very enthusiastic that Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams signed the pledge today to co-sponsor a bill to limit lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100,” said Julianne Thompson of the Georgia Tea Party Patriots

“Senator Williams has shown strong leadership in many areas and we have every confidence that he will take the lead on comprehensive ethics reform in the Georgia State Senate.”

“The Georgia Republican Party sent a strong message to its legislative leaders this past weekend by passing both the ballot initiative and resolution calling for the lobbyist gift cap. We encourage all legislative candidates to sign this pledge.”

A full list of signers is available here.

Senator George Hooks, Democrat of Americus, Georgia

 

Denis O’Hayer has an excellent interview with retiring Dean of the Senate and Senate Historian George Hooks of Americus. Hooks has served in the legislature for more than 30 years and WABE’s website has both the 5-minute broadcast version, and the extended 18-minute director’s cut. If you’re a student of Georgia politics and history, it’s not to be missed.

Elections officials in Fayette County have been dealing with rumors that federal lawsuits over district lines will affect elections, but say that only qualifying will be affected. A federal judge delayed qualifying for the Fayette County Commission because US Justice Department preclearance was pending but has now been issued. Commissioner Herb Frady will not seek reelection.

Candidates for Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education will not qualify this week due to a federal lawsuit prompted by the General Assembly’s failure to adopt new district maps.

Fayette County school board member Janet Smola will not run for reelection. She says her successor should be “[a] believer in public education, not home schooling or private schooling.”

Cherokee County Commissioner Karen Bosch will not seek reelection. Her announcement came after local tea party activists alleged that the owner of a local recycling operation concealed campaign contributions to Bosch’s earlier campaign. The Cherokee County Commission used SPLOST funds to pay $1.8 million in payments that the recycling owner failed to make after the county issued $18 million in bonds to finance the facility. Bosch says her decision to forego reelection was a personal one, not motivated by the allegations.

Plans to trim the role of Fulton County by legislators may lead to federal court.

During a meeting with constituents earlier this month in Alpharetta, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, was quoted by a local weekly paper saying her “goal is to end Fulton County.”

“We can cut Fulton County down to size until we get Milton County,” Jones said, according to Neighbor Newspapers. “My goal is that we reduce the thumbprint … of Fulton County on your lives and your pocketbooks such that in a very few years, Atlanta and south Fulton will not fight us on re-creating Milton County because Fulton County will be insignificant.”

“People are not going to stand by and allow themselves to be manipulated like this,” said state Rep. Roger Bruce, a Democrat from unincorporated south Fulton. “They’re rigging it. There are people who like the county the way it is.”

In November, Fayette County voters will be asked to renew the education SPLOST.

Four candidates qualified yesterday for Chatham County Commission Chair, and Effingham also will have a spirited election with three candidates qualifying on the first day.

The Augusta Chronicle notes that a large number of candidates qualified for local offices yesterday, including five of the six announced candidates for Richmond County Sheriff.

Gwinnett County will have a full ballot as more than 60 candidates qualified yesterday.

The Macon Telegraph covers midstate election qualifying after the first day.

The Judicial Nominating Commission has opened the process for appointing a new judge to Superior Court for the Ocmulgee Circuit, which includes Baldwin, Greene, Hancock, Jasper, Jones, Morgan, Putnam and Wilkinson counties.

Nathan Roberts qualified for Floyd County Commission District One.

Hot races in Hall County will include the election for Sheriff, where the Republicna primary has five candidates qualified so far.

Former Camden County Sheriff Bill Smith, who attracted national attention when a grand jury investigated his use of federal money from drug seizures,

He purchased boats that some people wisecrack are his Camden County navy. Some purchases were more exotic. There was the $90,000 Dodge Viper for the sheriff’s DARE anti-drug program.

“The year we took this out to Las Vegas for the national DARE convention, it was the No. 1 DARE car in the country,” says Lt. William Terrell.

will run in an attempt to take back his old job, which he lost in 2008.

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee had three opponents qualify against him in the Republican Primary. Bill Simon has announced that he will not be a candidate.

Nearly forty percent of Georgia children are overweight and obese, and the government is here to help.

“This affects all of us,” said Gov. Nathan Deal in a press conference Tuesday. “We must work together to improve the health of children in our state. Some suggest that we’re raising the first generation of American kids to have shorter life expectancy than their parents because of problems related to obesity. We can and will do better to promote healthy lifestyles.”

Mohawk Industries will expand its Summerville, Georgia plant, creating 500 new jobs.

“Mohawk is one of Georgia’s flagship Fortune 500 companies, and we are pleased to see its continued investments in our state leading to the creation of meaningful jobs in Summerville and other communities,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a press release. “This expansion is a great indicator of the resilience of the carpet and floorcovering industry. Mohawk has Georgia’s full support for its continued investments in our state.”

Two Metro Atlanta OB-GYN offices have been set afire, and three others burglarized.

[P]hysicians who practice obstetrics and gynecology, however, worry that the incidents — three burglaries and two suspicious fires in all — weren’t a coincidence, but were committed by someone bent on retaliating against them for raising concerns about the so-called “fetal pain” bill that passed in March.

Porsche Cars North America, which is headquartered in Atlanta, announced that it will relocate its motorsport operation from Santa Ana, California to a new Experience Center in Carson, California.

The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who cast the only vote against the license for Plant Vogtle’s new reactors, is retiring.

Last year, all four of his fellow commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — sent a letter to the White House chief of staff complaining about his management style. They told a House committee in December that Dr. Jaczko had withheld information from them, unprofessionally berated the agency’s professional staff and reduced female employees to tears with his comments.

But beyond friction with his fellow commissioners, he often found himself the lone dissenting vote on important issues. Among them were the speed with which American reactors should be reanalyzed and improved to incorporate the lessons learned from Fukushima Daiichi and whether licenses should be granted for new reactors before those changes were in the pipeline.

Green energy and your wallet

Notoriously liberal New York Times published survey results that suggest that Americans are willing to pay more for electricity in exchange for more use of “Green Energy.”

That willingness is fairly modest, to be sure. Analyzing a survey they conducted in 2011, researchers at Harvard and Yale found that the average United States citizen was willing to pay $162 a year more to support a national policy requiring 80 percent “clean” energy by 2035. Nationwide, that would represent a 13 percent increase in electric bills.

The willingness to pay was higher among Democrats than Republicans. More interesting, however, was that support dropped off when the definition of clean energy was expanded to include natural gas or nuclear power.

Republican Georgia Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton, who qualified yesterday for reelection wants to know if Georgia voters agree. Text “CHUCK” to 28748 or visit his website to let him know if you’re willing to pay 10% more for electricity in order to have more alternative energy sources used.

Pam Davidson, who took 47.7% of the GOP Primary vote against Lauren “Bubba” McDonald in 2008, qualified against incumbent Commissioner Stan Wise yesterday. Stan’s campaign notes that after losing the GOP Primary that year, Davidson endorsed the Democratic nominee, who openly supported President Obama’s election. Davidson has worked as a lobbyist for the Green Energy industry and ran in 2008 on a platform of more mandated green energy.

9
May

Georgia Republican Political News for May 9, 2012

“Ludwig” is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Basset Hound, who is one year old and will be available for adoption through Angels Among Us Rescue after a short quarantine and vetting period. He is very friendly and great with children and has worked with special needs kids in a program through the shelter where he was an inmate. Angels Rescue spends about $150 per dog for vetting and is asking for online donations and foster homes.

Real ID Act requires proof of identity for driver’s license

Beginning July 1, 2012, Georgians seeking or renewing a driver’s license will have to present additional evidence of their identity and immigration status under Georgia’s Secure ID implementation of the Federal Real ID program.

“This program will give Georgians the most secure IDs we’ve ever issued in this state,” said Deal. “It is our duty to protect our residents’ identities to the best of our ability.”

The new documentation requirements mean you must prove (1) you are who you say you are; (2) social security number; and (3) your home address. A list of acceptable documents and FAQs is available on the Georgia Department of Driver Services website.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Republican Danny Dukes will seek election as Chairman of the Cherokee County School Board. Dukes pledges to “eliminate all teacher furloughs by reducing a bloated central office, take every step possible to cut the County dropout rate in half, and never vote for a tax increase.”

“During the last few weeks, I have discovered a groundswell of support for a true conservative as Cherokee County School Board Chair. Parents, teachers, community leaders and citizens share my sincere passion for the children of our county. We all deserve a School Board with positive, collaborative energy and an effective leader who works for solutions based on conservative principles,” said Danny. “We can have the highest performing school system in Georgia if we put students first and pledge to work with other elected leaders to solve problems. And we can do all this without raising taxes.”

Join David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black tonight at 5 PM to support the reelection campaign of State Rep. Steve Davis (R-Stockbridge). $10 gets you a steak and potato dinner and kids eat free.

Federal court vacancies on the bench for the Northern District of Georgia and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals are straining their ability to handle cases and will be worsened when an additional sitting judge takes senior status.

Georgia’s Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of three year property tax assessment freeze by Effingham County that sought to help address the flood of foreclosures.

The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce heard from the Georgia Ports Authority on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, while the comment period on SHEP has been expanded by 15 days by the US Army Corps of Engineers to June 5th.

South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission hopes to limit the dredging that will allow better access to the Port of Savannah to 45 feet, rather than the 47 feet recommended by the Corps.

Savannah and Macon prompted some of this year’s revisions to Georgia’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws, according to a discussion by Republican Attorney General Sam Olens at the Atlanta Press Club.

The US Chamber of Commerce is buying ads in four states and will likely enter into Congressional races in Georgia.

Georgia State Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) issued a statement lauding Gov. Nathan Deal for signing Shafer’s Zero-Based Budgeting legislation.

“I applaud Governor Deal, not just for signing the bill but for his leadership in voluntarily implementing zero based budgeting,” Shafer said.  “This tool is already being used to identify unnecessary spending and ensure that tax dollars are being used wisely.”

Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau is considering proposing a 1% county sales tax to replace property taxes in funding county government operations. I’m sure it’s completely unrelated to his reelection campaign and choice of political consultant.

Ruby D. Jones is seeking reelection to the Savannah-Chatham County School Board.

Philip Johnson is running as a Democrat for Newton County Commission District Five.

Robert Stokely is running as a Republican for State House District 71, to replace Billy Horne, who is not seeking reelection.

Republican Jon Heffer will run for State House District 28 in Banks, Habersham, and Stephens Counties.

Susan D. Brown announced her candidacy for Hall County Probate Judge.

Randy Evans, a retired police officer, is running for Whitfield Magistrate Judge.

The Rome City Commission has appointed Detrick Redding to the Ward 2 vacancy on the Commission..

Republican Dick Perryman is running for District Attorney in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, which comprises Atkinson, Berrien, Clinch, Cook, and Lanier Counties.

Carroll County Commissioner Kevin Jackson is seeking reelection as a Republican.

Five of six candidates for Richmond County Sheriff addressed the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government yesterday.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) joined Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) in discussing recent metal theft legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly.

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann asked her colleague Emma Darnell to stop insulting North Fulton residents.

Bibb County Board of Education members will discuss reapportionment maps passed by the General Assembly at 6 PM on Thursday.

Peachtree Corners is making progress as Georgia’s newest city.

Forsyth County is re-running the election announcement for T-SPLOST after messing up the wording the first time.

Tomorrow night, Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) will hold a fundraiser at Manuel’s Tavern from 6 PM to 8 PM.

Ends & Pieces

Alan Abramowitz of the Emory University Department of Political Science discusses the role of SuperPACS and Merle Black has a short history of “Nasty Politics” and negative advertising.

The Board of Regents has released names for two institutions resulting from the merger of predecessor colleges. According to GPB, North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega and Gainesville State University will become the University of North Georgia, while Middle Georgia State College is the new name for the merger of Middle Georgia College in Cochran and Macon State College.

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet

Porsche Cars North America, headquartered in Atlanta, released April sales figures that show 911 sales up 69% over the previous April and the best April ever for the company.

Georgia Tech will receive federal funding for research into nuclear power production and scholarships under the Nuclear Energy University Program, part of a $47 million program by the US Department of Energy to spur careers in nuclear power.

Georgia Power will testify before the Public Service Commission today that it is still under budget for the construction of Plant Vogtle’s new nuclear reactors, though overall costs may increase.

Seven cases against alleged Masters ticket scalpers were dismissed.

Mary Echols, daughter of PSC member Tim Echols was named Prep Player of the Week by the Athens newspaper after leading Athens Christian to a third state track-and-field championship and winning four individual and relay titles. That’s a pretty amazing performance.

Krispy Kreme is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year.

Political partisans may choose not to accept facts that clash with their strongly held beliefs.

On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard.

Wisconsin’s “Total Recall” dynamic may be a harbinger of partisan civil war nationwide.

The politics of pro-Walker and anti-Walker are so advanced in the Badger State now that relatively few voters remain persuadable. And the depth of that divide is expected to remain, regardless of the outcome on June 5.

The divides of our era seem to be deepening. Consider the big margin by which North Carolina adopted a constitutional amendment this week that denies legal standing to civil unions and domestic partnerships all in the name of banning gay marriages that were already outlawed in the state.

And consider the drubbing Indiana gave to six-term Senate icon Richard Lugar in Tuesday’s Republican primary, which state treasurer Richard Mourdock won with 60 percent of the vote.

18
Apr

Georgia Political News for April 18, 2012

“Smokey” is approximately two months old and weighs 5.6 pounds. A mixed-breed male puppy, he is available for adoption tomorrow from Walton Animal Control Services. If you’re looking for a female puppy or a pair, his sister “Stella” is also available.

Sponsored posts - Yesterday we announced that we will be accepting sponsored posts for the rest of the month to raise money for dog and cat rescue in Georgia. For $1 per word, you can place your message on our website and morning emails. Make a donation to a dog or cat rescue, send us proof of the donation and what you want to say. Sponsored posts will be clearly identified as such and we reserve the right to edit them. No attacks, please.

Bibb County Commissioners are considering building a new animal shelter with four times the space of the existing facility as part of a move to reduce the number of euthanizations performed.

Governor Deal signs bill strengthening Sunshine Laws

Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 397 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) yesterday, which strengthens Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws by increasing the fines for violating the law, reducing the cost of photocopies of requested records from .25 per page to .10 per page, and updating the law’s language with respect to electronic records.

In a press release, Gov. Deal said, “This legislation toughens enforcement of our Open Records law by substantially increasing penalties for noncompliance, allows for civil as well as criminal procedures and requires that all votes take place in a public forum. We have crafted a document that makes it easier for Georgians to keep track of their government’s activities and to know their rights, and it clarifies the responsibilities of public officials.”

Republican Attorney General Sam Olens said, “The law signed today will enable Georgians to clearly understand their rights and assist governments in more effectively responding to citizens. Moreover, it provides my office the tools needed to properly enforce the law.”

Full text of the press releases is available on our website.

Georgia Democratic Party Political Director Faces Allegations

The background of Georgia Democratic Party Political Director Ali Rashad Richey and his future in politics are in question as Georgia Unfiltered writes:

Between 1998 and present day, Democratic Party of Georgia Political Director Ali Rashad Richey became very intimate with the DeKalb and Fulton county jails.

You see, Rashad Richey was arrested twelve times on a variety of charges including:

  • Burglary;
  • Driving with revoked license;
  • Battery;
  • Family violence;
  • Obstructing an officer; and
  • Violating probation.

Richey’s last arrest was in 2010.

This is likely to provide fodder in the ongoing struggle within the Georgia Democratic Party between supporters and detractors of Chair Mike Berlon.

Campaigns and Elections

The Gainesville Times notes that attendance at political events in their area appears to be increasing.

Congressman Jack Kingston has raised $1.25 million to defend his seat. His opponent, Democrat Nathan Russo has not filed with the FEC, stating that he has not raised or spent the $5000 threshold amount to trigger the reporting requirement.

Continue Reading..

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Georgia Political News for March 12, 2012

Hannah is a five-year old female Golden Retriever who originally hails from North Carolina but is now in the custody of Adopt A Golden Atlanta, from whom she may be adopted. She is currently heartworm positive and AGA is seeking tax-deductible donations to help pay for the $500 heartworm treatment.

Since its founding, AGA has rescued 2694 Golden Retrievers and similar breeds at an average cost of $841 per dog. Their next adoption day is Sunday, April 1, 2012 at the Pet Set on N. Druid Hills at Briarcliff.

Legislative News

Today’s Senate legislative calendar is available here and you may watch the session online here beginning around 10 AM. Here is the Senate Committee Meeting schedule.

Today’s House legislative calendar is available here and you may watch the session online here beginning around 10 AM. Here is the House Committee Meeting schedule.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action is blaming Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) for working behind the scenes and against the NRA to kill an amendmentauthored by Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) to his own Senate Bill 350.

Senate Leadership — more specifically state Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams and state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers — worked against the NRA’s efforts behind the scenes and helped persuade their colleagues in the Republican Senate caucus that the NRA’s employee protection legislation was too divisive of an issue and it was apparently more important to side with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Association of Realtors than to uphold the rights of law-abiding gun owners throughout the state.

It is unclear on what basis the NRA makes those assertions against Senators Williams and Rogers.

Senate Bill 350 provides that firearms seized by law enforcement agencies that are not being used as evidence must be returned to their rightful, legal owners if the owner was innocent of wrongdoing.

The Balfour amendment would have protected employees who keep a gun locked in their car at their place of employment from being fired for that reason. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce opposed the Balfour amendment.

The Macon Ledger-Enquirer Telegraph editorial board writes that House Bill 811, which would require the state to spend earmarked user fees for the purpose the fees are intended, rather that simply being added to the General Fund, leaves the fox in charge of the henhouse, but at least gives the hens some protection.

Maggie Lee write in the Ledger-Enquirer Telegraph that a GOP legislative supermajority is possible in this year’s elections.

“If things break right, (the GOP) should be able to get a two-thirds majority” in the state House and Senate, said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia and a student of state politics for nearly 40 years.

In my opinion, there is nothing magical about a legislative supermajority as the GOP caucuses seldom see unanimity on major issues, as illustrated by the difficulties in passing the Charter School Constitutional Amendment.

Juvenile justice reform legislation, which will emphasize treatment options for drug offenders designed to lower repeat offenses rather than strict jail terms, is before a joint legislative committee chaired by Rep. Rich Golick and Sen. Bill Hamrick. According to the Walter Jones of the Morris News Service:

Georgians overwhelmingly support the changes, according to a survey released last month by the Pew Center on the States.

In a telephone poll, 85 percent of the 600 likely voters questioned in January said they agree that the sentence didn’t matter as much as reducing the likelihood of a repeat crime.

Rep. Jay Powell and Attorney General Sam Olens wrote an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution arguing that reforms to the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings acts further the stated intent that “Open government is essential to a free, open, and democratic society.”

The AJC believes that Democrats in the Georgia Senate, who hold 20 of 56 seats, have made themselves relevant by uniting against GOP measures that require a super-majority for passage. But UGA Political Science Professor Charles Bullock told the AJC, “Suddenly, [Democrats] have been exiled to Pluto or something,” Bullock said. “It’s rare the Republicans do need the support of the Democrats.”

Lobbyists on both sides of the Charter School Amendment have been spending money at a furious pace to influence the course of the legislation.

An Associated Press analysis of the bi-monthly reports that lobbyists turn in to the state ethics commission shows that charter school supporters have spent at least $7,800 since January on everything from breakfast to framed photos for state lawmakers. On the other side of the debate, groups representing teachers, school administrators, school boards and public school parents have spent at least $2,400 on lunch and coffee for lawmakers.

Congratulations to State Rep. Joe Wilkinson on the birth of his first granddaughter, Ella Grace Wilkinson, who weighed in at eight pounds. Regarding the fact that Ella Grace was born in Columbus, Ohio, Rep. Wilkinson said, “Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven doesn’t mean that they are muffins. She must be a Southerner because she had the good manners to wait to be born on a day that her Dad had off from work.”

Executive Branch

Attorney General Sam Olens accepted $815 million on behalf of Georgia from banks accused of robo-signing to foreclose on homes in Georgia. Approximately $82 million will be paid to homeowners affected by the fraud at the rate of $2000 per homeowner. Homeowners retain the right to sue for wrongful foreclosure. $104 million will go directly into the state’s general fund and Gov. Deal is asking the legislature to direct at least part of that into the rainy day fund.

GOP District Conventions

Governor Nathan Deal addressed the Cobb County Republican Convention on Saturday, highlighting state successes since his taking office in January 2011.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul supporters were busy disrupting and delaying conventions across the state.

The Texas congressman’s forces took over the DeKalb County delegate-selection convention in eastern metropolitan Atlanta. The mostly young, well-educated and well off Paul partisans nearly did so in Cobb County in northern metropolitan Atlanta, Republican convention participants in the state told The Washington Times.

Party regulars called the Paul supporters’ efforts a “hijacking.”

The Paul brigades’ strategy was to try to outlast the party regulars at the county conventions, raising unexpected issues and delaying long enough for the regulars who were unprepared for the delays to throw up their hands and leave the convention sites to fulfill other obligations.

“It was absolute bedlam and chaos,” Forsyth County physician and activist Brent Meadows said. “Our county’s convention didn’t end till 6:15 p.m.”

Previously, the Daily Beast wrote about the plans of the Paulbots:

The Paul campaign has rigorously organized its volunteers to attend the mass precinct meetings that took place all over Georgia. It has been instructing supporters on parliamentary procedure and state Republican rules. It is also giving advice on convention etiquette. In an e-mail to supporters, Charles Gregory, Georgia State Coordinator for Ron Paul 2012, wrote:

“It is my personal recommendation that you dress professionally and not overtly identify yourself as a Ron Paul supporter. Your position should simply be: “I’m here to send Obama home, that’s all I care about.” If asked who you support—just say you ‘haven’t made up your mind yet but they’re all better than what we’ve got now,’ etc.”

One longtime Gwinnett County Republican activist wrote on Facebook that, “It was disgusting how disruptive they were at our convention here in Gwinnett!” and another from coastal Georgia wrote, “Funny how the Paul bots are so critical of the political parties, and the political process, yet so eagerly game the system in an attempt to steal delegates for their candidate after the voters so soundly rejected him.”

It was bad enough at the DeKalb GOP convention that I attended that I now believe that the state GOP should adopt rules either requiring a loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee as long as his name is not “Ron Paul,” or a verified record of voting in Republican primary elections that could be waived by local conventions on a case-by-case basis.

Presidential Election

Speaking of the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on which Newt Gingrich has placed all his chips, Emory University Political Science Professor Merle Black told NPR, “Santorum presents a direct challenge to the electoral coalition Gingrich put together in Georgia. If Santorum wins either of these states, he destroys the rationale for Gingrich’s candidacy.”

Georgia-based GOP political consultant Joel McElhannon told NPR, “It’s almost like Newt Gingrich losing Georgia. It’s a death knell. There’s [then] no legitimate argument for him to stay in. That doesn’t mean he won’t stay in. He’s Newt Gingrich.”

Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight column for the New York Times says that geography is the best predictor of which candidate will carry a state’s primary or caucus.

Silver notes that Santorum carried Kansas and three adjoining states and that all his wins were in contiguous states, while Gingrich’s only wins were in the Deep South states of Georgia and South Carolina and Romney is strongest in urban and suburban counties.

Campaigns and Elections

Congressman Paul Broun will debate challengers, but not for a couple months. Opponent Stephen Simpson, running in the Republican primary, had previously challenged Broun to a series of five debates.

Republican challenger Stephen Simpson, a businessman and retired military officer from Milledgeville, challenged Broun last month to a series of five debates.

The University of Georgia College Republicans are organizing a debate in late March or early April, chairman Jamie Jordan said. The Georgia College and State University chapter will host a debate in Milledgeville May 22, Simpson said.

But Broun spokeswoman Jessica Hayes said the congressman won’t debate until after the candidate qualifying period ends May 25. No date has been scheduled, she said.

Republicans are lining up to beat their heads against a wall challenge Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson. Chris Vaughn is a pastor and hosts a cable show and has been endorsed by Georgia Conservatives in Action and Henry County Commission Chair B.J. MathisCatherine Davis, who has previously challenged Johnson announced at the DeKalb GOP Convention on Saturday that she is running again.

Alan Shinall has resigned as Chairman of the Cherokee County Elections Board in order to run for a new house seat in district 23. Shinall has chaired the elections board for 10 years and joins Mandi Ballinger and businessman Troy Welker, who previously announced for the seat. All three candidates are running as Republicans.

Businessman Jerome Edmondson will challenge incumbent DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis in the Democratic Primary.

Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet of the Superior Court for the Augusta Judicial Circuit will run for reelection this year in Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength will retire from the office he has held for 11 years and is not seeking reelection after 35 years with the department.

The City of Cornelia, in Habersham County, is headed to an April 3 special election runoff for Mayor between J.C. Irby, Jr. and Ernie Garrett.

Local News

Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox, who served since 2004, died Friday. “Our city is in mourning,” said Councilman James Grogan. “Our prayers are with his family.”

The Gwinnett Daily Post reports that approximately 20 percent of cars using HOT lanes in Gwinnett County are not paying the required toll.

Solar Power

The director of the Energy Institute at MIT warns that distributed production of solar power added to the existing grid may destabilize the distribution of electricity.

“That reflects what an amazing machine this is, spread out geographically, always having to balance demand and supply because electricity is not stored,” he says.

Every day, with the flick of a switch, millions of Americans tap into the electricity grid. It’s a web of power stations, transformers and transmission lines that span the continent, distributing electricity like veins and arteries distribute blood.

Electricity has to keep flowing all the time. Grid operators constantly match what power plants are producing with what people and their TVs, microwaves and air conditioners need. It’s the world’s biggest balancing act.

So what happens when you add in unpredictable sources of electricity, like wind or solar power?

“The operator does not have control of when to turn it on and off,” Moniz says. “It’s a new challenge that we just have to meet, and we’re not doing it at anything like the pace that I think we need.”

“We have to have a backup,” says Steve Berberich, the grid’s CEO. “There are times when Mother Nature decides to bring in clouds and turn off the wind, but I think everybody in that case still wants to have power.”

Oops – twice this morning I mistakenly referred to the Macon Ledger-Enquirer, when I meant to write Macon Telegraph. I blame it on 5 AM today really being 4 AM in my head.