Category: State House Elections

16
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

12
Jul

Direct mail, robocall shenanigans in campaign for House District 66

Somebody, my guess being the Mickey Thompson campaign for State House, sent out an anonymous mailpiece attacking Mike Miller, who is one of Thompson’s opponents in the race for House District 66.

The mailer reprints a letter purportedly written by Douglas County Republican Party Chairman Bert Blood.

 

The same day the mailpiece landed in mailboxes across the district, a robocall was sent calling attention to the mailpiece.

But then another robocall went out recorded by Bert Blood and disclaiming the mailing.

Here’s the press release by the Mike Miller Campaign:

Mike Miller Denounces Anonymous Mailer and Robocall in House District 66 Race

–Miller challenges opponents to more ethical campaigning –

Douglasville, Ga. (July 12, 2012) – Today Mike Miller, candidate for Ga. State House District 66, denounced the dissemination of an anonymous mailer and robocall sent to voters in Douglas and Paulding counties.

“I am greatly disappointed that an anonymous mailer and robocall has been disseminated to the voters of House District 66 attacking me with false smears and lies under the guise of coming from Douglas County GOP Chairman Bert Blood,” said Miller. “Chairman Blood has already done a statement and a robocall on my behalf stating that he did not authorize the anonymous mailer in question.”

In an anonymous mailer containing an improper and unauthorized letter from local GOP Chairman Bert Blood, Miller is attacked for having a volunteer in his campaign from the Georgia Teenage Republicans leadership. Georgia Teenage Republicans are permitted and encouraged to volunteer in campaigns under their by-laws.

“Apparently one of my opponents has hired consultants who must get drunk, sit around and do stupid anonymous mailers and robocalls,” a fired-up Miller said. “One of these candidates should take responsibility for these deplorable tactics by his consultants.”

As a member of the Douglas County School Board, Mike fought for transparency and accountability and has continued those principles in his campaign for the state legislature. A proponent of ethics and  openness in government, he would also like to see more transparency and accountability in campaigning.

“If elected to serve the people of House District 66, I will work to sponsor legislation that will require local and state candidates to take responsibility for all aspects of their campaign, including all mailers and robocalls,” said Miller. “Anonymous attack mailers and robocalls in campaigns keep good people from running for office in Georgia.”

For more information about the Committee to Elect Mike Miller to State House, visit www.votemikemiller.org

About Mike Miller, Candidate for State House District 66

 

Mike Miller currently serves on the Douglas County School Board where he has been a stalwart for fiscal responsibility and transparency. Mike is also a small business owner, serving as managing partner of the law firm of Miller and Hightower, P.C. in Douglasville. Mike is a graduate of the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics and received his Juris Doctorate from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. Mike is a lifelong resident of Douglasville and graduated from Alexander High School.

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12
Jul

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

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

Georgia Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary of State Brian Kemp responded this morning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peebles replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republican Events

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

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

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

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

Bits & Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STILL MISSING!

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

Click Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price says he got behind while deployed to Iraq.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Russo’s not budging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grogan is now acting mayor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ends & Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Older sister Ronica Searcy proudly talks about her brother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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