Category: State Senate Elections

2
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 2, 2012

Lilly and Libby are 5-month old mixed breed puppies who are available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter. They weigh about 16 pounds and are up-to-date on their shots and will be spayed, chipped, and tested for heartworms before they are adopted. They are in cage 315 in the puppy room and their ID numbers are 546760 (Lilly) and 546761 (Libby).

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan  Deal announced that he will work on prioritizing transportation projects in the wake of the defeat of T-SPLOST in all but three regions of the state:

“The voters of Georgia have spoken, and I will continue to do what I have done since I became governor: Work in consultation with state transportation leaders, legislators and local officials to establish our priority projects.

There will be belt-tightening. It’s certainly disappointing that we won’t have the resources to accomplish all the projects needed to get Georgians moving quicker, but it does force state officials, including myself, to focus all our attention on our most pressing needs.

For example, TSPLOST contained $600 million to rebuild the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange. We will face significant challenges in that corridor if that doesn’t get fixed, particularly after the tolls come down and volume increases. We’ll have a ‘need to do’ Transportation Improvement Program list, but not a ‘want to do’ list. In addition to tight state budgets, we’re also facing a significant reduction in federal funds so tough choices await.

On public transportation, yesterday’s vote slams the door on further expansion of our rail network any time soon. Neither I nor the Legislature has much of an appetite for new investments until there are significant reforms in how MARTA operates.

The referendum passed in three regions, and I think those regions will see great returns on their investment. Under the law, these regions will also receive a 90 percent match for local transportation projects, meaning they will only have to put up 10 percent from local funds. The law requires a 70-30 split in the regions that didn’t pass it.

As governor, I aim to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the nation to do business and improving our transportation infrastructure is a major part of that effort. Yesterday’s vote wasn’t an end of the discussion; it’s a transition point. We have much to do, and I’ll work with state and local officials to direct our limited resources to the most important projects.”

This is a positive development. Gov. Deal has shown a great facility for working with legislators and listening to and incorporating the ideas of people not named Nathan Deal. This is not a quality always found in Governors.

In the Ninth Congressional District, third-place finisher Roger Fitzpatrick said he will not endorse either Doug Collins or Martha Zoller.

Hall County Commissioner Ashley D. Bell, well-known for switching to the Republican Party, was defeated by Jeff Stowe in the Republican Primary.

Incumbent Hall County Chairman Tom Oliver came in second to Dick Mecum and is headed to a runoff..

Mecum, the former Hall County sheriff, earned 46 percent of the vote, while Oliver, the two-term incumbent, took in 34 percent.

Former North Hall Commissioner Steve Gailey earned enough votes to force the runoff.

Mecum finished just a few percentage points shy of winning the race outright.

Judicial, District Attorney, and Sheriff elections

We noted yesterday that Kathy Schrader took first place in the race for Gwinnett County Superior Court, receiving more than twice as many votes as the runner-up. Emily Brantley and Pam Britt go another round in the runoff election for Gwinnett State Court.

Superior Court Judge Art Smith, who was supported by Sen. Josh McKoon among others, combined a 150 vote margin in Muscogee County, his circuit’s most populous, with nearly 70% in Harris and took every other county except Talbot County in earning re-election to the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

Smith was the only one of five judges in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit who had opposition. He will serve a four-year term, as will the four judges who ran unopposed — John Allen, Gil McBride, Bobby Peters and Bill Rumer.

Smith was appointed to the bench in 2011 by Gov. Nathan Deal. He was appointed to complete the unfinished term for former Judge Doug Pullen, who stepped down last year amid a judicial misconduct investigation.

In DeKalb County, Judge Gail Flake was re-elected over Michael Rothenberg, who has been indicted for felony theft; apparently 28% of DeKalb County voters thought a (alleged) felon is better than a Flake. State Court Judge Dax Lopez also earned reelection.

In Fulton County, Judge Todd Markle won reelection with 54 percent over Clarence Johnson.

Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson appeared to hold a slim margin with 50.01 percent, to avoid a runoff. We’ll see if that holds.

Jackson won 34,648 votes, while Lankford received 22,483.

The Fulton County Board of Elections plans to have all the ballots counted and certified by Saturday, according to a spokeswoman.

“We’ve still got some absentee ballots and two more precincts,” Jackson said Wednesday morning. “We figure we’re about 50 percent plus 10 votes away from a runoff. I kept telling everybody, ‘every vote counts in this election.’”

Jackson said he was surprised by his narrow win — if it survives — particularly given that his top opponent only avoided being retried on criminal charges of extortion and income tax evasion by agreeing to never seek a law enforcement job again.

Jane Morrison won the election for Fulton State Court, beating Melynee Leftridge by 61-39.

In Cobb County, Judge Reuben Green was re-elected to the Superior Court and Greg Poole won 51% in the race for an open seat in Superior Court.

Poole, who has been a juvenile court judge for nine years, has regularly filled in on Cobb’s superior court bench.

“I’ve been doing this for one week a month for nine and a half years,” Poole said. “I’m going to continue to do it that way. … There won’t be any change in basic policy. I want to be efficient. I want to move cases efficiently.”

Rebecca Keaton and John Skelton advance to a runoff for Cobb County Superior Court on August 21st.

Keaton, who earned her law degree at John Marshall, said: “We’ll run hard and do what we need to do to win the campaign.”

She is a wife and mother of three who lives in Kennesaw and said she wants to serve the people by using her skills to provide great customer service. She plans to implement one computer operating system and an “e-filing” system similar to the other candidates.

Skelton, who ran at the behest of incumbent Stephenson, said late Tuesday: “The best person for the job will get it.” He added that he hopes his opponent will keep the run off clean.

Skelton earned his law degree at the University of Georgia. He and his wife have two children.

Marsha Lake (39%) and Larry Burke (26%) earned slots in the runoff for State Court Judge.

Three incumbents District Attorneys were defeated in primary elections Tuesday.

Cathy Helms in the Alapaha Circuit in South Georgia, Robert Lavender in the state’s Northern Circuit which includes Hartwell and Elberton, and Robert Brooks of the Tallapoosa Circuit, which includes Bremen and Cedar­town, lost their re-election bids.

Lavender lost to Parks White, a Richmond County assistant district attorney and Iraqi war veteran who, as a lieutenant in the Navy Judge Advocate General Corps, worked with Iraqis to prosecute insurgents.

A child molestation case also figured in the Alapaha Circuit race and may have played a role in incumbent DA Cathy Helms’ defeat by Dick Perryman in the Republican primary. Perryman beat Helms by 202 votes, winning 51.16 percent to Helms’ 48.84 percent. There were no Democratic candidates.

A child molestation case also played a role in Tallapoosa Circuit chief assistant public defender Jack Browning’s campaign — and subsequent defeat — of one-term DA Robert Brooks. Browning formerly practiced law at Murphy, Murphy & Garner — the former firm of U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy of the Northern District of Georgia. The Tallapoosa Circuit includes Haralson and Polk counties.

On his campaign website, Browning highlighted the dismissal of some charges in a child molestation case and a plea deal with minimal jail time.

So we now know a winning formula for defeating an incumbent District Attorney. File that away for later.

Appalachian Circuit incumbent Joe Hendricks came in second and will face a runoff against Blue Ridge attorney B. Alison Sosebee, who received the support of third-place finisher Harry Doss.

Incumbent Herbert “Buzz” Franklin in the Lookout Mountain circuit holds a 44-vote margin over challenger Doug Woodruff and may face a recount.

Woodruff said Wednesday he doesn’t know whether all the absentee ballots have been counted and if he will seek a recount. “If the votes haven’t all been counted yet, the margin could either grow or be reduced,” he said. “It could go the other way. At this point, a 44-vote margin is not much.”

In the election for Hall County Sheriff, Jeff Strickland and Gerald Couch both earned a spot in the runoff.

As the race narrows to two men, Strickland, who was the agency’s highest ranking officer when he retired in October, said he will focus on what sets him apart from Couch, who led the agency’s criminal investigations division.

“I worked in a higher level than he did,” Strickland said. “I was in charge of an entire department with over 450 employees and a $29 million budget.”

Couch, too, said he will focus on his qualifications versus Strickland’s.

“I’ve worked in every single area of the sheriff’s office,” Couch said. “I think I have a huge advantage in that area.”

Patty Walters Laine (31%) and Brook Davidson (26%) made it into a runoff for Hall County Probate Court, beating out two other candidates.

Scott Peebles and Richard Roundtree are headed for a runoff for Richmond County Sheriff.

Recounts

In the Twelfth Congressional District Republican Primary, candidate Wright McLeod, who appears to have come in third, has not decided whether to seek a recount.

Preliminary results Wednesday showed McLeod trailing Augusta businessman Rick Allen by 584 votes, with all counties reporting but provisional ballots not yet counted.

In an afternoon e-mail, McLeod left his options open.

“We are now considering our next steps,” he said. “I must consider whether or not a recount would be in the best interest of voters of the 12th District. Our campaign recognizes that requesting such would provide a ‘trust but verify’ approach to the election results and allow us all to move forward.”

Meanwhile, Allen resumed campaigning as though his place in the runoff weren’t in question.

Spencer Price has asked for a recount in his narrow defeat by Senator Cecil Staton.

“I appreciate the tremendous support from the voters of the 18th” District, said Price, reached via phone during a break from work Wednesday.

And “if I’m not successful, I will be back,” he added.

Station finished with 10,518 votes to Price’s 10,311. The final vote tally did not include 35 military ballots yet to be added.

Considering Staton’s 10-to-1 advantage in fundraising in the second quarter of 2012 — he collected about $115,000 — and his endorsements from party heavyweights such as Gov. Nathan Deal, it was an unusually close outcome.

Harris County Commission Chair Harry Lange has a slim 9-vote margin over Greg Allen who will seek a recount.

Allen defeated Lange at the polls, but fell behind when absentees were tallied; Lange, a three-term incumbent, collected 451 votes compared to Allen’s 442 with about three military and two provisional ballots uncounted, said Sherrail Jarrett, the county elections supervisor.

“I never really expected to garner the votes that I did to be honest with you, but just staying out and being in the community for so long, I knew I had a lot of support,” Allen said.

Both candidates voiced disappointment over voter turnout.

“I’m afraid a lot of my supporters figured they didn’t need to vote,” said Lange, 71, who estimated about 20 percent of registered voters in his district participated.

The race pitted a seasoned commission chairman against a youthful challenger, and the close finish seemed to reflect a string of controversies that have disquieted portions of the community in recent months.

“I’d heard so many people say they were dissatisfied,” said Commissioner Charles Wyatt, who isn’t up for re-election this year. “I hope it straightens Harry up. I hope it sends him a message.”

Lange attributed the dead heat in part to a long-running dispute over the use of the baseball fields in Mulberry Grove. County commissioners denied a rezoning request last year to prevent the fields from being used for travel ball.

Also in Muscogee County, Pam Brown, who challenged incumbent Sheriff John Darr, said she will request a recount.

“I’ll be asking for one, I’m certain I will,” Brown said. “I felt it would be close, but I thought that I would have the edge on him a little bit.”

The sheriff led Brown by a margin of about 0.448 percent — or 8,604 votes to 8,528 votes. Some 59 provisional ballots — votes not yet counted because of eligibility questions — remained out, and elections officials had received 22 military ballots as of Wednesday, said Nancy Boren, the county’s elections director.

About 200 military ballots were requested, but only a portion of those were expected to be returned.

The Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registrations plans to meet 3 p.m. Friday at the Government Center to certify election results. Georgia law allows for a recount when the margin of victory is within 1 percent.

If Darr prevails, Brown would have until Tuesday afternoon to request a recount in writing.

State Rep. Doug McKillip will not ask for a recount in his narrow loss to fellow Republican Regina Quick.

Runoffs

Carroll County Commission Chair Bill Chappell has been forced into a runoff with Marty Smith.

When the ballots were counted Tuesday night, Chappell has received the most votes, but the split was close to a three-way tie, a situation not usually found in incumbency races, one local political analyst observed.

The unofficial totals were Chappell with 4,594 votes, 34.9 percent; Smith with 4,356 votes, 33.1 percent; and third-place finisher Walt Hollingsworth, 4,217 votes, 32.0 percent.

Dr. Robert Sanders, a University of West Georgia political science professor, said he found the results “rather surprising” and was amazed at the closeness of the vote split and how no candidate was close to a majority.

“It goes to show that the Carroll County electorate is not thrilled with how things are going in county government,” Sanders said Wednesday. “There seems to be a number of issues, such as spending and services, but it may be reflective of general disappointment in government around the nation.”

Sanders said the vote seemed to be a question of, “Do you want the incumbency or not?” and it appears the Tuesday results showed nearly a two-to-one vote of dissatisfaction.

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Ends & Pieces

Seventy-three percent of Cobb County voters approved Sunday Sales in unincorporated parts of the county. This was a re-do of an earlier election in which only voters in unincorporated Cobb were allowed to vote; a court challenge overturned that election because all Cobb voters should have been polled.

A voting machine malfunctioned in Floyd County, trapping 85 uncounted votes; it is being sent to its manufacture to attempt to read those votes.

1
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 1, 2012

This little low rider looks like a cross between a blue tick coon hound and a basset and is available for adoption from Cobb County Animal Shelter. He is said to have a great, friendly personanilty, is up-to-date on his shots, and will be neutered, microchipped and tested for heartworms before he goes home. His ID is 546592, he is in run 850 and he weighs 49 lbs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

This is far from exhaustive, as I was up too late last night watching election returns, but I’ll delve deeper into some of the happenings in yesterday’s elections, including ballot questions and local races over the next few days.

Two things became clear in last night’s elections: T-SPLOST was soundly rejected and most GOP incumbents were reelected.

T-SPLOST passed in three districts, Central Savannah River, River Valley, and Heart of Georgia regions will see their sales taxes go up when the measure goes into effect.

Chuck Eaton beat Matt Reid for the Republican nomination for PSC District 3 by a margin of nearly 60-40. Stan Wise beat Pam Davidson for PSC District 5 by 56.5-43.5.

Eaton said:

“I am grateful to the people of Georgia for allowing me the opportunity to represent the Republican party in November.

I also want to thank Governor Deal, Lt. Governor Cagle, Attorney General Olens and all the grassroots activists who supported our campaign.

As we move toward November, we will continue the discussion of whether Georgia wants lower rates, reliable utilities, and more good jobs, or whether we wish to change course and pursue a radical agenda that will cost more money from consumers, and make our state less competitive for new jobs.”

Wise said,

“We’ve made a commitment over the years of promising just a few things – reasonable rates, reliable generation and clearly we’re building an infrastructure for the future, whether it comes from increased natural gas infrastructure in the state or growing nuclear transmission for generations to come.”

Congressional Primary Election

Ninth Congressional District – Runoff between Doug Collins (41.80%) and Martha Zoller (41.14%). The math geek in me notes that both of those percentages are evenly divisible by 11; the politics geek notes that this means three more weeks of dueling press releases piling up in my inbox.

Line of the night goes to Doug Collins.

Asked about the nail-biting returns, Collins said, “we’ve got plenty of nails left.”

As in the election, Martha came in second for line of the night by a slim margin,

“Well, I didn’t get crushed tonight,” she said. “I did pretty darn good.”

Twelfth Congressional District appears to be headed for a runoff between Lee Anderson (34.22%) and a player to be named later. Currently, the Secretary of State’s website shows Rick Allen with a 558-vote lead over Wright McLeod, but it also indicates that not all precincts are reported, so this may change .

At midnight, Augusta businessman Rick Allen was leading Evans lawyer Wright McLeod by about 500 votes, but neither was conceding the second-place finish that would place one of them in the runoff. The Asso­ciated Press didn’t call the runner-up results because of the closeness of the race.

The margin is close enough to guarantee McLeod a recount if it holds in the official count, The Asso­ciated Press said.

Senate Primary Elections

Senate District 6 – appears to be Hunter Hill with 52% over his opponents, but irregularities in voting, which included voters assigned to incorrect precincts and paper balloting in midtown Atlanta may mean that the race is not truly called for several days.

Senate District 7 – Tyler Harper beat Mark Hatfield, who was trying to move up from the State House.

Senate District 9 – Don Balfour cruised to an easy reelection with nearly 63% against two challengers.

Senate District 18 – Cecil Staton appears to have squeaked out a victory in a race where the candidates were separated by a single point, or roughly 200 votes.

Senate District 21 – Chip Rogers appears to have beaten Brandon Beach by 59-41

Senate District 25 – Johnny Grant defeated by Burt Jones 47-53.

Senate District 27 – Jack Murphy appears to have been reelected by less than half-a-point, a 117 vote margin.

Senate District 31 – Bill Heath (45.3%) meets Bill Carruth (41.1%) in a runoff on August 21.

Senate District 44 – Gail Davenport (33.9%) came in second to challenger Gail Buckner (42.4%) and is probably at a disadvantage headed into the runoff.

Senate District 47 – Frank Ginn wins.

Senate District 52 – Chuck Hufstetler appears to win without a runoff with a 54-30 margin over David Doss.

Selected House Races

House District 2 – Jay Neal over challenger Steve Tarvin with a 57-43 margin.

House District 16 – Trey Kelley wins over Jennifer Hulsey by 58-42.

House District 20 – Challenger Michael Caldwell beats incumbent Charlice Byrd by 53-47.

House District 21 – State Rep. Sean Jerguson reelected over Scot Turner.

House District 26 – Geoff Duncan appears to have a 55-vote margin over former State Rep. Tom Know.

House District 34 – Charles Gregory defeats incumbent State Rep. Judy Manning.\

House District 44 – State Rep. Don Parson reelected.

House District 45 – State Rep. Matt Dollar reelected.

House District 46 – State Rep. John Carson wins his re-nomination for his first full term but faces Kevin “Funny Mustache Hipster” West in the General. It is notable that Carson’s GOP opponent took more than twice as many votes in losing 68-32 than Democrat Kevin West took in his uncontested primary.

House District 56 – “Able” Mable Thomas handily defeated Ken Britt in the Democratic Primary, winning reelection by a 65-35 margin.

House District 57 – Democrat incumbent Pat Gardner appears to have whipped Rashad Taylor by a 63-37 margin.

House District 117 – Regina Quick beats Doug McKillip by 64 votes.

In Athens-Clarke County, Quick claimed almost 63 percent of the nearly 3,200 votes tallied. For McKillip, Tuesday’s race came less than two years after he switched to the GOP just weeks after his re-election as a Democrat in what was then an exclusively Athens legislative district.

McKillip led balloting in Oconee County (56 percent), Jackson County (63 percent) and Barrow County (66 percent).

House District 118 – Spencer Frye defeats incumbent Keith Heard in the Democratic Primary, while Carter Kessler won the GOP nomination.

House District 58 – Simone Bell won the matchup against fellow incumbent Democrat Ralph Long.

House District 63 – Ronnie Mabra leads into the runoff with 49.2%.

House District 66 – Bob Snelling, (49.63%) a former State Rep. will be in a runoff against Mike Miller (27.17%).

House District 75 – Democrat Mike Glanton appears to have knocked-off incumbent Yasmin Neal by 56-44.

House District 81 – Chris Boedeker over Carla Roberts by 70-30.

House District 97 Brooks Coleman whipped Robert McClure, a 20-something Ron Paul supporter by 70-30.

House District 103 Timothy Barr appears to have won the Republican Primary, but voting problems appear to have occurred in some early and absentee ballots.

House District 109 – Dale Rutledge beat incumbent Steve Davis.

In one of the more contentious legislative races, state House Rep. Steve Davis (R-District 109), lost to businessman Dale Rutledge by more than a 2 to 1 margin, 3,942 votes to 1,761, in the Republican Primary. There is no Democratic challenger.

House District 121 – Barry Fleming makes a return to the state house as a Republican, the only one of four attempted state house comebacks to clinch a win so far.

House District 167 – Jeff Chapman, a former Republican state senator will return to the Capitol as a new member of the lower house.

House District 180 – Jason Spencer beats Adam Jacobson with a 262-vote margin.

Other Notable Runoffs

Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee faces former Commission Chair Bill Byrne in a runoff. Grab some popcorn, this one’s going to get nasty.

In Gwinnett County Commission District Three, incumbent Mike Beaudreau took 47.34% and lands in a runoff, most likely with Tommy Hunter.

Kathy Schrader took more than 43% in the election for an open seat on the Gwinnett County Superior Court, more than double the vote total of second-place finisher Tracey Mason Blasi.

Emily Brantley and Pam Britt appear headed for a runoff for Gwinnett State Court, narrowly edging former State and Superior Court Judge Richard Winegarden out.

27
Jul

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forsyth County Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ends & Pieces

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

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

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

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

19
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2012

Patsy (F) and Parker (M) are 2-3 month old puppies weighing in at about 11 pounds each. The are available for adoption for $40 each from Walton County Animal Services and have been vaccinated and de-wormed and will come with vouchers for discounted spay/neuter.

Gwinnett Urgent Care and Suwanee Station Dentistry in Gwinnett County have a therapy dog named Ruckus.

Ruckus, who will be 7 in July, is a chocolate spaniel who serves as a therapy dog for both sides of the office. The Perrys believe having Ruckus around fosters a more comfortable and family atmosphere that calms the nerves of anxious patients.

“When people come in they don’t feel well, that’s why they’re here, they’re sick,” Ron said. “If Ruckus will come in the room, their whole face just lightens up. They suddenly just start feeling a bit better.”

Gift, and her mother, Ashley, agree.

“He probably helps them feel better because they have somebody to talk to,” Myla said. “It makes it more fun that there’s an animal friend.”

Ashley Gift said Ruckus makes it easier for her daughter to visit the doctor’s office.

“She doesn’t dread coming here, she knows she gets to see him,” Ashley said. “It makes it more fun. She asks for him every time we come.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Beginning next week, satellite early voting stations open in some jurisdictions, and this Saturday is the only Saturday early voting for the July 31st elections.

The Secretary of State’s website has “My Voter Page” where you can sign in and find advanced and early voting information, as well as your new districts for State House, Senate, County Commission and other offices. This page will help you find contact information for your county board of elections if you have questions.

Governor Nathan Deal stated his support for Chuck Eaton in his reelection to the Public Service Commission. Deal said:

“During his tenure on the Public Service Commission, Chuck Eaton has assisted my efforts  for economic development and job creation in Georgia. Chuck Eaton shares my top priority to make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business. By working to repeal of the tax on energy used for manufacturing, Chuck’s strong, conservative record helps make this goal a reality.”

Attorney General Sam Olens and Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Tom Price discussed the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s ObamaCare ruling with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club.

In Senate District 21, direct mail purportedly paid for by TrafficTruth.net is targeting Brandon Beach, the challenger to Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, while signs that say “Boot Chip – Are you better off than you were eight years ago” appear to have been paid for by Neighbors for A Better Cherokee.

Also in Cherokee County, the anonymous robocalls against Janet Read have continued, obviously paid for by a coward.

Pro-tip: putting flyers of any kind on mailboxes is illegal.

A group circulating a flier against Cherokee County District 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard is in violation of U.S. Postal Service rules, postal officials say.

The flier was found taped onto mailboxes in the communities, which violates U.S. Postal Service rules, according to postal officials.

Postal Service spokesperson Michael Miles said it’s against postal policy to place anything on or inside mailboxes.

U.S. Code Section 1725 prohibits the distribution or mailing of items without paying postage.

“Many people are not aware that it is a violation of USPS policy and law to place items on or in a mailbox,” Miles said. “When this is brought to their attention, they usually refrain from this behavior and there is no need for further USPS action.”

If the violations persist, Miles said the postal service can then collect the mailers and determine how much postage is due to the service.

Once they are able to determine a cost, Miles said they can actually bill the originator for the postage.

Democrat Lesli Messinger, who is running for Congress from the First District issued a press release stating that she is “The only woman running for a national office this election season in Georgia, she’s a lone  coastal Democrat amid the state’s Congressional candidates.” Maria Sheffield (R-12) and Martha Zoller (R-9) might take issue with that, but I can see how the names “Maria” and “Martha” might be confusing on that point.

The Republican candidates in the Twelfth Congressional District met in a debate last night.

UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock appears to be predicting defeat for the T-SPLOST.

“So although tons of money is being spent to encourage voting for the T-SPLOST and thesupport of the Chamber of Commerce, it looks like it will go down to defeat,” Bullock said in an analysis emailed to Patch. “We have the interesting phenomenon of disagreement between many GOP leaders and a group usually closely associated with the GOP (the Chamber).”

Bullock concluded: “With GOP leadership unwilling to step forward and reassure conservative, anti-tax voters that the projects to be funded with the T-SPLOST are meritorious, there is scant prospect for approval.”

Gun store owners might start lobbying for elections every year, as gun sales appear to be rising in advance of this year’s elections.

Gun sales are soaring nationwide and retailers say that’s not unusual to see during a presidential election year. “Basically the situation you have now is 2008 all over again,” said Steven B. Drew, Owner of Georgia Gun and Loan.

Analysts say the 2008 spike came from fear that new gun control legislation would make it more difficult to acquire firearms. “People were uncertain what the new President and the new administration was going to do so there tends to be a upsurge in fire arm sales in general,” said Drew.

Four seats on the DeKalb County School Board are up for election this year, and all seats will be up in 2014. All twelve candidates for those seats will be at a forum tonight from 6:45 to 8:30 PM in the  Arabia Mountain High School auditorium, at 6610 Browns Mill Road in Lithonia. RSVP to [email protected] or 770-875-0213.

In Cobb County, school board candidate Linda Hanson has accused incumbent David Banks of invading her childrens’ privacy.

Banks distributed his e-newsletter, David’s Grapevine, in which he wrote: “This week one of my opponents made it known through the Marietta Daily Journal that the Cobb County Associations (sic) of Educators had given their endorsement based on my opponents ‘activity’ in education. To determine the validity of this claim, I personally contacted the schools where their children had either attended or were presently attending and in no instance could I validate or substantiate any participation in school activities or organizations by either of my opponents.”

Hanson said she was “very concerned and most disturbed” by the newsletter.

“For him to go to my children’s schools for information for political gain is highly unethical and way beyond the realm of what a board member should be doing,” she said. “The parents in Cobb County Schools deserve better than to feel like their information, privacy is being encroached upon, regardless if it’s a board member or just someone off the street.”

Banks, meanwhile, called her concerns “silly” and insisted he did nothing inappropriate. Banks said he did not receive any records about Hanson’s children.

Gwinnett County developer Dan O’Leary still believes the casino gambling ballot question on Republican ballots will fail, and continues trying to distance his proposal for “video lottery terminals” in a casino-gambling style setting.

O’Leary believes the vote is destined to fail because of the ballot’s wording, and he’s been quietly working business crowds and boardrooms to uncouple his proposal with the outcome of the vote. His plan, he tells them, doesn’t involve a casino but video lottery terminals, which resemble a slot machine but would be operated by the lottery board.

“God as my witness, I had nothing to do with that question,” he said, arms held aloft, at a recent meeting of Gwinnett County business leaders in a cramped office across the street from the proposed site of the gambling resort.

Republican chairwoman Sue Everhart, who said she put the question on the ballot after years of urging from some GOP heavyweights, said the vote will measure the appetite for expanded gambling among Republicans.

If it passes by a clear margin, she said, it will force lawmakers to “seriously” consider the prospect of video lottery terminals. But if it fails, an outcome she expects, “it would send the message that Georgians don’t want gambling.”

“At some point the question has to be answered, and I think this will answer it,” Everhart said. “This will settle it so we can move forward.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle would like to appoint Clark Howard to the citizen review panel if T-SPLOST passes, but Howard has said he might not have time for the commitment.

Cagle had hoped Howard’s membership on the panel would assuage worries about the money being spent properly. The state is divided into 12 regions for the referendum; each has its own project list for voters to consider, and each would have its own citizen review panel.

“Voters should have as much information as possible, and the citizen oversight committee is a key part of this process,” Cagle said.

Former Cobb County Commission Chair Bill Byrne picked up the endorsement of D.A. King and the Cobb Taxpayers Association in his quest to unseat incumbent Tim Lee.

D.A. King says he’s backing Bill Byrne for county chairman. King said his original intention was to remain neutral in the chairman’s race.

“When it became clear to me that the BOC was not going to move forward on saving jobs for American workers on taxpayer funded projects by taking the next logical step with the IMAGE certification, I voted for Bill Byrne for chairman by absentee ballot and proudly support him,” King said. “Bill, an old friend, was the only candidate to reach out to me and promise, without condition, to require all public contractors and subcontractors to become IMAGE certified. I believe him when he says that he understands that illegal immigration is not a separate issue from jobs, taxes, health care and education.

“Frankly, I haven’t heard anything from the other challengers. The current chairman, who I like very much, has been dealing with the IMAGE certification issue for at least 18 months and pronounced it a great move for Cobb when he signed the IMAGE agreement. The concept that the same requirement for public contractors needs more study time strikes me as absurd and transparent. State legislation, much of which I have worked on myself over the years is written, vetted and signed into law in a three month window.”

In House District 66 (Douglas and Paulding counties), Republican Mike Miller has out-raised and out-spent both his opponents.

Bryant Cochran, the third-term incumbent Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge, and challenger Dwayne Hooper, are profiled in the Dalton Daily News.

Dr. Bernice Brooks is back on the ballot, running for reelection to the Carroll County Board of Education.

Coweta Circuit Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby signed the order, saying it would be “unjust” to leave the 12-year school board member off the ballot.

“Clearly this was an error, simply a mistake that was made,” Kirby said. “It would be incredibly unjust for Ms. Brooks to be knocked off the ballot.”

Kirby called the error a “scrivener’s error,” a clerical error made in legal documents. The hearing to address Brooks’ writ of certiorari, or appeal, was Tuesday afternoon at the Coweta County Justice Center.

Brooks was unanimously disqualified by the Board of Elections and Registration in a special hearing last Tuesday after it was discovered her house is in a different district that the district she is running to represent. While the majority of Brooks’ Villa Rica property can be found in District 1, her home and street address are actually in District 3 because of a technical error.

Computer problems aren’t the only problem facing the State Campaign Finance Commission and voters seeking to learn where candidates raised money.

whereas statewide candidates are required to file electronically, local candidates are allowed to file paper reports, and a processing backlog means they can be delayed indefinitely.

Kennesaw State University political science professor and former secretary of state advisory board member David Shock said it all spells out a “huge disservice” to voters with many contributing factors.

“The biggest reason is that, a year or so ago, a new state law kicked in that requires candidates to file with the state ethics commission. I think there’s still a lot of confusion among local candidates on what they need to do,” he said.

Many of the candidates who hadn’t filed their PFD as of last week said they thought the report had already been filed.

Before 2011, local candidates filed reports with their local election board. Shock said he believes the change was made to standardize the process, however, the increased workload on the ethics commission has stretched its resources and caused the backlog.

Other causes in the high number of late filers may be a lack of drive in collecting fines. Initial late fees have increased from $25 to $125, but may go uncollected for long periods of time.

“Voters deserve to know who is funding their candidates,” Shock said. “I don’t know what the solution is. There needs to be more people reviewing the reports. There is probably a need for more education as well for candidates on what needs to be done.”

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President Obama announced the administration’s commitment to completing federal reviews for the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project, intended to increase river access to the Port of Savannah by dredging portions of the Savannah River. In fact, the commitment is that federal review will be finished by November 2012, just in time for Congressman John Barrow to take credit for it.

14
Jul

Allow me to clarify re: ethics, Senate Trust, and Promotion PAC

On Friday, I wrote:

Is there a problem with the Senate Republican Trust transferring that much money to a new entity that spends it to reelect members of Senate leadership? Apparently not.

“Georgia has some of the weakest PAC and independent committee laws in the country,” said Rick Thompson, managing partner of R. Thompson & Associates who spent five years as the Ethic Commission’s executive director.

“If we want to get serious about reform and transparency, we need to abandon the ridiculous $100 limits and ideas being pushed around this election cycle by special interest groups and focus on the reporting requirements of PACs and independent committees.”

Thompson, whose firm specializes in ethics and compliance consultation, said, “to truly be an expenditure of an independent committee, the candidate cannot have any coordination or control of the expenditure. Otherwise it is an in kind contribution.”

I failed to make clear that Thompson’s quote was a general statement on the laxity of PAC regulation in the state Act governing campaign finance, but was not meant to state a position on whether the transfer from the Senate Trust to the Promotion PAC was in compliance with the Act.

I’ll discuss this more at length on Monday morning.

12
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

As does Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.

As do Senator Jack Murphy and Senator Bill Heath.

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

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

Make of it what you will.

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 [email protected] Further details will be released at the press conference.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucas refused to say how Republicans would have a majority.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events

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

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

9
Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important information for candidates and voters

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

Click Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McLeod spokeswoman Holly Croft offered a different view

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

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

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

Six Forms of Acceptable Voter ID

From the Secretary of State’s website:

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

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

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

4.)  Valid U.S. passport ID

5.)  Valid U.S. military photo ID

6.)  Valid tribal photo ID

Early voting starts today

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events

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

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

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.”