Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 17, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 17, 2015

France formally recognized the United States as an independent nation on December 17, 1777.

General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military district, which covered parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky on December 17, 1862. President Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order.

President William McKinley visited Savannah, Georgia on December 17, 1898. While there, McKinley attended church at Wesley Monumental Methodist Church and visited Georgia Agricultural and Medical College (now Savannah State University) and the Seventh Army.

On December 17, 1902, legislation changed Georgia’s state flag changed to include the coat of arms on the blue band.

Flag_of_the_State_of_Georgia_(1902-1906).svg copy

On December 17, 1944, Major General Henry C. Pratt ordered the end of the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese descent in prison camps.

WTBS began broadcasting under new call letters on December 17, 1976 and uplinked its programming to satellite to become “America’s Super Station.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Butch Teresa Miller FR

State Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) will continue to serve as Senior Floor Leader for Governor Nathan Deal, who is a constituent of Miller’s.

As a senior floor leader, Miller helps carry Deal’s legislative priorities through the Senate, sometimes presenting and defending the governor’s agenda as a kind of right-hand man.

Miller also is there to push back on legislation that Deal does not support.

Miller said that his role allows him to “peek behind the curtains” and better understand the political maneuverings and policy proposals that shape legislation.

Republican lawmakers are expected to push for lowering state income tax rates in favor of higher sales taxes; to consider changes to the funding formula for transportation projects; to debate whether to allow the in-state cultivation of medical cannabis oil; and how to reform public schools and boost the technical college system.

“Sen. Miller represents his constituents, of which the governor is one, with honesty and integrity,” Chris Riley, Deal’s chief of staff, said. “His conservative values and work ethic are well-known and admired by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The senator is a doer, not a follower, a characteristic that embodies the governor’s term in office.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has arranged free credit monitoring services for Georgia voters who were registered on October 13, 2015 or earlier. Full information on the range of services for voters whose data was inadvertently released may be found on the SOS website.

Linda Meigs, Mayor of Meigs, Georgia, may face a recall election.

Since Harris has been in office, she has been arrested for theft from the city and reportedly told police officers not to respond to certain calls after the city lost its insurance.

According to the city’s police chief, the elections commissioner in Meigs has received a petition for a mayoral recall with 165 signatures.

Only 116 were needed to hold the election. If the signatures are all verified, the election would be held May of 2016.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission had a busy week, issuing decisions in an investigation against former Insurance Commissioner and 2010 Gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine.

The state ethics commission handed colorful former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine a split decision Wednesday in his case alleging that he raised illegal contributions during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and spent money on races he never ran.

Citing the state’s statute of limitations, the panel dismissed complaints that Oxendine took 19 contributions that were over the legal limit during his 2010 race.

But the commission also decided to move ahead on charges that Oxendine spent more than $200,000 in 2010 runoff and general election contributions, despite the fact that he never ran those races. That keeps the complaint against Oxendine’s handling of his 2010 gubernatorial race alive and means it won’t be decided until 2016, at the earliest.

“It was kind of a mixed bag,” said Douglas Chalmers, Oxendine’s lawyer. Chalmers said Oxendine may appeal the commission’s ruling in Superior Court.

The Commission also took action in two other cases against elected officials.

The state’s ethics commission, formally known as the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, on Wednesday found probable cause that state Rep. Earnest G. Smith, an Augusta Democrat, violated various state laws in his handling of campaign cash.

A commission investigation found Smith committed 88 violations of campaign finance laws. Among them: Smith allegedly failed to disclose property he owned on personal financial disclosure reports and failed to report $7,503 in campaign contributions and $25,297 in campaign expenditures since December 2010.

Commission attorney Robert Lane said $19,256 of the unreported expenditures were checks made out to “cash,” and Smith has provided no receipts showing how the money was spent. Lane said the Attorney General’s Office should investigate to determine whether Smith used the money for personal instead of campaign purposes — a move that would amount to theft.

In a separate case, former Clayton County Commissioner Wole Ralph also could face a criminal investigation.

A commission investigation found 17 violations by Ralph, who left office in 2012. Among other things, the investigation found he deposited 107 campaign contributions totaling $68,025 into his personal bank accounts, failed to report or itemize $109,200 in contributions, and spent $88,000 on expenses that were not “ordinary and necessary” campaign costs.

For the record, making campaign checks out to cash is not a best practice for ethics reporting.

Hall Booth Smith will be the first new law firm to represent the Muscogee County School Board in 65 years.

It is one of the firms where lawyers from the school district’s current legal counsel, Hatcher, Stubbs, Land, Hollis & Rothschild, will work as of Jan. 1, when Hatcher Stubbs officially breaks up.

Hatcher Stubbs has been MCSD’s lone legal counsel in the 65-year history of the school district. The Hatcher Stubbs lawyers who have been doing the bulk of the legal work for MCSD, Greg Ellington, Melanie Slaton and Chuck Staples, are among those moving to Hall Booth.

Myers cited a board policy that says “legal counsel shall be appointed by the board,” but Lewis cited another board policy that says the appointment shall come “upon the recommendation of the superintendent.”

“Tonight, we finally have the chance to end the string of nearly seven decades of no-bid contracts when it comes to legal counsel,” Myers said. “I’m sorry for all you folks who thought I had a problem with Hatcher Stubbs. Tonight, you get to find out I didn’t. I have a problem with no-bid contracts generally, and I certainly have a problem with no-bid legal contracts. Back to this process, how can you come up with any other conclusion but that this was a rigged system, a rigged pick?”

Columbus City Council approved its first Tax Allocation District this week.

Columbus Council unanimously approved creating the city’s first Tax Allocation District. It will facilitate the creation of a Fort Benning Technology Park, in the hope of luring defense contractors, among others, to otherwise unused land near the main gate of the post.

A decision on three other TADS, one around the Liberty District, one in Uptown and one in the area between TSYS and Bibb City for the creation City Village, was put off until January.

Voting 9-0, with Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Turner-Pugh yet to arrive, councilors approved creating the district, but the resolution does not give the go-ahead to any development within it. That will have to be done by council later.

DeKalb County’s Good, Bad and Ugly

The City of Brookhaven celebrates its third birthday today, and next month will swear-in its third Mayor since incorporation on December 17, 2012.

CBS46 is reporting that former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones is considering a comeback bid.

Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones attended the final county commission meeting of the year Tuesday, while interim CEO Lee May did not.

“I don’t know why the iCEO was not here. I can tell you this, that’s a big job. When I was here because of our form of government, I presided over the meetings so I had to be here. In fact, I went eight years and never missed a meeting,” Jones said.

While in office, Jones stirred up some controversy of his own. He was accused of excessive spending and was sued for racial discrimination. Still, the former CEO didn’t rule out the possibility of a return to politics and running for DeKalb County CEO.

“I think if Vernon wants to run again and he feels he has something to offer this county then he should do it,” DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said.

Commissioner Nancy Jester opposes the idea and said Jones put a down payment on some of the problems the county is facing today.

“I don’t think that he’s the right fit,” Jester said. “The cityhood movement was also something that I think people often times will say came from frustration in dealing with his administration.”

The DeKalb County Commission approved the creation of a Tax Allocation District related to the former GM Plant in Doraville, according to a report by the AJC’s Mark Niesse.

The DeKalb County Commission unanimously approved an agreement Tuesday to invest in the redevelopment of the shuttered General Motors factory in Doraville.

The commission’s action obligates a portion of future property tax growth to help pay for infastructure improvements, including a tunnel to the Doraville MARTA station and a street grid on the property.

Developers hope to transform the vacant 165-acre site, known as Assembly, into a vibrant mixed-use area that includes businesses, residential housing and parks.

DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester released a video report on the Commission’s action and addresses the TAD approval.

At a recent event, Senator Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) said that the success or failure of the GM site is the biggest economic development issue in DeKalb County. Millar cited the site as one of the most valuable development sites in the Southeast and said that the County government’s actions will determine whether DeKalb County has any major economic development going forward. I agree.

Peach State Presidential Politics

Texas Senator Ted Cruz opened what I believe is the first Georgia field office for a 2016 Presidential campaign yesterday.

His highly organized grassroots efforts are spreading in Georgia like wildfire, and he is now the first presidential candidate with a campaign headquarters established in Lowndes County. The office will open with a ribbon cutting Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 3 pm.

County Chairman Trey Taylor says, “Our nation is at a political crossroads. We cannot continue down the road we have traveled over the last several years. Leadership is what this nation needs, the kind of leadership Ted Cruz has shown his entire career. Championing conservative causes, fighting for religious liberty, our Second Amendment rights, preventing government overreach, and providing for a stronger, safer America. It is clear that Ted Cruz is a man called for this time in our history. We welcome all committed, compassionate conservatives to our cause.”

He views Georgia as essential in his effort to be named the GOP nominee in the coming election, and has made his presence known here, as has his wife, Heidi, who has spoken around the state just this month.

Cruz said recently, “Georgia is a crucial state to the 2016 election and I am looking forward to working alongside the stronghold of courageous conservatives who work tirelessly to defend conservative principles across the state.”

He spoke confidently of his leaders, saying, “The team we have put together has unparalleled experience running and winning campaigns at the grassroots level. I am honored and excited to have their enthusiastic support as we spread our message in Georgia and across the region.”

For signage or to find out how you can get involved at the local level, visit the campaign office at 2110 N. Patterson St. Stay up to date on local efforts by liking the Lowndes County for Ted Cruz, 2016 page on Facebook.

Campaigns & Elections magazine has an article suggesting that asking whether Republican campaigns in Iowa are not putting forth sufficient efforts in field work.

Consultants from both sides of the aisle are scratching their heads over the Republican presidential contenders’ field operations in Iowa.

Field organizing in the lead off caucuses is the industry’s gold standard, but Republicans this cycle are putting GRPs ahead of phone banks and canvassing. Some GOP consultants shrugged this off as a continuing trend while their Democratic counterparts believe it could be another edge they have in the race for the White House.

By stymying the development of well-rounded campaign staffers, the eventual nominee could be shorthanded when it comes to the general, argues Jeremy Bird, co-founder of 270 Strategies.

“The fact that none of them are serious about running a field organizing program in a race that’s wide open is very surprising to those of us who’ve seen how important that is — especially in a caucus state,” said Bird, who was the national field director for President Obama’s reelection campaign.

“You get a long-term reward from that early investment. But they’re not focused on building leadership, developing relationships and doing the hard, nitty-gritty work.”

Republican campaigns neglecting field in favor of TV is nothing new, according to Chris Turner, CEO of Stampede Consulting.

“Emphasis on television, it’s like, is the sky blue?,” said Turner. “A lot of consultants are good at television; they know television. They’re going to default to that business. There’s a lot of pain in our business for taking risks.”

The first negative political direct mail in the Presidential campaign is appearing in Hawkeye State mailboxes, according to Jonathan Martin of the New York Times.

The Cruz-Rubio dynamic appears to be growing more confrontational beyond the debate stage and campaign trail. Republicans in Iowa this week received their first piece of mail from a group run by backers of Mr. Rubio, criticizing Mr. Cruz for his vote to limit the National Security Agency’s metadata program. (Mr. Cruz has said an alternative program strengthened the country’s capacity to fight terrorism.)

“These men undermined our intelligence agencies’ ability to stop terrorist attacks,” the mailer read, below a photo of Mr. Cruz, Mr. Paul, President Obama and Senator Harry Reid.

Negative Mail Iowa Rubio copy

Peach State Economy

Yesterday, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler reported that unemployment declined in Georgia for November.

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced today that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in November was 5.6 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from 5.7 percent in October. The rate was 6.7 percent in November 2014.

“Our employers created 3,700 jobs in November, which helped push the unemployment rate down to its lowest point since March 2008,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

The number of jobs increased to 4,309,100, or 0.1 percent, from 4,305,400 in October. Much of the job growth came in professional and business services, 2,300; construction, 2,100; education and health services, 1,800; leisure and hospitality, 1,700; and manufacturing, 1,400. These gains were somewhat offset by losses in information services, government, financial activities, and trade, transportation and warehousing.

“Over the year, we added 92,900 jobs, which is a respectable 2.2 percent growth rate,” said Butler. “Georgia continues to grow jobs faster than the nation, which has a 1.9 percent growth rate.”


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