Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 1, 2014

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 1, 2014

In perhaps the most fitting historical tidbit ever, the United States House of Representatives first met on April 1, 1789 in New York City. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected the first Speaker of the House. Georgia’s first Members of Congress were James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin, and George Mathews.

On April 1, 1870, Robert E. Lee, President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, arrived in Savannah, Georgia. Lee’s career in the United States Army began with his first assignment at Cockspur Island near Savannah. While in Savannah for the 1870 trip, Lee was photographed with former General Joseph E. Johnston, who was in the insurance business there.

Happy Birthday to Phil Niekro, who turns 75 today. Niekro pitched for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves for twenty years, earning five trips to the All-Star Game, five gold gloves, led the league in wins twice, and came in second in balloting for the Cy Young award in 1969. In 1997, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Georgia Politics

So much of the current action in Georgia politics is taking place in courtrooms, you have to wonder if there’s not a better time than 27 days before voters can begin voting in the 2014 Primary Elections. But then again, it’s always election season somewhere in Georgia.

Former Congresswoman and DeKalb County State Court Judge Denise Majette was disbarred by the Georgia Supreme Court on a 4-2 vote.

Governor Nathan Deal will not take the stand in a case by disgruntled former Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission Executive Director Stacey Kalbermann’s lawsuit against the agency she formerly headed. In so ruling, Judge Ural T. Glanville found that “nothing in the record, save plaintiff’s assertions, suggests that Governor Deal was involved in the decisions related to the plaintiff’s employment.”

The trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis continues in the pretrial motions phase, breaking down into a lawyer-fight.

Ellis’ legal team continued its bid to get the corruption case thrown out entirely, or to get the District Attorney’s Office disqualified prosecuting the case. But DeKalb prosecutors fought back hard during Monday’s hearing, accusing Ellis’ legal team of misleading the court and using false testimony to try and bolster its case.

The most angry exchanges revolved around statements made by former chief assistant DeKalb district attorney Don Geary, a witness in a January hearing. Geary said he was concerned his former office conducted an illegal investigation of Ellis.

“We don’t know why Mr. Geary is doing what he’s doing,” prosecutor Lee Grant said during the hearing. She accused Geary of giving false statements and violating legal ethics rules by disclosing what should be privileged conversations about the office’s tactics and thoughts about an ongoing corruption investigation.

Ellis’ lead attorney, Craig Gillen, said the privilege exception can be broken when a crime is involved.

But he was cut off by Grant, who jumped to her feet and objected. “He told nothing but lies about this office,” she said, referring to Geary.

Gillen countered that Geary came forward because of his “conscience and honor.” The former chief aide was concerned about a possible cover-up of wrongdoing, Gillen said.

“It is bizarre in the extreme for a prosecutor’s office to say if, someone has evidence of conversations about crimes being committed, it’s covered by privilege,” Gillen said. “You don’t hear that from the district attorney’s office. You hear that from organized crime.”

Ellis’s lawyers also asked to have the Georgia Bureau of Investigation analyze District Attorney Robert James’s personal computer looking for a video of Ellis that does not appear to be in evidence.

Ellis attorney Dwight Thomas requested the court order the state to seize James’ computer so the defense could investigate further.

“If there are no images, then there’s no discovery issue. But if there are, then we’ve got serious ramifications in this courtroom,” said Thomas.

During hearings in January, former DeKalb prosecutor Don Geary – now a prosecutor in Cobb County – testified that James showed him the secretly captured video of Ellis.

Thomas said even if the video has since been erased, the defense needs that information to support its claims of prosecutorial misconduct.

“Even when something has been deleted from the hard drive it can be pulled up. If there are other videos we are entitled to it whether they want to use them or not. We’re entitled to that,” said Thomas.

Prosecutors denied the existence of additional video, calling the claims a publicity stunt aimed at delaying the trial. They said Ellis’ attorneys should be sanctioned for slanderous comments.

“There isn’t any forensic misconduct because we haven’t even been to trial yet. So it’s just completely untrue, misleading, and disrespectful to this court,” said Assistant District Attorney Lee Grant.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced he is engaged to Sarah-Elizabeth Langford, daughter of the late Georgia State Senator Arthur Langford.

12th Congressional Debate

Last night’s 12th District Congressional Debate ended up not being streamed, unfortunately. Candidates Rick Allen and John Stone quickly turned on each other.

Allen accused Stone of trying to divide Republicans by calling for the ouster of Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other House GOP leaders. Stone, who’s courting tea party voters, said the current Republican leadership in Congress needs replacing after failing to cut spending and rein in the deficit.

“Boehner and Cantor are not going to be on the ticket in November, but John Barrow is. That’s what I’m going to focus on and that’s who I’m going to defeat,” said Allen. He said he’s not happy with Boehner and other House leaders but said he would wait until after the election to decide what to do about them.

Stone, who opposed Barrow in 2008 and lost the race by 32 percentage points, criticized Allen for refusing to debate him earlier — before three other candidates joined the race for the May 20 primary. He insisted debating the effectiveness of Republicans’ congressional leadership was appropriate for a primary campaign.

“If we don’t bring this new leadership, if we don’t become a new party, it doesn’t matter if we win this seat or not,” said Stone, a former aide to GOP Reps. Charlie Norwood and Max Burns. “This primary is about the heart and soul of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”

John Stone’s website makes it clear that he would like to distance himself from U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, calling for a “clean sweep” of Leadership and picturing Boehner atop a mound of rubbish.

But it might be difficult to distance himself from an unpopular Speaker to whom he is attached with golden handcuffs. In 2008, the Freedom Project, whose website notes that Boehner serves as honorary chairman and links to “Team Boehner,” made two donations to Stone’s campaign – $5000 for the Primary election (at p. 37) and $5000 for the General election (at p. 41).

This might be unimportant, given the Freedom Project’s criteria for supporting a candidate:

We focus on candidates in House races because that’s our mission: to strengthen and expand the Republican Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. We feature candidates enrolled in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program (whether a “YOUNG GUN,” “CONTENDER,” “ON THE RADAR,” or “VANGUARD” candidate), all post-primary Republican challenger and open seat candidates, and all current Republican Members of Congress who are seeking re-election. We generally do not list candidates who are in a primary race unless they are also enrolled in the “Young Guns” program.

Under those criteria, the GOP nominee in CD-12 will likely receive a check from Freedom Project once chosen.

Lindsey asks FEC for signoff on independent expenditures

The Congressional campaign of current State Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Fulton) has written the Federal Elections Commission, seeking an advisory opinion on whether it may mention other non-Federal candidates in its advertising and advocate for the election of those non-Federal candidates.

The Committee intends to spend funds for television and other advertisements that will expressly advocate for Mr. Lindsey’s election. The Committee intends for some of those advertisements also to identify certain state and/or local candidates, and to expressly advocate for their election as well as Mr. Lindsey’s election.

The Committee will make those expenditures because it believe that encouraging support for candidates who will appear on the same ballot as Mr. Lindsey and who share Mr. Lindsey’s policy positions and values will further enhance Mr. Lindsey’s candidacy. The candidates may be running for state or local office within or outside of the 11th Congressional District.

I’m not privy to any strategy discussions within the Lindsey campaign, but two words came to mind when I read that. Nathan. Deal.

Maybe they’re thinking of weighing-in on Cobb County Commission or Cherokee County School Board races, but I think it’s most likely we would see ads touting Ed Lindsey and Governor Nathan Deal. This kind of thing happens all the time. If, for any reason a popular politician cannot or will not endorse other candidates, the next best thing is for a candidate to endorse that popular politician. It also may mean that local endorsements by, say, State House members not named Ed Lindsey would be used in the advertising considered under that letter.

Grover Norquist endoses Bob Barr in CD-11

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, traveled to Georgia yesterday for at least two events that we are aware of. While in the Peach State, Norquist endorsed Bob Barr in his quest to return to Congress. Norquist also predicted that the Republican Party will takeover the United States Senate in November and discussed liberal criticism of the ATR Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Loretta Lepore debuts video in House District 54

Loretta Lepore, candidate for the State House District 54 seat being vacated by Rep. Ed Lindsey, has released a two-minute video introducing herself to voters.

Here’s my thirty-second critique.

1. Good use of still photos, including some still in their frames. An especially good use of old business cards to tell part of her story. A fresh take on the “Ken Burns Effect.”

2. Awesome voiceover. I kept expecting to hear, “In a world where…”

3. If it were my candidate, I’d want to see the campaign website address featured prominently.

4. Two minutes is too long for my attention span. Less is more. Think 30 seconds or even 15 seconds. You should probably be able to see stats in the YouTube backend about viewership. Look at those closely.

5. If it were my client, I’d want the viewer to be able to click somewhere to go to the campaign website or, even better, a donation page.

6. Good idea to send it to GaPundit, as we’re among the few who cover such things for State House campaigns. I assume they also sent it to all their local media outlets, blogs, etc.

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