Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for May 31, 2013


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for May 31, 2013

Bob Barr announces Dante Stephensen will chair Fulton Campaign

Bob Jeri Barr Dante StephensenDante Stephensen has long been one of Atlanta’s most fascinating characters, running a landmark restaurant known for hosting alligators and turtles while living aboard a restored private railcar that was originally owned by Woolworth’s heiress Barbara Woolworth and later hosted a courting Cary Grant and Barbara Hutton.

Yesterday, Bob Barr’s campaign announced that Stephensen will join as Fulton County Chairman.

“Dante is well-known as a man of character and integrity as well as an innovator and leader in the hospitality industry. He is one of the most successful job creators in Georgia who treats both his employees and customers with true respect. I am honored to have Dante as a leader on my campaign team,” said Barr, who served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and is a candidate to return to the Congress from the 11th District which includes portions of Buckhead and Sandy Springs.

“I am excited to be a part of Bob Barr’s campaign. I have supported Bob in the past and know him to be a man who truly understands the needs of businesses in Buckhead and across Georgia.  Business leaders need a champion in Congress who not only understands their needs, but has a proven record of meeting those needs; and Bob Barr is that person,” observed Stephensen.

Stephensen was a Navy SEAL in the early 1960s and serves on the Board of the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum. His GOP credentials are legit, and his donation history shows strong support for some of our favorite Republican officeholders.

Stephenson’s business also shows the effects of a heavy-handed local government, as the closing of Dante’s Down the Hatch is spurred at least in part by the burden of property taxes based on what he claims is an inflated valuations.

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New Secretary of the Senate announced

David Cook will trade in his office at Two Peachtree Street, where he serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community of Health, for a suite on the Third Floor of the Georgia State Capitol, where he will serve as the next Secretary of the Senate, according to a press release by Senate President Pro Tem Darth David Shafer (R-Duluth).

David Cook is a veteran of the Senate and began his career working as an aide in the Secretary of the Senate’s office, in addition to serving as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Senator Shafer. “I have every confidence in him, and I know that he will do an outstanding job as Secretary of the Senate.”

Senator Shafer said the process to select the new Secretary was extensive and collaborative; beginning with a call for nominations from members of the Senate and including interviews with a specially appointed committee of Senators. Senator Shafer conferred with Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance (R – Tyrone) and Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson (D – Tucker) before making the appointment.

“I’d like to thank Senators Jack Hill (R – Reidsville), Hardie Davis (D – Augusta), Josh McKoon (R – Columbus), Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga) and Jesse Stone (R – Waynesboro) for their time and service on the appointed interview committee,” said Senator Shafer.

The office of Secretary of the Senate is created by the State Constitution. The Secretary is an administrative officer of the Senate and also serves as the unofficial parliamentarian.

Cook’s seat at DCH won’t get cold, as Governor Deal has already nominated his replacement, naming Clyde Reese as the next Commissioner.

Reese served briefly as commissioner of community health in 2010 before Deal named him to head the state Department of Human Services.

Prior to that, Reese served as the community health agency’s director of health planning and as its general counsel.

“Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” unless it’s Nelson, Ga or Holly Springs?

While Nelson, Georgia has been sued by the Brady Center, which claims the ordinance requiring gun ownership by residents is unconstitutional, a resident of Holly Springs, in Cherokee County, wants the city to adopt a similar measure.

During the public comment portion of the May 20 Holly Springs City Council meeting, resident Dave Konwick asked city leaders to consider implementing the Family Protection Ordinance, as Nelson recently did.

“I’m making a proposal and not trying to draw hoops for people to jump through,” he said. “You have two options: decide on the ordinance as a council or put it on the ballot and let the people decide.”

The council did not comment on his request at the meeting, but afterward Councilwoman Karen Barnett said while she supports citizens’ Second Amendment rights, she does not support more government.

“Although I believe in our right to keep and bear arms, I don’t believe that we need more government intervention in our lives forcing us to do so, but this is only my opinion,” she said.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks Off the Chain, Still on the Hook

When former Governor Roy Barnes announced he would represent indicted State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, he also appeared to nix a Brooks-planned strategy of claiming the Feds were after him because of his work to uncover the perpetrators of a 1946 lynching. But this is what happens when your criminal defense client gets tracked down by the media outside your presence.

Rep. Tyrone Brooks reiterated Thursday that the federal government’s criminal prosecution of him is retaliation for his work to bring attention to the unsolved lynching of two black couples in 1946.

Standing in front of the Moore’s Ford Bridge near Monroe, the site of the attacks, Brooks, D-Atlanta, said he sees no other answer.

“To bring personal attacks against me because of this work is uncalled for,” Brooks said. “It’s unethical. But I’m a big boy.”

Brooks was indicted two weeks ago on 30 charges of wire, mail and tax fraud. He is accused of taking money given to a pair of charities he runs and using it for personal expenses. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.

Some GA-400 drivers thought of toll plaza as their own gated community

That’s the only explanation I can come up with for some OTPers complaining about the planned removal of tolls at Ga-400.

Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston found it’s not just a handful of people, there are quite a few.

Huddleston found commuters that think removing the infamous toll will only create more problems.

“I think it’s going to cause a bottleneck in traffic,” driver Stephanie Evertsz told Huddleston.

Evertsz travels Ga. 400 and worries that removing the toll will create massive backups.

“Opening it up to everyone is going to cause more traffic. I don’t think it’s a benefit,” Evertsz said.

And others agree with Evertsz. The State Road and Tollway Authority said it’s have received several emails from concerned drivers.

Chip Rogers to take to the airwaves

Some of those 400 commuters may choose to tune-in to former Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers when his new show debuts. Because it’s being aired on public radio, it will only be heard in Volvos.

Kasim Reed Still The Boss

And I don’t mean that only in the machine politics sense. Reed’s suggestion that Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Mike Berlon resign appeared to be the impetus for Berlon’s announcement that he is prepared to resign. According to the AJC,

And whoever is picked will have to pass muster with Reed.

“He is going to be involved in the direction of the party because he wants to make sure Democrats are in a good position to run a good campaign, whether it’s for Senate or other seats, to move this state forward and get a Democrat elected,” said Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist with McKenna Long & Aldridge and Reed protege.

The sudden job opening came after Berlon said he would resign Wednesday amid a spate of recent legal troubles and the revelation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of several other pending lawsuits against him.

Nikema Williams, the organization’s first-vice chairwoman, is next in line for the leadership post, but her background as a director of public policy at Planned Parenthood’s regional office unsettles some Democrats.

State Rep. Calvin Smyre, a past party chairman; former House Minority Leader DuBose Porter; ex-state Sen. Doug Stoner; and Johnson, Reed’s former campaign manager, are said to be in the mix to succeed Berlon on a more permanent basis.

“I think by July you could see a Georgia Democratic Party that has a new strong chair, a really good Senate candidate and money flowing in,” said state Sen. Jason Carter, D-Decatur, who is often mentioned as a possible statewide candidate.

Common Cause’s William Perry called out by Reed

After Common Cause Georgia announced they will attempt to collect 40,000 signatures to place on November’s ballot a question to require Atlanta to seek voter approval in order to spend hotel-motel tax proceeds on the new Falcons’ Stadium, Mayor Reed verbally slapped Executive Director William Perry,

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement that the move was a “losing proposition” that could undermine much-needed investment in the city’s core. He also accused Perry of using the stadium deal to further his “personal ambition.”

Here’s a pro-tip for Common Cause: you’re aiming too low. If you need 35,000 signatures, you should be aiming for at least 50% more, so that takes the target to 52,500. To be prudent, you’d want to collect twice as many signatures as needed. After all, it’s Atlanta city officials who will be deciding whether each and every signature is legitimate, and they’ll have every reason to double-check the voter registration rolls.

The City’s Law Department said that such a referendum is not authorized under state law.

City Attorney Cathy Hampton threw more water on the idea of a public vote on the stadium project.

“The city Law Department reviewed the applicable statutes and Georgia Supreme Court case law and opined that the city cannot proffer a referendum as demanded by Common Cause without state legislation authorizing such a referendum,” Hampton said.

Perry said the group delivered its petition request to the city clerk’s office Thursday.

Under the 1998 ordinance, the organization would have two months from the date the clerk provides an official copy of the petition to obtain the necessary 35,000 signatures representing 15 percent of the registered voters who voted in the last city election in 2009.

The referendum asking voters whether they wish to repeal the bond resolution would appear on the November ballot.

And if it takes state legislation to accomplish Common Cause Georgia’s goal, I think such a bill would end up suffocating alone in a desk drawer owned by a member of the legislative leadership.

An outsider view of the GAGOP Convention

As political consultants, professionals, and longtime activists, we sometimes need a different perspective on our party, as being too close may distort our view.

Athens-based Flagpole Magazine sent a writer to our convention in the Classic City, and the resulting story by Matthew Pulter is worth reading in its entirety. It’s no more true than the opinions proffered by other observers, but the different perspective may be instructive about what we look like to outsiders.

Real talk: I don’t know much about the particularities of the Georgia Republican Party, as an official group that meets and decides Republican-y things. Not my crowd.

I entered the Georgia GOP convention at the Classic Center expecting to find a political monolith, same from its core to the periphery. Having watched four years of rigid discipline in the party to stymie President Obama, I was prepared to find lockstep uniformity.

What I found was a party very much divided, in strange and deep unease at holding unprecedented power in the state while watching national power slip away, perhaps for a generation. The tea party assails the party establishment and vice versa, while the young “liberty” movement (loosely affiliated with Ron Paul) challenges both.

The identity crisis is profound. Only at a GOP convention can you pass by someone at a table selling Confederate memorabilia talking with a self-described atheist who wants gay undocumented Mexican immigrants granted citizenship and married tomorrow. (That happened.) Or a Massachusetts-bred, pro-choice Jewish Republican who argues with her rabbi about her penchant for coming to synagogue armed. Or a Republican who sounds more intuitively Marxist than your typical Occupy protester.

In the end, the party was “healed” when Padgett gained victory with the 11th-hour maneuver. Alex Johnson’s focus on “false Republicans” and their “broken promises” didn’t win the party’s deciders over. But it’s hard to see the insurgents going anywhere. Their passion filled the hall in a way the old guard can’t. Coming of political age, many of them, during the profligate Bush years, they eagerly decry the party establishment as accomplices. The establishment still shrugs them off like a nuisance.  It’s hard to tell which are the RINOs.

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