Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 2, 2013

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 2, 2013

Campaigns & Elections

Yesterday, Lawrenceville City Council member P.K. Martin announced he will run for State Senate District 9, which is currently held by Senator Don Balfour, who has been indicted.

“After a lot of thought, prayer and encouragement from people all over the district, I am excited to announce my campaign for state Senate,” Martin said in a press release. “I am running because we need an ethical, conservative leader in the Senate who will make us proud and work hard to deliver conservative reforms to improve this district and our state.”

For now, though, Balfour, R-Snellville, only faces a suspension from the position he has held for 20 years, after a Fulton County grand jury indicted him on 18 counts, including theft by taking, involving seeking per diem and mileage reimbursements for business within the state at a time when lobbyists recorded paying for business conducted outside of the state.

According to the governor’s press secretary Sasha Dlugolenski, Gov. Nathan Deal will have 14 days to name a panel to consider a recommendation of suspension, once the bill of indictment is turned over by the Attorney General’s office.

That letter had not been delivered as of Tuesday, but Dlugolenski said it would start the clock on the process, where a panel consisting of a senator, a House member and a retired judge from either the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals meets to determine Balfour’s future. That group will have 14 days to make a recommendation after the governor appoints the panel.

But Dlugolenski pointed out that if the once-powerful senator is suspended — either by the governor or voluntarily — a special election will not be held to replace him. That would occur only if Balfour resigned from office.

Otherwise, the earliest election would come either after the case is adjudicated or the term ends, which is at the end of 2014.

Note that Sasha Dlugolenski is a new Press Secretary in Governor Deal’s office, taking over from Stephanie Mayfield, who is getting married and moving to another part of Georgia. Congratulations to both Sasha and Stephanie.

As we mentioned six days ago, Michael Williams, a small-business owner, will challenge Senator Jack Murphy, Chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee in the Republican Primary next year. Here are some quotes via AccessNorthGa.com:

“I have always been motivated to work hard and get ahead, to make a living for myself and grow jobs to help others provide a living for their families,” Williams said. ”But too often, government gets in the way. I’m running because I want to serve the people by making government smaller, less intrusive and more accountable.”

As a State Senator, Williams pledges to create tougher ethics legislation, including a ban on all lobbyist gifts to legislators; reform Georgia’s tax code to support job creation, and support strengthening the autonomy of local school boards.

“Government was created to serve the needs of the people,” Williams said, “but at every level we see government operating as though the people serve it. I want to put the idea of service back into public servant, starting with the state of Georgia.”

Lee Burton, a former Navy SEAL and Army Warrant Officer originally from Vidalia is running for State House of Representatives in District 156, which is currently held by Republican Greg Morris. Morris was first elected as a Democrat and switched to the Republican party in 2005.

Burton told SoutheastGeorgiaToday.com

Burton is currently a vice-chair of the Toombs County Republican Party and represented the county at the state convention this year in Athens.  He’s a member of the Georgia Tea Party.

“I just want to get in there and do my part and try to be a representative of the people, serve them honorably and stay in touch with them.  I didn’t want to do anything larger than the district because this is right here where I live.  It’s where my friends are and it’s where my family has been.  I’ve come back, I love it here, and I want to do anything I can to make it better,” he said.

Burton is a former Navy SEAL sniper instructor who says he’s now taking aim at welfare fraud and job creation in rural Georgia.

“We have to do something with our welfare program that’s going on in this state.  Hard working people are paying their money and they see abuses in the system.  Everybody wants help other people, but we’d rather see somebody get a ladder to climb instead of an elevator to ride.

“We’ve got to reduce unemployment here.  With the new Savannah port down here, it’s the second largest exporting port in the country, and there’s no reason we couldn’t use that to get some jobs in this district.  We’ve got to do something with the taxes to give incentives for businesses to come in here and try to help us out,” Burton said.

In the special election to succeed Barry Loudermilk in Senate District 14, Matt Laughridge has a second challenge to his qualification as a candidate, claiming that Laughridge’s residence aboard a houseboat docked on land leased from the US Army Corps of Engineers is prohibited.

Just for fun, here’s a video of Matt Laughridge talking about the hardship of living on a houseboat from May of this year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apeHdW6ku5c

The first challenge was filed based on his voting in the 2012 General Election from an address outside the district he’s running for. An administrative hearing on the first challenge, and possibly the second, will take place October 10, 2013 at 9 AM before the Office of State Administrative Hearings.

Residency challenges against Dean Sheridan and Christopher G. Nesmith will also be heard by the Administrative Law Judge, who will recommend whether to remove them from the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office will then make its decision after hearing the ALJ’s recommendation.

Water Wars

Florida sued Georgia directly in the United State Supreme Court, claiming that Peach State water withdrawals from Lake Lanier are decimating the Apalachicola Oyster industry in violation of the Tacky State’s riparian rights. Heated press releases were exchanged.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the expected legal action Tuesday, with Scott saying in a news release from his office that it was needed “to stop Georgia’s unmitigated consumption of water.”

“Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states,” Scott said.

The state’s “overconsumption … threatens the existence of Apalachicola Bay and the future economic development of the region,” he added. “Generations of Florida families have relied upon these waters for their livelihood but now risk losing their way of life if Georgia’s actions are not stopped.”

Scott announced his intentions to sue on Aug. 13, saying at the time, “This lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing — fighting for the future of Apalachicola.”

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson said in response to Florida’s action, “The only ‘unmitigated consumption’ going on around here is Florida’s waste of our tax dollars on a frivolous lawsuit.”

“Florida is receiving historically high water flows at the state line this year, but it needs a bogeyman to blame for its poor management of Apalachicola Bay.”

“This lawsuit is political theater and nothing more. We’ve won consistently in court and will defend Georgia’s water rights vigorously in the Supreme Court, because our case is the only one with any merit.”

Meanwhile, Lake Lanier is at full pool and for the first time in ten years, maintained that level all summer long.

Over the weekend, a new state record was set when a 13’10” gator was caught in Lake Seminole, in the lower-left hand corner of Georgia. No word on whether it was actually wearing jean shorts when it was caught, or whether they were added by the taxidermist. No doubt Florida will ask the Supreme Court for the gator as well as all our water.

If the Atlanta City Council approves, the Department of Watershed Management will issue refunds totalling $737,000 to water users who were overbilled.

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