Tag: Mike Miller

25
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 25, 2012

Cobb County Friends of Shelter Animals is raising funds to export 16 dogs to Minnesota, where apparently there’s a shortage of adoptable animals. Online donations are processed through Dogs on Death Row, who is matching all donations. It’s a dogpocalypse out there in the shelters, where most facilities are packed and receiving more animals every day. The only way to accomodate the influx is through aggressive euthanasia.

Gucci is a little lab mix puppy who is available for rescue or adoption from the Floyd County Animal Shelter in Rome. He should be considered in urgent need.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Robert Draper has written a long article in The Atlantic about redistricting that will be of interest to a broad audience, from those for whom it will be “Redistricting 101” to those who have been in the trenches, drawing maps with crayons on the back of an envelope, or with Maptitude. Draper was also interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air about his article, and it’s a good listen.

Redistricing led to some of the problems in Fulton County voting during the primary elections, including a precinct that reported 3300% turnout. Also a possible problem? An Elections director who thought he could serve ten days in jail without anyone noticing.

Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections has accepted the resignation of its embattled department director, Sam Westmoreland.

At a special-called meeting Monday where Westmoreland was expected to be terminated, the 5-member board deliberated in closed session for about 45 minutes before voting unanimously to accept his resignation. He sent his resignation letter Saturday while incarcerated at the Alpharetta jail.

Westmoreland just finished a 10-day stint for violating probation on a 2009 DUI charge, and he’s now awaiting transfer to the Laurens County jail, in middle Georgia, for failing to show up for court after a 2008 DUI there.

“After much reflection,” Westmoreland’s letter says, “I believe it is in the department’s best interest to have a leader that enjoys the full support of this board as we move forward toward this important general election.”

Several board members have said they were unaware their director had to serve time in jail until Sept. 19, five days into his incarceration [emphasis added]. Edmond said they knew he had received a Fulton County DUI, but thought his sentencing was complete. The board only learned of the Laurens County case last week, the chairman said.

According to the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, a warrant was issued for Westmoreland’s arrest after he failed to appear in court there on Sept. 10 in connection with a Sept. 15, 2008, DUI charge in that county, also involving drugs.

Two pro-tips here: first, if you think you can get away with being absent from work for ten days without explanation, either your supervisors may be letting you get away with too much or you’ve already given up; second, if you fax in your resignation from jail, you can bet it will be accepted post haste.

Dennis O’Hayer has an interview with Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts about what kind of foulups issues we may look forward to in the General Election.

“I’m more confident today than I was last week, because of the actions that the  [Elections] Board took today, specifically bringing in an interim [director] and agreeing to bring in some outside consultants….and we will be taking advantage of the Secretary of State’s offer to help us.”

The AJC has more about the impending train wreck:

staffers will be adjusting to new leadership and directives as early voting begins Oct. 15. Fulton County has a recent history of elections difficulties and is currently part of nine open investigations by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Georgia’s largest county, Fulton includes nearly 10 percent of the state population. Election problems in Fulton could affect the Obama-Romney race, casting the state and county in a negative light worldwide.

Fulton drew heat in the Obama-McCain election four years ago, when the office’s absentee ballot processing went so slow that the county had to hire FedEx to ship nearly 4,000 ballots to voters overnight, costing more than $300,000.

Then, after closing the polls, workers spent 53 hours in a warehouse counting absentee and provisional ballots. At the time, the results of a U.S. Senate race hung in the balance.

“Regardless of this unfortunate circumstance,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a written statement, “Fulton County still has a legal obligation to provide safe and secure elections. Our office will work with them as closely as possible to make sure this takes place on Nov. 6.”

Serious policy proposal here for the General Assembly: consider whether there should be a mechanism for the Governor or Secretary of State to either suspend or remove local Elections Board members and administer elections where there is a history of botched voting administration and a reasonable basis to suspect the next election will be compromised.

Particularly topical given the issues in Fulton is a book signing tomorrow, September 26, 2012 from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, with former member of the Federal Election Commission Hans von Spakovsky and his new book, Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, at Capital Grille in Buckhead, located at 255 E. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305.

Hans von Spakovsky is a former Chairman of the Fulton County Republican Party and served on the Fulton County Elections Board. He is a graduate of the Coverdell Leadership Institute and currently serves at the Heritage Foundation as Senior Legal Fellow, where he manages the Civil Justice Reform Initiative. Please R.s.v.p. to Kathryn Gartland.

Chalk one up for Georgia Republican Party Chairman Sue Everhart. Last week she called the Obama campaign’s print of a flag with the Obama campaign logo “utterly disrespectful and outrageous.” The Democrats called her and the GOP hypocrites

“I think this is desecration, just like over in Egypt and these places that are burning our flag, stomping on the flag.  This is a symbol of our country,” Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart told Channel 2’s Lori Geary.

The Obama campaign is selling its print for $35.

“If ever a time we should be flying old glory is now, not coming up with some sales pitch to sell the Obama flag. Does he think he is the most important thing that has ever happened to the United States of America?  I’m going to start calling him ‘King Obama’ instead of ‘President Obama,’” Everhart said.

She has called on Democrats to denounce the campaign print.

Georgia Democratic Chairman Mike Berlon said….“I think it’s a little bit disingenuous to stand up and beat your chest and say, ‘Oh my God, this is an abomination,’ when the Republican Party has been doing it for years.”

But over the weekend, the flag print disappeared from the Obama campaign website.

A page where the flag was now returns an error page. A cached version of the website still shows the product but returns a error page when attempting to add the item to the cart. An Obama campaign aide says the item quickly sold out and that sold out items are automatically removed. However, a similar item to the flag print that was also sold out was not automatically removed and appears on the site with “out of stock” below it.

Former Dougasville Mayor Mickey Thompson has been indicted for 91 counts of theft, in an indictment alleging he took more than $28,000 in payments for the city for meetings he did not attend or for which he was not entitled to payment.

As a result of the [Douglas County] Sentinel investigation, we asked the GBI to investigate and that is what I presented to the grand jury,” [District Attorney David] McDade said. “He had submitted meetings and received payments for 91 meetings that he was not entitled to under city ordinance. The way it was set up, he was the sole arbiter in deciding what was paid and what wasn’t.”

McDade said that the meetings ranged from ribbon cuttings, luncheons, bus tours, swearings in of other officials and phone meetings that are not allowed by city statute.

Unlike every municipality with a similar population in the metro area, where a straight salary is paid to elected officials, the mayor and council members in Douglasville are compensated based on meeting attendance. Council members are paid $125 per meeting, with the mayor receiving $313 per meeting. The ordinance gives a very specific list of meetings that are eligible for payment. In addition to paying by roll call, elected officials can also turn in meetings that they have attended as an invoice for payment.

That ordinance was enacted in 1997 and clarified in 2007 and a provision that reads “In Sections One, Two, Three and Four, ‘attended’ means the elected official’s personal physical presence at more than half the duration of a particular meeting or session; ‘attended’ does not mean or include participation via electronic means.”

The GBI report found Thompson asked for and received payments for 91 meetings since 2007 that did not appear to be appropriate for payment under city statute. Many of those meetings were tele-conferences, that clearly do not fit criteria for payment.

The probe also found that every Douglasville elected official with the exception of current Douglasville Mayor Harvey Persons was paid for and kept payments for meetings that did not fit the city’s defined criteria. The payments ranged from one meeting for one current council member, to more than 20 for others, meaning that council members received from $125 to $2,500 they were not entitled to under the law that they were sworn to uphold.

The council members were not indicted because some had been told to submit anything that could possibly be a meeting and a determination would be made on payment. Others didn’t turn in the “illegal meetings” but were paid improperly nonetheless.

Mike Miller was locked in a tight primary race with Bob Snelling and Thompson for the newly created GOP House District 66 seat. He agreed that even allegations cause distrust, but stressed that these are allegations.

“Its kind of an interesting set of circumstances,” Miller said. “We put this to the voters because our campaign was aware of the situation with Thompson in the primaries and we believed it was important for our constituents to know. But as a lawyer, it’s important to trust our criminal justice system. That holds that those who are accused are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

You might recall that the Republican primary election saw some nastiness between Thompson and Miller; former State Rep. Bob Snelling won the primary runoff against Miller.

The Douglas County Sentinel, which broke the story, opines that the City should be reimbursed for all incorrect payments made to officials, and fix the goofy “pay per meeting” system.

Speaking of ethics, Governor Nathan Deal’s campaign is seeking attorney fees from George Anderson, who filed ethics complaints against Deal

On Sept. 20, Governor Nathan Deal filed for attorney’s fees against George Anderson, claiming that Anderson “filed unsubstantiated, as well as, frivolous accusations concerning payments to Southern Magnolia LLC, alleging kickbacks to Respondent, untrue allegations of personal profit from campaign funds, as well as, allegations regarding good friend and appointee Patrick Millsaps to the State Ethics Commission.”

Local businessman and concerned Gwinnett County resident Kenneth Stepp believes the complaint and others like it are indeed frivolous, and take up taxpayer money and time in the courts. He has launched a nonprofit called Gwinnett Ethics in response to what he sees as a series of frivolous ethics complaints by Ethics in Government Director George Anderson and others like him.

Stepp’s nonprofit is pursuing a change in law that would require an “under oath” amendment. The proposed amendment would require those who file ethics complaints to divulge who, if anyone, is paying them.

I guess we’ll file this one under “Ethics” too. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle says Republicans don’t have to cheat to win in November.

Members of the state Senate Republican Caucus and some of their very best friends will spend two days in Adairsville this week to play golf and display their expertise with shotguns.

One can pay $500 for a dinner-time chat, but the main events on Wednesday and Thursday are open only to those willing to give $2,500 to $10,000 to the caucus’ campaign arm, the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has sent an email to Republicans to inform them, in very strong language, that he’s not going.

He has problems with the way $140,000 of caucus money was handed to an allegedly independent committee – based in North Carolina – to defend GOP senators from primary challengers this summer.

But most specifically at issue is the Trust’s decision earlier this year to put its cash in the hands of the independent political committee.

In a July email to their fellow senators, three Republican senate leaders – Rogers, Bill Cowsert of Athens, and Greg Goggans of Douglas – explained that they had given the committee not just the cash, but the message to voters that they wanted delivered, and a list of the incumbents to be protected.

“This is completely legal and does not violate any finance campaign laws,” the three wrote.

Cagle apparently thinks that there’s a high probability that they’re wrong.

In a surprise to no one, campaign signs are being stolen everywhere in Thomas County.

Did you hear the one about when the Savannah City Council tried to hold an illegal meeting  but messed up and inadvertantly complied with the law?

SAVANNAH CITY Council got lucky last week. Each of its members could have been nailed with up to $6,000 in fines if state officials determined that the local group violated Georgia’s open meetings law on Sept. 2

But because one council member was late in arriving on that date, a quorum wasn’t present. Hence, no technical violation occurred, according to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.

Yet that Sept. 20 finding from the state is of little comfort. Just because city officials attempted to hold an illegal meeting, and failed, is inexcusable considering City Hall’s history.

And it hardly “affirmed” the city’s actions on that date, as City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter spelled it out in plain language in his Sept. 20 letter to Ms. Small-Toney. “From this Office’s review of the materials provided by Mayor Jackson, it is evident that an attempt was made to hold a meeting in violation of the Open Meetings Act, since a meeting was called without notice or an agenda and without making it open to the general public.

“Were this meeting to have occurred, it would have been a serious violation of the Act, potentially subjecting the City, yourself, and the council members to fines up to $6,000. It would also have been a substantial breach of the public trust, since the public and the press rely on transparency in government to know what their officials are doing.”

He stated the attorney general’s office was willing to accept the city’s claim that, though five council members attended, they were not all in the room at the same time. “Thus, under the circumstances, an illegal meeting was narrowly averted only by happenstance, not by plan,” Mr. Ritter wrote.

A group of solar advocates and vendors has proposed a solar utility that would set up a solar farm and sell electricity directly to end users via the interstate electrical grid.

To proceed with its long-range plan of developing 2 gigawatts of solar power, the start-up, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., wants to start by building an 80-megawatt “solar farm” near Milledgeville as soon as it gets a green light from the Georgia Public Service Commission.

“There are obstacles. There’s no question there are obstacles, but you have to look at the rewards,” GaSU President Robert E. Green said at a Capitol news conference. “We don’t know what it’s going to take, but we are prepared to go through legislative action if necessary.”

Legislative action is indeed likely to be necessary, according to observers. A 40-year-old law divides the state up and gives regional monopolies to Georgia Power, the electric-membership cooperatives and nearly 50 cities.

GaSU could build its solar farm without action by the legislature or the PSC, and existing federal law would require Georgia Power to buy its electricity. But it would only pay GaSU an amount equal to what it could buy electricity from its cheapest, wholesale supplier.

The start-up wants instead to sell its electricity directly to retail customers who would be billed by Georgia Power or the other existing utilities, similar to how natural gas is marketed here. GaSU would pay the utilities for the use of their wires in the electric grid and any profits would be shared with customers like a cooperative.

Not mentioned in the article are requirements that electric power producers register with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Commission (“SkyNet”).

Polling Report

Polling analyst Nate Silver of the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog was referring to competing polls that showed contradictory findings:

I’d just seen a Marquette University poll of Wisconsin, which put President Obama 14 points ahead of Mitt Romney there. This came after a Rasmussen Reports poll of New Hampshire, published earlier that day, which had given Mitt Romney a three-point lead in the Granite State.

but he could easily have been speaking of the Peach State, where local “pollster” Insider Advantage showed Romney with a 21-point lead over President Obama, while a competing poll by YouGov showed only a 6-point Romney lead.

A little over two weeks ago, we released our own polling on the Charter School Amendment. At the time, we did not include the Presidential Ballot question that we asked in the same survey, but our results at that time were Romney 50.7% to Obama with 42.2%, and Librarian Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson 4.2% and Undecided 2.7%. I’m not convinced that Undecideds are that low, but I think the Romney-Obama matchup is plausible. If you want the question wording or statement of methodology, email me.

So, what’s going on when different “scientific” polls show vastly different results? Silver has one set of plausible explanations.

There are also going to be some outliers — sometimes because of unavoidable statistical variance, sometimes because the polling company has a partisan bias, sometimes because it just doesn’t know what it’s doing. (And sometimes: because of all of the above.)

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article out that discusses factors that may explain differences in polling outcomes.

At this time of year, the difference between poll results can be explained by everything from who is being surveyed (are they “likely” voters or just “registered”) to how many cell phone users (who are generally younger and from more diverse backgrounds) are contacted to how the questions are worded.

And while top pollsters try to adhere to common standards and best practices, there is a lot of room for interpretation in the way each constructs their universe of respondents.

“It’s a mixture of magic and science and research – and there’s more magic now because we have less science to guide our decisions,” said Oakland pollster Amy Simon, who is a leading expert in public opinion on same-sex marriage.

They also have suggestions for how to interpret polls, given the variance that is out there.

Consider the respondents: “Likely voters” are more credible, as they’re, well, more likely to vote. “At this point, don’t look at anything from registered voters,” said Oakland pollster Amy Simon. See if the poll includes cell phone users, who tend to be from more diverse backgrounds, younger and more likely to live in urban areas.

Examine the wording of questions: UC Berkeley Professor Gabe Lenz often teaches his students about a poll from the 1970s where 44 percent of Americans said they would not allow a Communist to give a speech, but only 22 percent would “forbid” it. The difference: Many people are often reluctant to sound harsh to a live interviewer, which “forbid” implies.

Treat a pollster like a movie critic: “Pick a poll and follow it,” said Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center. “You can follow its nuances and learn its tendencies.” Others, like Lenz, said peace of mind can be found with those who aggregate the major polls and incorporate them into a trend, like Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog and RealClearPolitics.com

At the end of the day, here’s my recommendation for public consumers of polling data. Take the Olympic scoring approach, where you toss out the highest and lowest numbers, and average the rest based on the sample size. In statistical terms, you’re removing the outliers, and broadening the sample size. That’s not precisely correct, but it’s a pretty good back-of-the-envelope method that might help you make some sense out of competing polls.

19
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 19, 2012

Rally is a 5-month old, 30# Shepherd mix who was dumped on a dirt road in Walton County. His situation is extremely urget at Walton Animal Control. Friendly and playful, he does not deserve to be euthanized.

These six lab mix puppies are available for adoption from the Savannah Humane Society.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Carl “Skip” Cain and John Fanning, who were involved in selling the vote of former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter, were sentenced to prison, but the real story of their sentencing may come from hints of more to come:

 Fanning’s attorney, Bill Thomas, said his client had provided evidence against “significant individuals.”

Asked after the hearing about his comments to Pannell, Thomas declined to name targets of the probe, saying it would be unfair to them if they are never charged with a crime.

But Thomas said: “You can imagine that in any sort of investigation like this you’re not dealing with run-of-the-mill individuals … This wouldn’t involve some low-level bureaucrat responsible for trash collection.”

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway attended Tuesday’s hearing. He said the defendants’ behavior “has had a tremendous cost to Gwinnett.”

“It’s left a bruise that is going to take a long time to heal,” Conway said. “It makes me angry for someone to violate the public trust like Shirley Lasseter and John Fanning did.”

Georgia Democrats are still delusional hopeful of carrying Georgia in November.

Local and state Democrats on Tuesday convened at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto Hotel to announce their plan to “get Georgia to go blue.”

With Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson and State Sen. Lester Jackson, Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Mike Berlon said the party has a plan to flip the state in favor of President Barack Obama in the November election.

That plan, he said, centers on convincing rural and urban voters to support the president. Savannah, with its strong Democratic base — Obama received about 57 percent of the vote in Chatham County in 2008 — will play a major role in that effort.

“We already know that in metro Atlanta we have done the very best that we can in terms of producing the Democratic vote and it’s not going to get any better there,” Berlon said. “So, the only way that we’re going to be able to win is to take advantage of (metro Atlanta) and develop the areas where there are more Democratic voters. A permanent office here in Savannah is a start to that.”

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Rick Thompson & Associates notes that all 2012 candidates and Political Action Committees that have spent more $25,000 in contributions to or on behalf of candidate have an upcoming September 30th deadline for campaign contribution disclosures and that the grace period runs out on October 5, 2012. We have seen this year that the severely overtaxed Campaign Finance Commission disclosure website tends to bog down and become unusable the last days of the filing period, so please start your disclosures early so that you can file on time.

After November’s elections, voters in Habersham will have fewer polling places, as County Commissioner voted to reduce the number from 14 to 2.

“Are some citizens going to be upset with it?” [Interim Interim Elections Board Chairman Pete] Davitto said. “Of course. Are some citizens going to have to drive a little farther to vote? Of course. I’m one of them. I live in Batesville, and we’re recommending the Batesville polling location be eliminated.”

“It is our belief that we can serve the citizens of Habersham County in an effective and efficient manner and most probably we’ll be able to get them through the voting line in less time than some of them may be experiencing in today’s environment,” Davitto said.

Michael Carroll, former member of the board of elections, spoke to the commission as a representative of the executive committee and treasurer of the Habersham County Democratic Party.

“We support the move reducing the number of precincts to two if at all possible,” Carroll said. “The benefits of reducing to two are very obvious because of the cost of personnel. Also, of the current 14 precincts, a number of them are not ADA compliant even now and so if we continue to use them sooner or later the county is going to be cited. It’s just a matter of time.”

Commissioner Sonny James said he had heard from several people who wanted the county’s current 14 polling places to remain in place.

“We know that that’s not possible because of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” James said

Failed Hall County Commission candidate Eugene Moon also failed to file his lawsuit contesting the result in a timely manner, leading the judge to dismiss it.

Moon and his attorney released a statement Monday afternoon in response to Adamson’s ruling. The content of the statement is as follows:

“Today our court case was dismissed over a technicality. We witnessed today that legal policy will prevail over legal right. Georgia Election law requires that you have 5 days from certification of election to file a complaint against the elections board and we missed the window by 2 days. Saturday and Sundays and legal holidays are included in this window we found out. The only proof of this certification in court this morning was done verbally by Charolette Sosbee, your Elections Director and that was good enough for the judge.”

“We did make a motion to enter our evidence, regardless the outcome but were denied this also. We wanted answers as to why there were 460 missing votes, why people in Clermont were voting in elections for Oakwood, why people in Gillsville were voting in city of Gainesville elections, why were the approved maps not followed? These are things for which we the voters may never know the answer.”

The Carroll County Board of Education will oppose the Charter School Amendment on the November 6th General Election ballot.

Each of the seven board members voiced approval of charter schools Monday night, but believe the amendment takes away local control over the founding and running of a charter school.

Superintendent Scott Cowart proposed drafting a resolution speaking out in favor or against the amendment and was met with unanimous approval to send out drafts via email this week before Thursday’s meeting, when the board plans to formally publish the resolution.

“I am against it, and I have no problem saying it,” board member Denise Askin-Pate said. “I don’t think taxpayers will have any representation in it. They say that it’s all part of the same pie, but I think this is going to make the pie and our piece from the pie smaller.”

A majority of the Douglas County Board of Education is also publicly opposed to the Charter School Amendment.

Withe four BOE members united against the amendment and School Board Member Mike Miller in favor, attention turned to drafting a resolution on the issue that may include an official BOE stance.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz handed out sample resolutions from other school systems around the state as examples, along with information from the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and a question and answer form. The PTA has also stated its opposition to the amendment, which would restate the state’s authority to approve charter schools rejected at the local level.

Board member D.T. Jackson suggested that the process of drafting a resolution be expedited as there are only around 50 days left before the vote. It was not decided at the meeting if an official stance will be taken by the board, but the BOE’s attorney will begin researching and forming a resolution to put before the board.

Miller, the lone supporter of the amendment, took issue with some sample resolutions.

“I am seeing complete untruths in these resolutions,” Miller said. Among these was what Miller called a claim that charter schools are private, for-profit schools, and also claims that the vote will divert money from existing public schools.

Officials from the accrediting agengy AdvancEd will review DeKalb County’s school board, citing alleged mismanagement.

Accreditation — or the lack of it — affects graduates’ chances at college acceptance. A loss of accreditation, as happened in Clayton County in 2008, can also lead to an exodus of parents. Two years ago, when AdvancEd came calling in DeKalb, the local chamber of commerce expressed concern about property values, job retention and the ability to draw businesses. The chamber helped establish a group to vet candidates for school board, and was still making endorsements this year during the primary election.

The alleged mismanagement could have a direct effect on the classroom. The school board is accused of wasting money — such as $50 million in legal fees over five years — that otherwise could have been spent on teachers and students, Elgart said. He said there are allegations that school board members pressured for the hiring of friends, which, if true, he said, could affect the caliber of the staff, plus morale.

The half dozen or so investigators will promise confidentiality and confirm claims with more than one source, Elgart said. Anonymity is necessary, since staffers will be asked to be honest about the elected officials who oversee the system and hired their boss, the superintendent. “You’d be surprised,” Elgart said. “In a confidential environment, most people are willing to talk.”

The investigative team will make a recommendation on accreditation status. DeKalb is “on advisement,” which is less than full accreditation. The team could recommend a range of accreditaiton options.

Well, at least we didn’t elect a Sheriff with 37 outstanding felony indictments. So we’ve got that going for us in DeKalb.

Yesterday, I misspelled Barry Paschal’s name, and he took to twitter to bemoan the lack of respect I showed him. I’m now following him on Twitter where he live tweets meetings of the Columbia County Commission. For up-to-the minute coverage of local Columbia County politics, there’s a great source.

The race card is getting thrown around in the election for Augusta Circuit Chief Probate Judge.

The appointment of a white juvenile court judge to the Augusta Judicial Circuit and the terms of black incumbents Ben Allen and Wil­lie Saunders not being renewed last week set the stage for a question that had black Democratic Probate Court Judge candidate Harry James playing the race card and white Republican rival Carleton Vaughn bristling during a forum at Williams Memorial Church on 15th Street.

District attorney, state court solicitor and probate court candidates were asked what they thought about the recent juvenile court appointments. James lambasted Chief Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet, saying the appointments were horrible and unfair and implied they were racially motivated. He said of all the judges in the judicial circuit, there were only two blacks.

Vaughn prefaced his remarks by telling the audience, which audibly agreed with James, that they weren’t going to like what he had to say.

He said that in his time as acting judge in the probate court, “I have never based a decision on what color you are. Every decision I made was made after I had all the facts. You are making a decision on only one fact. You are always saying we need to come together and heal the racial divide. What you have just said is more divisive than anything I have ever heard.”

The City of Bowdon is asking the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations of misappropriations.

The mayor said the latest probe started Sept. 10 after City Clerk Stacy Folds “notified city administration of misappropriated funds.”

“City administration immediately notified City Police Chief [Mark Brock] and on the same day, the case was turned over to Georgia Bureau of Investigation,” Crawford said in his released statement. “The GBI is now in full control of this case and, due to this investigation, the city can no longer comment on this matter.”

In the earlier Bowdon case, Patricia Bentley, a former employee of the city of Bowdon clerk’s office, was charged Aug. 1 with felony theft by taking. This came after a GBI investigation, which began June 20, found $159,000 in city funds that were taken in but never deposited into city accounts.

Wayne Smith, a special agent in the GBI’s Columbus office, said Tuesday that the funding source in question in the current case is different from the earlier case.

“The other case involved funds in the general operating account, while the current case involves a separate account to process fines and court-levied fees,” Smith said. He estimated the current missing funds at $20,000 to $30,000.

Some in Douglas County see the repeal of the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing as a continuation of a theme in which the legislature cuts local revenues while piling on more mandates.

“It sounds like, as is typical with the General Assembly, we are impacted but we don’t know to what extent,” said Mulcare.

HB 386, a bill well-known for ending the ad valorem tax on vehicles, also carries a tax exemption for energy used in manufacturing. The bill, passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year, affects revenues not only at the state level, but in local governments as well.

However, counties and cities can implement their own new energy tax in order to make up for the lost revenue.

Some officials at the meeting said this amounted to a kind of catch-22 for local officials, who have to deal with either lost revenue or negative press through actions not of their doing.

“This leaves the legislature holding the white hat and we are holding the black hat,” said Douglas County District 3 Commissioner Mike Mulcare.

One point of confusion is how the tax exemption will be measured. Per the law, it applies only to the use of energy in manufacturing, such as in producing cars or carpet. It does not apply to the sale of energy for purposes like heating and air conditioning.

“How is it determined which energy is used for products?” asked BOC Chairman Tom Worthan.

Douglasville Chief Assistant City Attorney Suzan Littlefield said the Georgia Municipal Association has not said how to divide the exemption.

Emma Jean Thomas, wife of former state Senator Dr. Don Thomas, died Monday after battling lung cancer for five years. Visitation for the Thomas family will be today from 4-8 PM at the Julian Peeples Funeral Home and services will be on Thursday, September 20th at 2PM at the Grove Level Baptist Church (across the street from the funeral home).

Yesterday was the service for former state Senator Oliver Bateman, who flew for the Army Air Corps in World War 2 and the Air Force during the Korean War. Senator Bateman ran as a Republican in 1964 and was elected Senate Minority Leader in 1968. In 1970 he entered the Governor’s race against Jimmy Carter, but withdrew before the election. Gov. George Busbee appointed him Chairman of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, where he served from 1980-1985. He chaired the 1980 Georgia State Convention, which was instrumental in the election of President Ronald Reagan. He was a mentor and close friend to the late U.S. Senator Paul D. Coverdell, and still credited by many as the first Conservative leader in Georgia.

9
Aug

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

This good-looking puppy is on his way to becoming a tragic statistic unless someone steps up to adopt or foster him. A large, friendly, playful little guy, the volunteers with Gwinnett County Animal Shelter write that he’ll be the first to be put down if the puppy section fills up. If you want to adopt him, Call the shelter for more information 770-339-3200 and refer to his number 26296.

These little hound or lab puppies apparently get along pretty well and would make a nice pair of friends.They were found stray and are apparently littermates or at least very good buddies. 26437 is male, and 26436 is female, and both are available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens will speak to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month. I suspect this is related to his role at the top elected supporter of Mitt Romney in Georgia. Congratulations to Sam.

Congressional candidate Wright McLeod has asked for a recount in the twelfth district Republican Primary, where he currently is narrowly out of the runoff.

But no one — apparently including McLeod — expects the recount, due to be finished by noon today, to change the result.

“He’s got basically two chances, slim and none,” said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “Put the emphasis on none.”

The reason: All but about 2,400 of 60,000-plus ballots in the primary were cast on computerized touch-screen voting machines.

They’ll be retabulated by the district’s 19 counties, said Jared Thomas, spokesman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in charge of Georgia elections.

Thomas said he doubts that will change the total very much, if at all.

Experts compare the retabulation process to using a calculator to tally up — yet again — the sum of two plus two.

“It may not change at all unless they find some voting machines had totals that somehow got left out,” Bullock said.

That recount should be finished by noon today. I wonder if any recounts in Georgia have changed election results since the implementation of computerized voting. Email me if you know of any.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s spokeperson isn’t aware of any such cases, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Recounts are “overseen by us and done by the counties just like election night,” said Jared Thomas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.

“They will re-scan all the absentee ballots and re-tabulate results” from voting machines, he said.

In a written statement after Georgia verified the first count, Staton said the certification made his “campaign victory official.”

Thomas said he was not aware of any case of a recount changing an outcome.

Since 2002, all Georgia voters have used electronic voting machines.

Potentially more interesting are Senator Cecil Staton’s comments about his role in the Senate Republican Caucus.

But it’s not clear if the tepid endorsement from voters in the district will be followed by a struggle for Staton to remain Senate majority whip. The Senate GOP caucus will vote on leadership after the November general election.

“I have not decided about whether I will run for (majority whip), some other office or return to being a committee chair. You can’t be whip and a full committee chair at the same time,” Staton wrote in an e-mail.

Staton led the Senate Science and Technology Committee before being voted whip two years ago.

There likely will be 36 to 38 Republicans in the state Senate by late November and some of them, wrote Staton, are undecided about who they will support for leadership.

“Conversations at this point about caucus positions invite premature speculation,” he said.

This could lead to an extended conversation about the role of the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC, which is thought to have funded incumbent protection mailpieces for several Senate Republicans.

One might wonder how efficient and effective an operation the Senate Caucus Promotion PAC was when the organization appears to have poured seven mailpieces into the lopsided victory by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers while spending considerably less in the very close campaigns for Senators Murphy and Staton, who barely won, and Senator Johnny Grant, who was defeated.

Republican Senators may be in for extended discussion of the legality and independence of the Republican Caucus Promotion PAC:

some members of the Republican Caucus in the Senate are wondering exactly who made the decision to donate money that they helped raise to an brand-new independent committee that hired a previously unknown company to assist in the re-election efforts of six of their colleagues.
Publicly, they are saying nothing. Privately, they are furious. “None of us knew anything about” the donation or the mailings, said one Senator.
Another Senate veteran has also denied knowledge of the decision behind the donations, and said he was “surprised embarrassed, mortified and angry,” to learn of them.
Another Senator claimed the donations were “inherently illegal,” not for the lack of disclosure, but because the donation appears to have violated the campaign contribution limits.
And while Republican Senators may be ducking calls and avoiding questions from the press, they’re also getting calls from the people who wrote the big checks to the Republican Senatorial Trust. Those donors want to know why their money is being spent this way, and whether or not their donations were used illegally.

The Savannah Morning News headline, “John Barrow hits prospective foes Lee Anderson and Rick Allen; they hit back — and each other” makes the General Election sound like a Three Stooges move.

Why did U.S. Rep. John Barrow attack two prospective foes this week without knowing which one he’ll run against?

People wondered out loud about that when the Augusta Democrat teed off on Republicans Lee Anderson and Rick Allen.

One possible answer surfaced quickly: Anderson and Allen responded by blasting each other almost as much as Barrow.

“It’s probably what Barrow wanted,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint. “He drew them out and got them to beat each other up.

David R. Werner has been promoted by Governor Nathan Deal to Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and External Affairs. According to the press release,

Werner previously served as deputy executive counsel and the policy adviser on public safety. He also held staff positions in both the state House and state Senate. He is the co-chairman of the Governor’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, co-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia and a member of the Federalist Society. He and his wife, Suzanne, reside in Atlanta and are members of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Kathy Schrader for Judge Banner

Springfield will elect a new Mayor after the resignation of Mayor Joe Quimby Jeff Northway.

Qualifying will cost $35 and will be held from 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 27, through 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Springfield City Hall, 130 S. Laurel St.

City officials said they recently discovered that Northway was convicted of three felonies in Texas in the 1980s. They said he lied and said he was not a convicted felon when he applied to run for mayor.

Northway resigned July 12 and has declined to comment.

The city said Northway was convicted of two felonies — theft by receiving and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1983 in Harris County, Texas. He received a three-year sentence on those charges.

After serving the sentence, he was convicted in 1989 of a third felony for unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Lesli Messinger won the Democratic Primary to take on Republican Congressman Jack Kingston. Apparently, her “Midwestern values” are one of the reasons Georgians will vote for her. Hmmm, blonde hair and midwestern values. Sounds like another candidate named “Leslie”.

Among the recounts that affirmed election night figures was the reelection of Senator Jack Murphy in Forsyth County and Geoff Duncan’s win over former State Rep. Tom Knox.

Incumbent Sen. Jack Murphy received 13,290 votes to challenger Steve Voshall’s 13,176. Murphy’s total was unchanged. Voshall’s final tally represents a loss of one vote.

There was no change in the election night totals in the House District 26 race. Former major league pitcher Geoff Duncan defeated former State Rep. Tom Knox by a count of 4,507 to 4,452.

More than 30 percent of Forsyth County’s registered voters voted in the election.

“I was very happy with that turnout,” [County elections supervisor Barbara] Luth said. “Usually we have a lower turnout in the primary elections.”

Fulton County is doing its usual efficient job of recounting votes in the Sheriff’s race; originally expected to take two days, they finished early by taking some shortcuts.

The law mandated a recount of the sheriff’s Democratic primary because the July 31 results had Jackson winning without a runoff by less than 1 percent. The counting took place in a drab warehouse in northwest Atlanta, where about 20 election workers re-fed absentee and qualified provisional ballots into the computer.

But instead of feeding precinct voting machine results directly from memory cards to the computer, Fulton reused master memory cards of the votes from each precinct created by election workers on election night, which may again cloud the result.

[Sheriff candidate Richard] Lankford asked officials to feed each voting machine’s card separately into the computer. At the very least, officials should have re-created new master memory cards rather than using the old ones, he said.

“Any manual process is not a tamper-proof system,” he said. “You’re almost at a point that it is not worth running for office in Fulton County because you can’t trust the vote counting.”

Serious policy proposal here: the legislature should consider giving the Secretary of State greater authority to supervise elections, including possibly replacing local officials,  where the locals have a record of fumbling procedures.

House District 66 runoff candidates Bob Snelling and Mike Miller answered some questions by the Douglasville Patch. Both candidates agree that Snelling previously served eight years in the State House, but they disagree on what it means.

Bob Snelling: “I have eight years of experience in the Georgia House of Representatives. I learned about the many intricacies of our legislative system. But, more importantly, I built relationships with community leaders throughout the state. That was my strong suit during my years of service, meeting and working with people. Many of those relationships remain to this day. These relationships will be invaluable a I seek to bring local legislative ideas to the process.”

Mike Miller: “My opponent has served in the Georgia Legislature before for some eight years in office. He seeks to return to office to reunite with friends at the State Capitol. We are running for very different reasons and have very different records in elected office. I am running to bring change and conservative principled leadership to the State Capitol.”

“I have been speaking up about the need to improve our ethics laws to include restrictions on lobbyist gifts for bureaucrats and to require candidates to disclose anonymous mailers and robocalls. My opponent has been silent on these matters.”

According to Democratic State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, who cruised to reelection, Snellville has the highest foreclosure rate in Gwinnett County.

One in every 300 homes in Georgia is in foreclosure, according to the AJC.  That’s double the national average.

In Snellville, (including unincorporated), it’s even worse: 1 in 127 homes are in foreclosure (as of June 2012).

Last month, around 40 percent of home sales in Snellville were foreclosures.

Foreclosure reform is something that is high on Kendrick’s list of priorities.  She has attempted to have bills passed, including HB 781, that would revolutionize the foreclosure process, according to Kendrick, but so far they have all been shut down.

“Next year,” she said, “I want to break down the bill into separate components.  If they won’t pass the whole thing, maybe parts of it will pass.”

One thing she wants to do is change Georgia from a non-judicial foreclosure state to a judicial one.  Every other legal procedure requires a person to hand you the papers, according to Kendrick, but that is not the case with foreclosures.

“Under our current system,” she said, “you get a certified letter and they sell your house on the courthouse step.  It doesn’t go through a judge.”

This one reminds me of a bawdy old rugby song: “Woman says she went to court for a warrant, left with proposition from the judge”.

The alleged incident occurred April 9 after Angela Garmley says she was assaulted by three people who once rented a trailer from her and her husband in Murray County. Garmley said when she went to take out the warrant, Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran propositioned her for sex when she was alone with him in his chambers.

“He asked me if I cheated on my husband,” Garmley, 36, of Chatsworth, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He said he wanted to have a mistress he could trust.”

Cochran says that never happened.

“We’re denying all allegations,” Cochran, who was reelected last month, said Wednesday. “The truth will come out. Right now, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.”

Cochran did not sign the warrant on April 9. Instead, Garmley said, he asked her to return to court a few days later and to wear a dress but no underwear.

“He said if I did that I would be very satisfied with the decision he’d make on my case,” she said.

8
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 8, 2012

The “football puppies” are a group of eight Golden Retriever mix puppies who are available for adoption through Angels Among Us Rescue. They were abandoned in an office park and ended up in an animal control shelter. “Texas” is the puppy pictured below. It is primarily rescue organizations like Angels who are able to take an entire litter of puppies, which are distressingly common at shelters. You can donate online or download applications to foster or adopt through this excellently-run organizations.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Pro-tip: runoff candidates are required to file a campaign contribution disclosure six days before the runoff.

Click Here

Here’s the newest three-step runoff move.

Step One: edge your way into a runoff.

Step Two: challenge you opponent to a series of debates.

Step Three: express amazement when the front-runner declines the invitation, and use it to bludgeon him for the rest of the runoff.

Senator Bill Heath kicked off this year’s runoffs by challenging Bill Carruth to a series of “Show the Facts” debates in Haralson, Paulding, and Polk counties.

Heath stated that he has reserved the Paulding Chamber of Commerce in Paulding for Monday, August 6th; the Sewell Mill – Cherry Blossom Room in Haralson for Tuesday, August 7th; and the Rockmart Community Center in Polk for Thursday, August 9th.

“Every single thing I have said during this campaign about myself and my opponent has been 100% true and documented. In stark contrast, Bill Carruth has consistently and intentionally lied and misled the voters about his record and mine. It’s time for Carruth to put up or shut up. I challenge him to meet me at these locations and bring the documentation. I can back up everything I have said and will gladly present it to the public at these debates,” said Heath.

“Let’s see if Carruth has the courage to actually face real scrutiny from public documents standing in front of the voters and the media.”

Carruth replied that he’d gladly debate as long as Heath would first sign the pledge to support a cap on lobbyist gifts and address that pesky ethics complaint filed against Heath

Carruth apparently accepted the challenge Friday evening by email.

“While this is clearly another desperate attempt to deflect attention away from your lackluster record as a State Senator nevertheless, I welcome the opportunity to debate the real issues facing the voters,” Carruth wrote in his response. “I think there are many differences between me and you of which the voters of the 31St Senate District need to be made aware. I look forward to highlighting those differences in a public forum.”

In the runoff election for Cobb County Chair, Bill Byrne skipped step two and is using incumbent Tim Lee’s refusal to participate in a debate sponsored by the East Cobb Civic Association as an excuse to bring up everything Lee has going against him.

On Sunday, Jill Flamm, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, emailed our campaign, telling us that she had cancelled a chairman candidate forum because Lee had refused to participate.

In addition, in a Monday afternoon email to MDJ editorial page editor Joe Kirby, Lee declined to participate in an MDJ-sponsored debate with Byrne next week, which would have been carried live by TV 23.

With unemployment in Cobb County at 16%, foreclosures increasing monthly, Chairman Tim Lee led the effort that raised property taxes by 16%, water rates were increased by 12%, while public safety employees were furloughed in Cobb County for the first time in history. Tim Lee was wrong to raise your property taxes. There were alternatives.

Even after the T-SPLOST was defeated overwhelmingly in Cobb County and the region, Tim Lee is pushing for an additional 1% HOST sales tax for the general budget. But he is misleading Cobb County voters in stating that it will offset 100% of property taxes. It doesn’t. As you know, 67% of property taxes goes to the school board. So now Tim Lee wants an additional sales tax that will force seniors and all taxpayers to pay more for groceries and their prescriptions!

In House District 66, second-place finisher in the Republican primary Mike Miller is accusing former State Rep. Bob Snelling of ducking debates.

Mike Miller,candidate for Ga. State House District 66, called on his opponent Bob Snelling to stop ducking debates after Mr. Snelling was a no-show at Saturday’s scheduled Douglas CountyGOP candidate forum for the House District 66 Run-off.

The PCRE has also learned that Miller further challenged Bob Snelling to three debates on ethics, education, and the economy in the district before the August 21st GOP Primary Run-off.

“I am disappointed that Bob Snelling would duck a scheduled forum for candidates in the House District 66 Run-off hosted by the Douglas County GOP,” said Miller. “The voters of Douglas and Paulding Counties expect candidates to explain their positions and debate their opponents before earning the opportunity to represent them. I challenge Mr. Snelling to a series of debates in the district so that voters can form informative opinions about this race before the Run-off.”

Speaking of HD 66, the GBI has completed its probe into payments to Douglasville officials for attending meetings that sometimes were not actual meetings but conference calls.The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has completed its preliminary investigation into whether some Douglasville elected officials received payments they weren’t entitled to.

GBI officials confirmed Tuesday that there are plans to present the findings of that probe to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade this week, saying that meeting would determine if the investigation would be extended and what comes next.

Unlike every municipality with a similar population in the metro area, where a straight salary is paid to elected officials, the mayor and council members in Douglasville are compensated based on meeting attendance. Council members are paid $125 per meeting with the mayor receiving $313 per meeting. At standard meetings, attendance is taken and submitted, but other meetings are sometimes turned in by individual elected officials. It was those submissions where the issues seem to arise.

Records viewed through an open records request by the Douglas County Sentinel showed that some elected officials often submitted items for payment that didn’t appear to qualify for payment and others that needed legal interpretation to see whether they qualified. Either way, payment for as many as 50 meetings that didn’t appear to fit the statute criteria were paid to some Douglasville elected officials in the last three years.

That ordinance was enacted in 1997 and clarified in 2007 and a provision that reads “In Sections One, Two, Three and Four, ‘attended’ means the elected official’s personal physical presence at more than half the duration of a particular meeting or session; ‘attended’ does not mean or include participation via electronic means.”

In the three years worth of records examined, the Sentinel found that five council members and former Mayor Mickey Thompson had been paid following their requests for payments for some meetings that did not appear to fit within the ordinance, for one reason or another. The former mayor had 20 submissions that fell into that category and two council members had 10 such meetings that were paid. The others had four or fewer during that time period that did not appear to fit into what is proper for compensation.

All the elected officials contacted about the payments by the Sentinel denied any wrongdoing or that they were paid for anything outside the ordinance.

Surprising no one, Todd Johnson’s attempt to qualify for Douglas County Sheriff as an independent failed to produce enough signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.

Johnson intended to run as a Democrat and began his campaign in January of 2011. However, he failed to qualify for the Democratic primary after submitting fingerprints on file with his employer, the Clayton County Police Department. Johnson was supposed to have his fingerprints taken by Douglas County Probate Judge Hal Hamrick, thus the ones he submitted did not suffice.

The Douglas County Board of Elections voted 4-1 to not allow his name on the ballot at a hearing a few days after qualifying ended on May 25. Ingrid Landis-Davis, the board’s only Democrat, voted against the motion.

Johnson then launched the campaign to run as an independent candidate. Getting his name on the ballot would require signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters in Douglas County, or about 3,810 signatures. Unfortunately for Johnson, that did not happen, leaving Democrat Derrick Broughton and incumbent Republican Phil Miller as the candidates who will appear on November’s general election ballot.

Georgia Senator Jason Carter is not running for Rhode Island House District 54, but his platform, in some cases word-for-word, is.

a local teacher who aspires to be the next representative in House District 54 lifted nearly all of his election platform from the website of Jason Carter, a member of the Georgia State Senate.

A North Providence resident and Providence educator, second-time District 54 candidate William “Bill” O’Brien copied approximately 1,000 words of Carter, an incumbent state lawmaker in Georgia and the grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and pasted them onto his own website,www.williamobrien2012.com .

But for a changed word or two here and there, like “North Providence” for “community,” O’Brien attributes almost all of Carter’s words on the two topics of education and jobs, found at www.carterforstatesenate.com , to himself.

www.carterforstatesenate.com/page/jobs

www.carterforstatesenate.com/page/education

* On jobs, statements by O’Brien and Carter reveal exactly the same sentiments:

“As I talk to families throughout the district, it’s clear that our economic struggles remain a major concern for most,” reads one snippet from O’Brien’s site, which remains virtually unchanged from when he ran two years ago.

“Our community is ripe for expansion in two of the nation’s most promising industries: bioresearch and green energy,” reads another statement that is identical on both sites. Carter then adds that his community has the potential to become a “Silicon Valley of the South,” while O’Brien believes his community can become the “Green Valley of the Northeast.”

O’Brien this week defended his decision to take Carter’s campaign statements and use them as his own. The action was not “plagiarism,” O’Brien emphasized, but a case of two “very good friends” and “liberal Democrats” each deciding to run for office two years ago and “coordinating” their “efforts” in doing so based on ideas formulated during their time together in the Peace Corps.

O’Brien said he sees what he did as no different from President Obama offering speeches written by someone else, though he did concede a difference, that the public is aware that Obama uses a speechwriter.

Carter also sees nothing wrong with O’Brien taking his material, especially since the Georgia lawmaker said he could do so in the first place.

“Bill has his permission to use my stuff,” he said. “I know Bill. He certainly didn’t do anything to make me mad, (and this) doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.”

Voting problems that affected 345 voters in HD 56 didn’t prevent Simone Bell from being certified as the winner of the Democratic primary against fellow incumbent Ralph Long.

The final vote count in the Republican Primary for CD12 shows Rick W. Allen and Wright McLeod close enough for McLeod to request a recount.

The final tally certified by Secretary of State Brian Kemp showed Allen edging McLeod by less than 1 percent of the 60,062 votes cast in the east Georgia district now held by Democratic Rep. John Barrow of Augusta. Because of the thin margin, state law guarantees McLeod a recount if he requests it within two business days.

McLeod’s spokeswoman, Holly Croft, said the Augusta attorney would not announce a decision immediately.

State Rep. Lee Anderson of Grovetown emerged as the GOP frontrunner in last week’s four-way primary, finishing with 34 percent of the vote – more than 5,000 votes ahead of his nearest competitor, but far from the majority he needed to avoid a runoff.

That left Allen and McLeod neck-and-neck for the runner-up slot needed to advance to the runoff. Even if McLeod asks for a recount of the vote, the result is unlikely to change. In an era of electronic voting, recounting ballots is much like punching the same numbers into a calculator a second time.

Someone in the Fulton County Board of Elections might want to borrow that calculator to figure out whether a reported 23,300% turnout in a single-voter precinct is plausible. Three other precincts in Fulton County reported turnout greater than 100%.

One precinct reported a 3,300 percent voter turnout. Fulton County said it is aware of the strange numbers and have reached out to the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State. The Secretary of State’s Office said they are also looking into why some of the turnout numbers are so far off.

“How does a precinct have a 154 percent turnout? Thirty-three hundred percent turnout. There’s a glitch somewhere,” [Sheriff candidate Richard] Lankford said.

Fulton County Board of Elections Chairman Rod Edmond said Monday night he is very confident in the results after Monday’s primary results certification.

Fulton County was the last county in the state to certify its election results and could face state fines over the delay.

Louis DeBroux writes that 32.6% voter turnout for the Bartow County Republican Primary is disappointing because the GOP races are de facto general elections.

Congressman Tom Graves endorsed Cindy Jones Mills in the GOP Runoff for Forsyth County Commission district 4.

“Cindy Jones Mills understands what it takes to run a business, create private-sector jobs, balance a budget and meet tough deadlines — that’s key for Forsyth County,” said Congressman Tom Graves. “Cindy Jones Mills will stand up for taxpayers and place principles above politics. She is the right kind of leader for Forsyth County.”

There’s a new Sheriff in town in Fayette County, where Republican primary voters turned out incumbent Wayne Hannah.

[V]oters still have to settle three runoff races on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Two county commission posts and the race for the 63rd District seat in the Georgia House of Representatives remain for the taking since none of those candidates got more than 50 percent of the votes.

That means three more weeks of campaigning for county commission Post 2 candidates Sheila Huddleston and David Barlow and for commission Post 3 candidates Lee Hearn and Randy Ognio. Both races are on the Republican ballot and voters countywide are allowed to weigh in on both posts.

Campaigning is also extended for two Democrats seeking the new 63rd District seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, as the two leading vote-getters will face off: Ronnie Mabra and T.J. Copeland. Not all Fayette residents will vote in this race as the 63rd district is limited to the unincorporated Fayette area north and east of Fayetteville, along with nearly all of Fayetteville.

Voters are reminded that if they voted a Democratic or Republican ballot in the primary, they will have to use the same party’s ballot in the runoff election, said Elections Supervisor Tom Sawyer.

However, voters who chose a non-partisan ballot in the primary will be able to choose a Democrat or Republican ballot in the runoff election.

Call the result in that Sheriff’s race sweet payback for Barry Babb.

Babb and Hannah both worked for Fayette County when they ran against each other in 2008.

In what was seen as controversial move at the time, after winning the election, Hannah demoted Babb from captain to deputy and placed him at the county jail. Babb’s pay was cut as well.

“It was a time of solitude. It was a time of discomfort. It was a time of loneliness,” said Babb.

And speaking of state house candidate Ronnie Mabra, he’s the subject of a complaint for giving free wings to voters, regardles of whom they voted for. According to Andre Walker of Georgia Unfiltered,

O.C.G.A. §21-2-570 states, “Any person who gives or receives, or offers to give or receive, or participates in the giving or receiving of money or gifts for the purpose of registering as a voter, voting, or voting for a particular candidate in any primary or election shall be guilty of a felony.”

It is illegal, in Georgia, to offer incentives to voters for voting.

Chris Harvey, lead investigator in the Secretary of State’s office, acknowledged receiving the complaint and opened an investigation August 6th.

I didn’t ask Andre, but I’m pretty sure this is totally unrelated to the fact that it was Mabra’s law firm that filed suit against Walker on behalf of Democratic Party of Georgia Political Director Rashad Richey.

Tom Crawford writes that the overwhelming passage of the ballot question about limiting lobbyist gifts was a message to Georgia’s elected officials that voters distrust them.

In the Republican primary, the vote was 87-13 percent in favor of “ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts.”

In the Democratic primary, voters approved a similar ballot question by a 73-27 percent margin.

Those votes were a rebuke of House Speaker David Ralston, who took a $17,000 lobbyist-paid trip to Europe with his family in 2010. Ralston has blocked legislation that would limit lobbyist spending, and says the current state law requiring disclosure of expenditures is sufficient.

When he spoke to the Republican Party’s state convention in May, Ralston contended that “liberals” and “media elites” were the only ones pushing for ethics reform – an argument that lost much of its credibility when 87 percent of Republican voters supported the lobbyist spending cap.

Ralston seems to be falling into the same trap as Tom Murphy, who was speaker of the Georgia House for more than 28 years. Murphy became so blinded by the power of his office that he could not see how the political landscape in Georgia was changing.

Republican Insurace Commissioner Ralph Hudgens writes that state health insurance exchanges required by Obamacare are not in the best interests of Georgians.

It is my opinion that the creation of a Georgia exchange is not in our State’s best interest because such an exchange would be subject to the federal law, the mountains of regulations the have been promulgated since its passage, and the regulations that, to this date, have still not been finalized.

I welcome any action by the federal government that truly shifts authority from Washington D.C. back to Georgia and which allows our State to set policy in areas so important to the lives of our citizens. However, as the situation currently exists, the creation of a Georgia exchange would make our State little more than a tool to be used by the Federal Government to implement a law which I believe is misguided. I cannot recommend the creation of an exchange when doing so will not, in any meaningful way, allow our State to make decisions that we believe to be in our own best interest.

Paulding County Commission Chair David Austin is doubling-down on his support of T-SPLOST by criticizing legislators for being insufficiently supportive of the largest tax hike in Georgia history.

“The Legislature abandoned us,” Austin said. “Our own delegation turned their backs on us.”

He said District 31 State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, did little to support the initiative and District 17 State Rep. Howard Maxwell, R-Dallas, “was on the fence” about his support. Heath and Maxwell voted for the bill in 2010 which set the vote this year for the 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects.

“The Legislature never did anything,” Austin said. “I thought they abandoned the governor and the Speaker of the House.”

However, Heath said in an e-mail, “I have consistently opposed raising taxes. I believe that one should live within their means.”

Events

Tomorrow, August 9th at 5:15, Congressman Jack Kingston and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will headline a rally for the Romney campaign at the Charles Morris Center, located at 10 East Broad Street in Savannah, 31401. To R.s.v.p. or for more information, contact Dabney Hollis via email dabneyh@me.com or Stephanie Jones stephaniegjons@me.com 404-849-7211.

On August 15th, beginning at 6 PM, Josh Romney will headline a fundraiser aimed at young professionals at the Park Tavern at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Georgia Finance Chair Eric Tanenblatt will host with Congressmen Tom Graves, Rob Woodall, and Austin Scott expected to attend.

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 ptsa@arabiaptsa.org 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.

12
Jul

Direct mail, robocall shenanigans in campaign for House District 66

Somebody, my guess being the Mickey Thompson campaign for State House, sent out an anonymous mailpiece attacking Mike Miller, who is one of Thompson’s opponents in the race for House District 66.

The mailer reprints a letter purportedly written by Douglas County Republican Party Chairman Bert Blood.

 

The same day the mailpiece landed in mailboxes across the district, a robocall was sent calling attention to the mailpiece.

But then another robocall went out recorded by Bert Blood and disclaiming the mailing.

Here’s the press release by the Mike Miller Campaign:

Mike Miller Denounces Anonymous Mailer and Robocall in House District 66 Race

–Miller challenges opponents to more ethical campaigning –

Douglasville, Ga. (July 12, 2012) – Today Mike Miller, candidate for Ga. State House District 66, denounced the dissemination of an anonymous mailer and robocall sent to voters in Douglas and Paulding counties.

“I am greatly disappointed that an anonymous mailer and robocall has been disseminated to the voters of House District 66 attacking me with false smears and lies under the guise of coming from Douglas County GOP Chairman Bert Blood,” said Miller. “Chairman Blood has already done a statement and a robocall on my behalf stating that he did not authorize the anonymous mailer in question.”

In an anonymous mailer containing an improper and unauthorized letter from local GOP Chairman Bert Blood, Miller is attacked for having a volunteer in his campaign from the Georgia Teenage Republicans leadership. Georgia Teenage Republicans are permitted and encouraged to volunteer in campaigns under their by-laws.

“Apparently one of my opponents has hired consultants who must get drunk, sit around and do stupid anonymous mailers and robocalls,” a fired-up Miller said. “One of these candidates should take responsibility for these deplorable tactics by his consultants.”

As a member of the Douglas County School Board, Mike fought for transparency and accountability and has continued those principles in his campaign for the state legislature. A proponent of ethics and  openness in government, he would also like to see more transparency and accountability in campaigning.

“If elected to serve the people of House District 66, I will work to sponsor legislation that will require local and state candidates to take responsibility for all aspects of their campaign, including all mailers and robocalls,” said Miller. “Anonymous attack mailers and robocalls in campaigns keep good people from running for office in Georgia.”

For more information about the Committee to Elect Mike Miller to State House, visit www.votemikemiller.org

About Mike Miller, Candidate for State House District 66

 

Mike Miller currently serves on the Douglas County School Board where he has been a stalwart for fiscal responsibility and transparency. Mike is also a small business owner, serving as managing partner of the law firm of Miller and Hightower, P.C. in Douglasville. Mike is a graduate of the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics and received his Juris Doctorate from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. Mike is a lifelong resident of Douglasville and graduated from Alexander High School.

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