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Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens

Handel To Washington: Georgia’s newest member of Congress, Republican Karen Handel, a former secretary of state, represents the 6th District after a hard-fought victory over Democratic newcomer John Ossoff.

In what has been called the most expensive Congressional race in history, which attracted national attention, Handel prevailed. She replaces Tom Price, who resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration, and will have to run again in 2018.

Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed her early on, called Handel “a doer and a leader,” citing her background as a chamber president (Greater North Fulton) and county commission chair (Fulton).


Benton Out As Chair: State Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) lost his position as chairman of the House Committee on Human Relations and Aging after he sent a mailer to fellow House members that challenged the idea of slavery as a cause of the Civil War.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) removed Benton from his post and took him off a study committee on civics education.

Benton has previously made controversial statements about the Ku Klux Klan and introduced a bill, which died, to establish Confederate History Month.

Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee) takes over Benton’s chairmanship, and Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) will serve on the study committee.


Barbecue Diplomacy: Georgia’s senior senator, Republican Johnny Isakson, hosted his ninth annual bipartisan lunch for senators and their staff in June, proving that good barbecue wins out over politics any day.

Among those attending were Republicans John McCain (Arizona) and Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) and Democrats Al Franken (Minnesota) and Kamala Harris (California).

Isakson’s office says the lunch tradition is part of Senate Republicans’ Thursday Lunch Group; each week a different host senator treats GOP colleagues to a meal featuring his or her home-state cuisine. Isakson opened his lunch to Democrats as well.

The menu included pulled pork, ribs, beef brisket, mac and cheese, coleslaw and, for dessert, “Congressional pecan pie,” made with Georgia pecans.


Governor’s Race: The lineup so far for next year’s gubernatorial race on the Republican side has Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and State Sens. Hunter Hill, Atlanta, and Michael Williams, Cumming, running for their party’s nomination.

On the Democratic side, there are two candidates, both women, both attorneys and both members of the state House of Representatives: Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, Atlanta, and Stacey Evans, Smyrna.

Libertarian Doug Craig is also running.


Honors For Lawmakers: State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) and State Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) were honored as 2017 Legislators of the Year by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

The awards are given annually to lawmakers who support the chamber’s policies.

State Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta) won the chamber’s Rookie of the Year award.

“Thanks to their hard work and dedication,” Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark said of the winners, “Georgia is a beacon for free enterprise and job creation.”


Vinson On Workers’ Comp Board: Attorney Benjamin J. Vinson has been named to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation by Gov. Nathan Deal. The three-member board bears responsibility for administering the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Vinson is a former majority caucus counsel for the Georgia House of Representatives. He has a bachelor’s degree from Furman University and a law degree from the University of Georgia Law School.


New Commission: Gov. Nathan Deal has created a new Commission on Children’s Mental Health, which will make recommendations for improving state mental health services for children. The group is made up of healthcare experts, state officials and children’s advocates and will report to Deal on Sept. 1.

Co-chairs are Katie Childers, Deal’s deputy chief of staff, and Judy Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Members are Frank Berry, commissioner of the Department of Community Health; Bobby Cagle, director of the Department of Family and Child Services; Theresa MacCartney, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget; Stephanie Blank, founding chair of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students; Erica Fener Sitkoff, policy and outreach director of Voices for Georgia Children; and Dr. Jordan Greenbaum, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

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