Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens
D.C. Perspective: Two of Georgia’s Republican congressmen brought upbeat messages to the 2017 Georgia Transportation Summit this fall. District 3 Rep. Drew Ferguson and District 7 Rep. Rick Woodall told the state’s transportation community that Georgia is doing a lot of things right in many areas, transportation among them, and that Washington and other states are taking notice.
Ferguson drew applause when he called Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry “a rock star,” who has helped “put the state in a really good position.”
The congressmen were optimistic about upcoming tax reform efforts. “I think we have a solid chance of getting tax reform done,” Woodall said, “and reforming the entire tax code.”
Ferguson said tax reform “makes every other concern we have easier.”
Both Woodall and Ferguson are members of the House committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The Transportation Summit was hosted by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Transportation Alliance and the Georgia Chamber.
Wise Leaving: Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) Chair Stan Wise will step down from his post in early 2018, clearing the way for a gubernatorial appointment to complete his term, which ends Dec. 31, 2018.
Wise, first elected to a six-year PSC term in 1994, is the longest continuously serving Republican elected statewide, the PSC says. He won re-election in 2000, 2006 and 2012.
“There is an old saying that happiness doesn’t come from doing easy work,” Wise said in a statement. “I was sent here to make tough decisions, and I did my best to advance our state and its citizens. We have reliable utility services and abundant energy supplies and capacity. We haven’t deferred infrastructure investment, which will keep rates more affordable over time. Businesses are more likely to choose Georgia because of the climate we have created, which means more jobs and prosperity. It brings me immense satisfaction to know I played a hand in that.”
Now for the Runoff: Tuesday, Dec. 5, will see a runoff in the Atlanta mayor’s race. Democrat Keisha Lance Bottoms, who was endorsed by incumbent Mayor Kasim Reed, will face Independent Mary Norwood. Both candidates have served on the Atlanta City Council. Norwood came within a few hundred votes of defeating Reed in his first bid for the mayor’s office in 2009.
Democratic Gains: Georgia Democrats won three legislative seats – two of them outright, one headed for a runoff Dec. 5 – in this fall’s special elections. In Athens, Deborah Gonzalez defeated Republican Houston Gaines in the race for the House District 117 post. In nearby Oconee County, Jonathan Wallace beat three Republican challengers – Tom Lord, Marcus Wiedower and Steven Strickland – in the House District 119 race.
Two Democrats, Jen Jordan and Jaha Howard, will face each other in the Dec. 5 runoff election for Senate District 6; they were the top vote getters in a field of eight candidates including five Republicans and three Democrats.
Republican Wins: Republican Kasey Carpenter won the race for the Georgia House District 4 seat, defeating two other Republicans and a Democrat. Republican Marc Morris won the special election for House District 26, besting two rivals – one a Democrat, one a Republican.
More Runoffs: Democrats Nikema Williams and Linda Pritchett will vie for the Senate District 39 post in the December runoff.
Democrats Kim Schofield and De’Andre S. Pickett will compete for the House District 60 seat; and two more Democrats, Bee Nguyen and Sachin Varghese, are in the runoff for House District 89.
Four Pillar Tribute: Gov. Nathan Deal was honored by the Council for Quality Growth with its 28th annual Four Pillar Award, which, the council says, honors leadership in promoting balanced and responsible growth.
Previous winners are Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley.
Barrow’s Back: Former Georgia Democratic Congressman John Barrow, who lost his seat to Republican Rick Allen in 2014, is running for secretary of state in the 2018 election. He is hoping to replace Republican Brian Kemp, who is running for governor. Other candidates so far include fellow Democrat R.J. Hadley, a former Rockdale County tax commissioner, and former State Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, along with Republicans State Sen. Josh McKoon, Columbus; State Rep. Buzz Brockway, Lawrenceville; State Rep. Brad Raffensperger, Johns Creek; and Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle.
Turnaround Officer: Eric Thomas, a Savannah native who worked at the University of Virginia, was named Georgia’s chief turnaround officer by the state Board of Education. The position was created by House Bill 338, which aims to boost troubled public schools by authorizing state intervention.