Political Notes: January 2016
Oops Times 6 Million: Secretary of State Brian Kemp has taken “full responsibility” for an error made by a now-fired staffer that illegally disclosed private information, including Social Security numbers, of more than 6 million Georgia voters.
Two Fulton County residents have filed a class action suit against the secretary of state’s office, claiming a data breach.
In a letter posted on his office’s website, Kemp says the information “was inadvertently included on a statewide voter file” that was sent, legally, to 12 groups in October. “The Georgia Voter Registration System was not breached,” he says, calling the incident human error and indicating that all 12 files have been accounted for. Nonetheless, Kemp is offering free credit monitoring for a year to Georgia voters, expected to cost the state some $1.2 million.
New BOR Leadership: The head of Columbus-based Synovus, banker Kessel Stelling Jr., is the 2016 chair of the state Board of Regents, the governing body of the University System of Georgia. He has been a board member for eight years.
C. Thomas Hopkins Jr., a Griffin orthopedic surgeon, is the new vice chair of the regents. Both Stelling and Hopkins were elected by the 19-member body and will serve for one year.
Say Goodnight, LaVista Hills: Not without drama – this is DeKalb County we’re talking about – voters narrowly defeated a proposed city of LaVista Hills by a 139-vote margin.
After a recount and some charges of voting irregularities, Secretary of State Brian Kemp certified the election results; LaVista Hills supporters decided not to mount a legal challenge.
In an email to her constituents in District 82, which includes much of the area considered for the city, State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) urged the divided citizenry to “consider some positive next steps” and offered some thoughts on the election.
“The LaVista Hills cityhood election was based on too many negative messages, and some of the language and mailers were harsh,” she wrote. “The tone of elections matter, particularly when they are close to home, or neighbor vs. neighbor.”
In the same county, the Tucker cityhood initiative passed easily; 74 percent of voters said yes.
Dempsey Honored: State Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Department of Defense for her role in passing Georgia’s Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Act (HB 443) in 2015. The law allows employers to establish policies that promote preferential hiring or promotion for veterans.
The Rome News-Tribune quotes Dempsey as saying the measure is another effort by the state of Georgia to take care of veterans who are returning home and facing challenges unique to their situations.
Another Consolidation: Albany State University (ASU) and Darton State College will become one institution that will retain the Albany State University name. The change comes after a vote by the state Board of Regents.
ASU Interim President Art Dunning becomes the permanent president of the new institution, which has an enrollment of nearly 9,000.
Election Results: Republican Janice Frey Van Ness won a narrow 87-vote victory over Democrat Tonya Anderson in a runoff for Senate District 43, which includes portions of DeKalb, Rockdale and Newton counties – a seat long held by Democrats. In Columbia County, Jodi Lott beat fellow Republican Mack Taylor by more than 50 percentage points in a runoff for the House District 122 seat.
In the special election for the State Senate District 20 seat vacated by the retiring Ross Tolleson, Larry Walker beat five other Republicans and won the race without a runoff.
In Savannah, incumbent Mayor Edna Jackson was defeated by Eddie DeLoach, who won 53 percent of the vote.