Political RoundUp: July 2008
Remembering Jordan: In his heartfelt eulogy for longtime aide and strategist Hamilton Jordan, Jimmy Carter recalled how he first met Jordan prior to the 1966 governor’s race. Carter, who was then an obscure state senator from Sumter County, wanted the 22-year-old Jordan to organize student support for the upcoming campaign. “I knew that I was a latecomer to the race, that I was almost completely unknown, had no money,” Carter said. “He turned me down at first, said he was busy, he already had a job for the summer spraying mosquitoes. But he reluctantly changed his mind when I remarked that I’d just as soon give up the governor’s race if killing insects was more important to him than my being governor.” Carter added that Jordan, who died in May of cancer, “was as gentle and courageous and compassionate as anyone I have ever known.”
An independent voice?: Dal-ton attorney Steve Farrow will join the State Transportation Board replacing Mike Evans, who resigned in April. Farrow served two terms in the Senate alongside Gov. Sonny Perdue in the 1990s, and Perdue later appointed Farrow to the State Ethics Commission. When asked if his longtime association with Perdue would conflict with his loyalties to lawmakers who elected him to the Transportation Board, Farrow pointed out that while a member of the Ethics Commission, he voted along with the other members to fine Perdue for a violation of the state’s campaign disclosure laws (the first time a sitting governor was ever found guilty of an ethics violation in Georgia).
Drill and drill again: Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, as part of his campaign for governor in 2010, has urged that oil and gas companies be authorized to start drilling off the Georgia coast to address the nation’s energy needs. “With appropriate safeguards to protect the environment, we should drill for oil off America’s coasts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Oxendine said in a news release distributed under the headline, “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less”
Sonny gets their attention: Gov. Sonny Perdue left top lawmakers with a little reminder that the governor still has a lot of say in how state funds are doled out. When he signed the state budget for fiscal year 2009, Perdue vetoed money for several pet projects, including $4 million for the Paulding County Re-gional Airport (located in House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s district), $500,000 for the Glynn County Airport Commission (the district of House Majority Leader Jerry Keen), and $250,000 for the Columbia County State Patrol post (affecting House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin).
Perdue also axed $8 million in bonds to build a charter school operated by the Cobb County school system, a project important to House Rules Chairman Earl Ehrhart. “This governor thinks hor-ses and fish are more important than our kids,” Ehrhart told the Marietta Daily Journal.
The gun guy: Curtis Jenkins, a Forsyth attorney and former member of the Georgia House of Rep-resentatives, was recently elected to a three-year term on the board of directors of the National Rifle Assoc-iation. Jenkins served in the House from 1989 to 2005 and consistently received top ratings from the NRA for his positions on Second Amend-ment firearms issues.
Moving on up: When Jud Turner decided to return to a private law practice, Gov. Sonny Perdue promoted from within, naming deputy counsel Josh Belinfante as the governor’s executive counsel. Belinfante was a key player during the last General Assembly session in drafting legislation that revised the certificate of need laws regulating the construction of hospitals and the provision of some medical services. Belinfante was in private practice at Balch & Bingham and Alston & Bird in Atlanta; he also was a clerk to Chief Judge J. L. Edmondson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Turner, who was involved in the tri-state water negotiations while working for Perdue, joined a new firm with Chuck Bachman and Heath Garrett that will be called Turner Bachman & Garrett. Perdue also shifted deputy executive counsel Edward Tate to become deputy chief operating officer under COO Jim Lientz.
Tax man: State Revenue Com-missioner Bart Graham named Frank O’Connell director of the agency’s tax law and policy, replacing Lora Butler, who moved to the private sector. O’Connell had been deputy director of the tax law and policy section since April 2006.