Political RoundUp: June 2008
The Ox is in: State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine was the first politico to officially file the papers and start raising money for the 2010 governor’s race. That could be one of the most crowded races on the ballot, as Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Congressman Lynn West-moreland and Speaker Glenn Rich-ardson all have been mentioned as prospective candidates – and that’s just on the Republican side. (Sen. Johnny Isakson, once thought to be a possible candidate, announced that he will seek another Senate term.) Oxendine said he’s not concerned about who’s in or who’s out: “My decision is not in any way contingent on what any of the other people may do. I think it is the right thing for Georgia.”
Who sits where?: Down in Savannah, they were playing a political version of musical chairs after state Sen. Regina Thomas jumped into the 12th Congressional District race against U.S. Rep. John Barrow. State Rep. Lester Jackson of Savannah qualified to run for Thomas’s Senate seat, prompting former legislator Mickey Stephens to step up and run for Jackson’s House seat.
Election reruns: Several legislative races will have a familiar ring to them this year because they are rematches from earlier election cycles. Rep. Martin Scott (R-Rossville) has Demo-cratic opposition again from Sadie Morgan, just as Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) has drawn a challenge from Democrat Bob Puckett, who narrowly lost to her in 2006. Rep. Sean Jerguson (R-Holly Springs) is headed for round two against GOP challenger Mary Elizabeth Wilhite, while Rep. Mark Hatfield (R-Waycross) again squares off against Democrat Jaki Johnson. Democrat Pat Dooley will take another shot at Rep. Steve Tumlin (R-Marietta), who beat her in a close 2004 race when she was serving in the House.
Hope for the Pope: When Pope Benedict XVI made an official visit to Washington, DC, in May, there was a delegation from the Georgia General Assembly waiting for him. Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth), and Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) were among the crowd attending the arrival ceremony, thanks to an invitation from the Bush White House.
Trading places: Introductions may be in order here. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has appointed Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to serve as an ex-officio member of the Finance Committee. In the same vein, Cagle named Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), the Finance Com-mittee chairman, to serve ex-officio on the Appropriations Committee. “Appointing Senator Hill and Senator Rogers as ex-officio members of each other’s committee cements our ability to ensure we lower taxes and cut spending,” Cagle said.
Missed opportunity: The Gen-eral Assembly again failed to pass a law requiring the use of seat belts in pickup trucks, ensuring that Georgia remains the only state with this hole in its seat belt law. What’s the fiscal impact for the state’s taxpayers? Georgia loses the chance to receive more than $20 million in federal highway safety funds because it won’t enact the requirement for seat belts in trucks. The Preusser Research Group estimates that with implementation of the seat belt law, Georgia would save $46.2 million in Medicaid and other state medical expenses over the next 10 years because fewer people would be seriously injured in vehicle accidents.
Clip and save: Businesspeople and transportation buffs were highly irked at the Legislature’s failure to adopt a constitutional amendment authorizing a regional sales tax for highway projects. While the amendment (SR 845) passed easily in the House, it fell three votes short in the Senate. For those who may want to remember this in November, here are the 18 senators who voted against SR 845: Republicans: Joseph Carter, Ronnie Chance, Jeff Chap-man, Bill Cowsert, Greg Goggans, Bill Heath, Judson Hill, Eric Johnson, Chip Rogers, Nancy Schaefer, Mitch Seabaugh, David Shafer, John Wiles, Tommie Williams. Democrats: Robert Brown, George Hooks, J.B. Powell, Regina Thomas.
Over there: This may be even more challenging than dealing with Tom Murphy. Former legislator Doug Teper of Atlanta flew to Kurdistan and Iraq at the end of April to teach political activists there the practices and procedures in-volved in running an election campaign. Teper, who served in the House from 1989 to 2005, was assigned to a six-week project spon-sored by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide.