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Political Notes

A Georgia First: Former Gov. Sonny Perdue became the first U.S. secretary of agriculture from Georgia when he was sworn in the day after the Senate voted 87-11 to confirm him.

Those voting yes included 37 Democratic senators, among them Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Georgia’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Johnny Isakson, spoke in support of the former governor prior to the Senate vote: “Sonny’s experience and leadership in public service, business and agriculture will benefit our nation as he takes the reins as secretary of agriculture.”

Perdue, Georgia’s first post-Reconstruction Republican governor, served from 2003 until 2011. He was appointed early on in the Trump Administration, but his confirmation was delayed, apparently by paperwork needed to separate himself from his business interests.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said in a statement: “We look forward to working with Secretary Perdue as he focuses fully on the issues and concerns currently facing the agricultural community.”

The new agriculture secretary is first cousin to Georgia’s junior senator, Republican David Perdue.


The Race Is On: Democratic newcomer Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel face each other in a June 20 runoff election, vying for the right to represent Georgia’s 6th District, which encompasses communities in DeKalb, Cobb and Fulton counties, in Congress. The 6th District seat was vacated by Tom Price, who resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration.

Ossoff is an investigative filmmaker and former aide to 4th District Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Lithonia). Handel is a former Fulton County Commission chair and secretary of state who ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Nathan Deal for governor in the 2010 Republican primary. (See page 90 for more perspective on this election.)


Tuition Hike: The University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents voted to raise tuition by 2 percent at all 28 public colleges and universities for the 2017-2018 academic year. There was no increase for the 2016-2017 year.

The USG said in a press release that tuition increases have averaged 2.2 percent annually over the last five years and that its schools rank sixth lowest in tuition and fees for four-year institutions among the 16 states that make up the Southern Regional Education Board.

“Keeping tuition increases to a minimum allows the University System to provide a quality education balanced by the critical need to keep public higher education affordable,” Chancellor Steve Wrigley said.

The USG says the 2017-2018 tuition change will mean an increase of $27 to $98 per semester for a full-time instate undergraduate student.


In Memoriam: Georgia lost several public servants this spring.

Former U.S. Congressman Dawson Mathis, 76, a Democrat who represented District 2 in southwest Georgia from 1971 until 1981, died in a Tifton hospital in April.

The incumbent District 2 Congressman, Democrat Sanford Bishop, said of Mathis: “He was a great representative for southwest Georgia and rural America, and he served his community with distinction. Our nation has lost an exceptional public servant, and I have lost both a trusted friend and mentor.”

Mathis resigned his House of Representatives seat to run for U.S. Senate in 1980 but lost in the primary.

Before entering politics, Mathis was a news director and anchor at WALB-TV in Albany.

Former State Sen. Steen Miles, a De- Kalb Democrat, died in March from lung cancer at the age of 70. Miles had a distinguished career as a journalist before she entered politics, working at Atlanta’s WXIA-TV for many years. She ran unsuccessfully for DeKalb CEO and in Democratic primaries for lieutenant governor and the U.S. Senate.

Fulton County Commission Vice Chair Joan Garner succumbed to breast cancer in April. A Democrat, she had served on the commission since 2011. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that she was honored by her fellow commissioners shortly before her death for her community service and her fight against cancer. She was a native of Washington, D.C.

Lorenzo Wallace, a Congressional Gold Medal recipient and doorkeeper at the Georgia Senate, died in March at the age of 97. Wallace, a Morehouse graduate who was a long-time administrator with the U.S. Postal Service, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. He was awarded the Congressional medal in 2011 along with others who helped integrate that branch of service.

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